A peanut stir-fry is a meal cooked in a hot wok or skillet that includes peanuts or peanut sauce as ingredients. The other ingredients included in the dish vary, but may include diced vegetables, meat, or tofu, along with condiments or seasonings such as soy sauce. The peanuts or sauce are often added at the end of cooking so as to prevent scorching. A common peanut stir-fry dish served in many Chinese restaurants in the United States is known as Kung Pao, a dish composed of vegetables, meats, and seasonings to which whole peanuts have been added.
The processing of the nuts used in a peanut stir-fry differs according to the recipe used. In some cases, the recipe may require finely chopped peanuts that are used as a breading for bits of meat. Coarsely chopped peanuts or even whole nuts may be sprinkled into the peanut stir-fry while cooking, adding a pleasant crunch to the dish. Some recipes may also call for the nuts to be sprinkled over the food after cooking.
Peanut sauce may also be used in a peanut stir-fry instead of or in addition to chopped or whole nuts. While it is possible to purchase bottled peanut sauces in many supermarkets and ethnic grocery stores, many cooks choose to prepare their own for fresher flavor. Some versions are made from a peanut butter base, while others start with whole peanuts that are pureed in a food processor or blender. Other ingredients may include vinegar, soy sauce, or chili peppers. This sauce is then added to the stir-fry as it cooks.
Stir-frying is a common technique used in many Asian cuisines, favored for its ability to quickly cook foods while also preserving their flavor, color, and texture. Food that has been diced into small pieces is typically added to a hot pan for cooking, while the cook stirs or tosses the food around so that it cooks evenly. The cooked food may then be served on a bed of rice or noodles. The addition of nuts to a stir-fried dish is not unusual in many cuisines, as they can add texture and flavor to a recipe. Other types of nuts that are commonly added to stir-fried meals include both cashews and almonds.