The stir fry has been a kitchen standby for as long as I can remember. As a student it was the easy way of using up the sad collection of vegetables in the bottom of the fridge. It helped that a wok was on my going to Uni shopping list. The early attempts were tasty, but about as authentic as a Lorex watch. Worcester Sauce was often added to the pan along with with soy. It was that bad.
Back then the shops didn't have the wide variety of oriental ingredients that we are spoilt with now. A jar of Uncle Ben's sweet and sour was about as good as it got. These days even the smallest supermarket has a Chinese section, with pre-packed noodles, rice wine vinegar and mountains of sauces. None of them are that great, but its a step in the right direction.
In Leeds we have a good hand full of Oriental Supermarkets, all of them stocking good authentic ingredients. One small store, on Leeds Market, stocks the best noodles I have ever cooked at home. They retain their texture and bite without being slimy or breaking up as they are added to the wok.
Of course, one of the reasons that we keep coming back to the stir-fry is its speed. As long as you have everything prepared before you start cooking nothing can go wrong*.
For the Chow Mein, I marinade chicken strips in soy and chilli and dust with cornflower. This is then fried for a couple of minutes before adding ginger, garlic, more chilli and a sweet pepper. Once the veg are cooked but still crisp, stir in your precooked noodles that have been tossed in sesame oil to stop them from clumping. Serve with raw spring onions.
*Famous last words.