Stir-Fry (insert favorite item here) with Vegetables

RECIPE: Stir-fry Chicken with Vegetables

Let me just start by saying that I love me some stir-fry. I like just about everything about it. There is the chaos of the raw ingredients,

and resulting order after they’re prepared.

There is drama in the cooking, and the finished product is almost always delightful to look at and delicious to eat.

I think my first exposure to stir-fry type cooking was teppanyaki meals in Japan. I lived with a Japanese family for a Summer after my Sophomore year in Tokyo. My Father, also an Electrical Engineer, did a lot of consulting in Japan and he decided it would be a good experience for each of his kids to spend some time in another culture. Being a self-involved American teenager at the time, I fiercely resented the forced relocation, but the exposure to other ways of thinking and living has shaped the way I live today.

Successful stir-fry relies on the combination of four things; fresh ingredients, a good wok or skillet, high heat, and a good finishing sauce.  For your ingredients, you can choose just about any vegetable that can be cut up into bite-sized pieces, and any form of protein (whether animal or vegetable) that you fancy will work well.  Choose ingredients that contrast in textures and color.  When prepping, “bite-sized” doesn’t mean one piece == a single mouthful, it means small enough that a “bite” of the finished dish will include multiple ingredients. Prep all the ingredients ahead of time, and line everything up in order of cooking (longest to shortest cooking time).

My wok probably causes angst to true stir-fry chefs. It doesn’t look “seasoned”, but I can assure you it is. It’s stainless steel and the subtle golden tones in the bowl of the wok are the leftover ghosts of stir-fry sessions past. This wok gets quickly rinsed and lightly scrubbed with a plastic pot scrubber, but never subjected to the evils of soap of any kind. After drying over low heat, I rub a light coating of oil on the bowl and hang it up. Every 6 months or so, I give it a salt-seasoning.  Do that, and you’ll be good to go forever.

During the actual cooking process (over medium to high heat), add ingredients in small batches to ensure that your wok remains at stir-fry (as opposed to par-boil) temperatures.  You should always be sizzling and searing rather than boiling the ingredients. This is a hard thing for most electric stoves to do, and one reason I will be sure to go with gas in my next kitchen.

The sauce is the penultimate finishing touch here (the cornstarch mixture is the finishing touch). You can try the store-bought stir-fry sauces to see how they work for you (most are too sweet for my taste).  If you do, you can omit the cornstarch thickener in my recipe, as they almost always contain thickening agents. The purpose of the thickener here is to allow the sauce to stick to the ingredients. The soy-sesame stir-fry sauce is my go-to sauce because it’s savory and spicy and goes with almost everything.

You can serve this stir-fry over noodles or rice. If you serve it over rice, or if you eat rice with any regularity at all, do yourself a giant favor and invest in a rice cooker.

I promise that you’ll never be responsible for under- or over-done rice again. It’s a life-changer.

Rating: if this is ever less than a 4, it’s because you tried an experiment that didn’t work (yet). But I encourage experimenting because stir-fry almost always rewards it. This particular version gets a 4 in my book simply because I’ve made it so many times that we’ve become accustomed to its awesomeness.  Honestly, your audience will be tempted to give it a 6.

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13 Responses to Stir-Fry (insert favorite item here) with Vegetables

  1. Jen says:

    Wow! Love the photo collage. I may in fact need that rice cooker life changer. I totally have to try that sesame sauce recipe … and I was JUST looking for a seasoning recipe for my pans. Oh so many wonderful things about this post. Thanks! (And I love the cat peeking over the rice cooker, too.)

  2. Amanda N says:

    I read Jen’s comment and I thought “Omg, there’s a cat on the counter?”. ha!
    I’m embarrassed to admit this… I’ve totally been doing stir-fry wrong. It frustrates me that I’ve got boiling going on, but I have been throwing everything in at once. I’m gonna bust out my stir-fry pan next week and try this.

    • JT says:

      If you do stir-fry frequently, or aspire to it, get yourself a wok. It will reward you handsomely, plus you look like a stir-fry chef when you’re using it.

  3. paula says:

    I have never tried stir fry…. all my kids would love it though so I guess I need a wok. Thought I saw costco had one?? Need rice cooker too…. Yummy pics are great!!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I like the info about how you should cut your pieces small enough that you get multiple elements in each mouthful. Good to know! (Also, Dude, stop stealing my recipes. What am I supposed to post?)

    • JT says:

      re: stop stealing
      Yeah, we probably should coordinate in that regard, given that we’re working from at least a partially common list.

  5. Manda says:

    I always fail at stir-fry because I can never make the sauce taste right. I will totally try this and I’m sure it will be perfect.

    • JT says:

      I’ve tried three of the four sauces listed on the adapted-from page, all but the sweet and sour sauce. The soy-sesame and fresh herb sauces are money. When I tried the lemon stir-fry sauce, it was so lemony that I might just as well have sprayed the entire wok with Lemon Pledge. It was awful. Given the success of the others, I’ve about convinced myself that I screwed up the recipe somehow and I should try it again. If you try it, I’m interested to hear how it goes.

  6. kelli says:

    Yum yum yum. I love the photos in this post too. So fun! Plus, I did not know you’d lived in Japan. I will try this soon.

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