So my pal Adelaide sent me a message last night, telling me:
I pretty much make basic stir fry meals every night for dinner because it’s super quick and easy – but it’s also getting super boring (eating one right now, blah). Do you know of any stir fry recipes that have a lot of flavor and are actually good but still easy to do?
Why, yes! I do! Actually, stir frying is one of those things I find really fun because I never really follow an exact recipe. It’s a great way to clean out your refrigerator or try out a new sauce or spice that you maybe hadn’t used yet. The other really great thing about stir frying, especially for a new cook, is that it is one of the best ways to practice your knife skills. I haven’t done julienning yet, but I’m gonna try to get to the grocery store later today and I will do a julienne post with carrot, zucchini, etc. Those are all fab for stir frying.
The first thing you have to think about when putting together a stir fry is: what can I combine without overwhelming the flavors? You want to complement, and not over do it. The boyfriend has major issues with this. We’ll go to one of those Mongolian stir fry restaurants, and he gets the little bowl with literally everything they have that he thinks sounds good, and every time he whines that his meal comes out kind of…sludgy and bland. That’s because there is too much going on. Pick a direction you want to go in, and color in the lines. So, if you want a teriyaki sort of stir fry, stick with brocolli, beef or chicken, and sweeter flavors like ginger. Don’t throw in the garlic or the eggs or the lemon pepper.
The other important thing is to just cut all of your ingredients approximately the same size, so they cook evenly. Start with your aromatics when cooking: onion, garlic, ginger. Then throw in the hardier veggies, like carrots, water chestnuts, broccoli, bell peppers (ew). Finish with the softer veggies like cabbage, zucchini, sprouts.
I like to stir in any starches so they are coated with sauce. You can do this or serve your stir fry on top, or forego any rice or noodles entirely. Up to you. Udon or soba (buckwheat) noodles are a good choice for stir fries, as is sticky rice, jasmine rice, or even spaghetti, in a pinch.
Okay, so I’m gonna give an easy little recipe that should have a lot of flavor and just a hint of spiciness, for fun. It’s also gonna be super colorful! I’ll write it for shrimp but you could use chicken, pork, or beef instead if you like. This is a good jumping off point, and what I am sort of going for is for you to use this as more or less of a template, and sub in or out any other veggies, proteins, spices, or oils you like. Starting out with a strong spice like the coriander is good, though, for having an ultimately flavorful dish. And tasting to see if you need more salt, pepper, etc, is super important in stir frying. Enjoy and have fun!
Edit: I just realized I had originally written the recipe for chicken. Updated for shrimp instructions. Oops!
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (or thawed, if you’re feeling lazy. Which I often am, let’s be real.)
1 T ground coriander seed
Salt and pepper
1 T sesame oil
2 T vegetable or canola oil
1 onion, sliced thin
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned (or not, if you’re me. The color is stunning, I must admit.)
1 C sugar snap peas
1.5 C shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 C hoisin sauce
2 T Soy Sauce, plus more for serving
1 T water
1 T (or more, as you prefer) chili oil
1.5 T sesame seeds
2 C cooked jasmine rice, for serving
Get your mise en place ready.
Season the shrimp with the coriander, salt, and pepper. In a bowl, blend the hoisin, soy sauce, water, and chili oil with a fork or whisk and set aside.
Heat up a wok or a large saute pan over high heat. Add the sesame oil. Add the shrimp and cook quickly, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp and place on a plate. Add 1 T of the vegetable oil. Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger, until the onion is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Throw in the bell pepper, snap peas, and carrot. Stir fry for about 4-5 minutes, until the veggies have softened. Put the shrimp back in. Add the mushrooms, and cook for another couple of minutes.
Pour your hoisin sauce mixture into the pan, over the stir fry. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste it. If you want more heat, add some more chili oil. If not, sprinkle the sesame seeds over, season with a little more salt and pepper if you want, and remove from the heat. Serve on top of the jasmine rice.