Stir frying or sautéing is the go-to cooking method at my place. Whenever we don’t know what to cook, we combine whatever it is we have in a pan or a wok and add some sauce we’ve whisked together on the spot. Results may vary, but it’s pretty much impossible to get the same meal twice, which I like.
I guess I assumed that other people do this too, because people are lazy and this is easy. But recently, several friends have mentioned that they find this method of cooking totally intimidating because of the sauce factor. The stir fry sauces at the grocery store are usually disgusting—too salty and way too sweet, for some reason. Conversely, my friends said that their stir fries tend to be really bland.
Here is the method for a recent stir fry I made. It’s technically a sauté because I didn’t cook the ingredients separately.
I wanted the cabbage to be the star of this stir fry, but any cruciferous vegetable would work. Likewise, the combination of vegetables isn’t really that important, so long as there is a mixture of textures and flavors. So, I wouldn’t make a stir fry of broccoli, kale and bok choi, because they are all cabbages. And I wouldn’t use tomatoes, eggplant and tofu as my three main ingredients, because that would probably turn out squishy.
- One head of red cabbage, chopped
- One bunch of scallions, chopped
- A package of white mushrooms, sliced and patted dry
- A can of water chestnuts or bamboo shoots (optional, I found a dusty one in the back of my cupboard, yay!)
- A package of firm tofu, cut into cubes (if you want)
- A bunch of parsley, chopped
- Half of an entire bulb of garlic, minced
- Half of one very hot pepper, minced (use your judgment)
For the sauce
- One-eighth cup rice vinegar
- One-eighth cup (or a little less) orange juice
- Several tablespoons soy sauce
- One tablespoon sesame oil
- A teaspoon dry mustard (it’ll taste different, but you can also use mustard from a jar)
- A teaspoon ground pepper
- The other half of the bulb of garlic (don’t bother dicing if you’re using a food processor)
- The other half of the hot pepper (see above)
- And, here’s the kicker, a bunch of fresh dill (because it was going to seed in a pot on my fire escape)
Here’s what I did
Put all of the sauce ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend, or whisk them together in a fluid measuring cup. Taste it. Too salty? Add more juice or vinegar. Too spicy? Dump some out and add more of all the other ingredients. Would you like it sweeter? Add some honey and blend again. Don’t worry if the sauce seems too chunky; it will blend with the vegetables. However, you don’t want it to be watery, either.
I put a tablespoon and a half of canola oil (you can use vegetable, soy or any other high-heat oil) in my wok (you can use a large frying pan) and added half of the minced garlic and hot pepper. After about a minute on medium-low, I added the mushrooms for about four minutes, stirring frequently. (If you’re using tofu, add that to the mushrooms about three minutes in.) Then I dumped in the cabbage and kicked the heat up to medium-high. I wanted the cabbage to be hot, but still very crunchy. After about three minutes of continuous stirring, I added my sauce and stirred for about a minute. Finally, I added the garnishes—parsley, scallions, water chestnuts—for about thirty seconds. Don’t feel like you have to add all of the sauce. You know how saucy you are.
We had his with brown rice, which steamed in the rice cooker in the time it took me to make this. Delicious!