Stir fry was literally the first non-boxed meal I remember ever eating at home. In the advent of early expanded-basic cable, my dad was obsessed with what was then the fledgling Food Network. He particularly loved “Yan Can Cook,” hosted by Chef Martin Yang, who was an early pioneer of cooking shows and the home cook movement. After seeing one episode, my dad ran out and bought our family’s first Wok and about ten cookbooks on Asian Cooking. In rural Minnesota in the ’90’s, exotic food ingredients were hard to come by. Until that point we’d eaten a lot of Hamburger Helper and standard “meat and potatoes” fare. The stir fry changed my family forever. It was then that we were exposed to vegetables and flavors we had never tasted and cultures we didn’t know existed. We’d drive close to an hour to the famed Twin Cities Farmer’s Market, filled with vendors from the local hmong communities, and eat stir fry cooked right on the street in pedal carts. With my parents each working 2-3 jobs to keep us afloat, cooking and experimenting with recipes became the bright spot where work stopped and family thrived. We even opted to make fried wontons, egg rolls and shrimp stir fry on Christmas instead of ham and potatoes.
We call this recipe the “Quick and Easy Anytime Stir Fry” because it’s so easy you can be eating it within 30 minutes of walking in the door from work. In fact, this post was almost difficult to put together because we don’t really bother to measure the ingredients anymore. With this base recipe, you can piece together a delicious noodle or rice stir fry from literally anything you have in your refrigerator crisper drawers. I specifically wanted to post this for my best friend Rachel, who has just resolved to eat out less and instead more sensibly at home. As someone with a busy job, active social life, and two adorable puppies, this is the perfect recipe for her on a night when she otherwise would just have opted to grab take-out on the way home.
(Forgive any unspecific directions, I tried to “formalize” them as best as possible)
For Stir Fry
- 2-3 cups veggies of your choice. (We commonly use cabbage, carrots, snow peas, broccoli, peppers and tomatoes. You can literally use anything)
- 1/2 box of long noodles or 1 1/2 cups rice (whatever is enough to make 3-4 cups of finished pasta/rice)
- 1 1/2 cups meat or tofu of choice
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, sesame oil, or peanut oil stir-frying meat/tofu.
- chili flakes or sriracha to taste
- 2-3 tblsp. low-sodium soy sauce
- 2-3 tblsp. brown sugar (more if you want a sweeter stir fry)
- 1 tblsp. rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 tblsp. water or chicken broth
- 1 tsp. sriraccha (optional if you want spicy)
1. Prepare noodles or rice according to directions.
2. Stir-fry meat/tofu in wok with olive oil, sesame oil, or peanut oil, or a combination of any.
3. Add veggies and stir to coat in remaining oil. Stir together and cook for 3-4 minutes before adding noodles. Add a little more oil to coat all ingredients and continue stirring.
4. Assemble sauce ingredients on stovetop over medium heat and stir until brown sugar is dissolved. Do not burn.
5. Pour sauce evenly over stir fry and stir to coat. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Add chili pepper flakes or sriracha and serve.
You can’t really go wrong with this dish, making it perfect for those new to cooking and people in a rush and inattentive to specificity. I beg Neil to make this at least once a week and as we enter summer I’m excited to use our homegrown fresh veggies and local farmer’s market produce.