15-minute stir fry recipes?
January 5, 2008 11:06 AM   Subscribe

What are some good combinations of ingredients for stir-fry? The fewer ingredients and shorter prep time, the better.

I'm a grad student, and I spend about 3 hours a week cooking 4-5 dishes that I eat for the rest of the week. I usually do a chicken and green peppers stir-fry as the main meat dish (which takes the longest to make), and then some smaller dishes. For example, I make: egg with tomato/cucumber/mushrooms/luffa (or si gua, in Mandarin), or pork with cabbage/cauliflower/mushrooms (oyster/king oyster)/carrots and celery.

I will also sometimes do shrimp with peppers, scallops with spinach/bok choy, bok choy with shiitake mushrooms. I've also done vegetable-only dishes, with green bean sprouts or lettuce.

I'm looking for other simple dishes, to give myself more variety. It would be best if the dishes had two main ingredients, with low prep time on those ingredients. I don't really need a recipe, just suggestions on combinations of ingredients that taste good together.

Also, my mom just gave me a big bag of wood ear. Bonus points for using that in a dish =)

I live in the Bay Area if availability is an issue. I'll usually visit an Asian grocery store once every 2-3 weeks, so anything available there or in a normal grocery store is fine.

posted by jasminerain to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
My local grocery store carries several different mixes of frozen stir-fry vegetables, which I really like for what you're describing. I just grab a handful out of the bag and toss them in... it's super-easy, they defrost almost instantly, and they don't go bad.
posted by Gianna at 11:24 AM on January 5, 2008

Best answer: Shrimp and broccoli stir-fried in oyster sauce (available in the ethnic foods section of your grocery store) over rice.
posted by katillathehun at 11:24 AM on January 5, 2008

Stir fry I usually treat like stone soup-- whatever is in the house seems to work. But on the theory of cook-it-on-Sunday-eat-it-all-week, what about jok? Basically you simmer the hell out of rice with a nice big turkey drumstick. I thought of it, because wood ear is great in jok. (also cloud ear and lotus root) Throw in some winter melon for texture and color.

I recently earned my honorary chinese mom ribbon when my kids and husband told me they liked my jok better than ah-nin's (grandma)
posted by nax at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2008

yep - frozen stir-fry vegetables with soya sauce + (anything you want!). You can also replace soya sauce with curry paste and add noodles. Quick and easy!
posted by ddaavviidd at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ah -- wood ear! Let me pimp hot and sour soup as a tasty way to use that prime ingredient. If you haven't made it before, this is a pretty close to the recipe I've used for years. While it has a long list of ingredients, the prep time isn't huge and you can double the recipe as it keeps well for several days in the fridge. I made up a bunch last night (used extra wood ear because I was out of black mushrooms) and also substituted matchstick carrots for the bamboo shoots I didn't have on hand. If you want more veg, chop some spinach, bok choy or swiss chard, put it in a bowl and pour the hot soup over it.

Otherwise, if you just want to use the wood ear in a stir fry, soak it in water for 20 minutes, chop into fine shreds (you may have to remove the hard stem end), and add it to your stir-fry last. I think it should go well with any leafy green, peppers or carrots. Slivered pork is an obvious protein add-on.
posted by maudlin at 11:47 AM on January 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions!

I'm actually not fond of frozen vegetables... I prefer mine fresh, even if I do have to prepare them. And vegetables + soy sauce + some meat is essentially what I do already. Any specific suggestions for new vegetables to try?

I haven't heard of jok before, but I don't think that it's what I'm looking for. Basically, I cook a bunch of dishes, store them in tupperware, then grab a few spoonfuls of each, on top of rice, and heat it up in the microwave, for all my at-home meals. Adding congee to rice would be weird...

Shrimp and broccoli - I think I'll give that a try.
posted by jasminerain at 12:36 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

My own thoughts ... the only important things to keep in mind for good stir fry are:

1. Start with hot oil (duh), then add garlic and ginger, then whites of scallions, then meat, then veggies. This is a good base for flavorful oil to fry in.

2. Don't crowd the pan or wok or you will have to cook for too long, and you'll end up with something more like a grainless casserole.

3. Don't add the sauce too early or else you will end up steaming the veggies.

4. Corn starch in the sauce is what makes the take-out Chinese food glazed, when the sauce reduces.

You can do this with any veggie that can be fried, and with any sauce that you think would go well with the veggies. Good combinations are, oyster sauce and broccoli, chili + soy sauce with water chestnuts and celery, and pretty much any fresh green veggies with soy and rice wine. You only want a half cup of most, and feel free to dilute thick sauces and then reduce them in the pan.
posted by cotterpin at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

You can top just about any stir fry with peanut sauce; it totally changes the whole thing. (add afterwards, not while frying; it's too viscous)

Easy peanut sauce recipe:
3.5 tbs peanut butter
3 tbs green tea (or water)
3 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp chili oil
1 tbs chopped ginger
2 tsp honey
0.5 tsp sesame oil

Also, Phad Thai is a fun stir-fry dish to experiment with. There's no one true recipe -- googling for it will turn up lots of very different ideas. My best results usually include just a tiny bit of fish sauce, chopped cilantro, and tamarind paste.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:00 PM on January 5, 2008 [8 favorites]

During leafy green vegetable season I started eating a lot of stir-fried kale (or whatever leafy green you have). It works well with citrus flavors, garlic, pork, ginger.
posted by artifarce at 1:02 PM on January 5, 2008

Best answer: Agreed on the peanut sauce, but add cayenne or paprika for a good kick.

My favorite ingredients are:
Snow peas
Water chestnuts
Shrimp (even the frozen peeled tiny ones that come in the bags are good)
Carrots, put in early, will work pretty well
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:57 PM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know if this'll help because my method is a little different than yours... I stir-fry my meat, veg and (brown) rice all together and then store that as a complete mixture in tupperware, microwaving to heat at mealtimes. As such, I think my veg/meat needs less of a sauce, since the rice is mixed in rather than underneath. One combination I like is ground turkey, brown rice, broccoli and dried cranberries with soy sauce, salt, pepper, and mirin. I chop the broccoli really small so it doesn't need pre-cooking. Adding a bit of sweet can really change the tone; I put apples or raisins in my pork versions. Another one I make is white rice with ground beef, chickpeas, green peas, cumin and cayenne -- this one is more Indian in tone, which is a nice change, but takes longer to cook till the chickpeas are browned.
posted by xo at 2:23 PM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify: I'm not looking for how to do stir fry. I want new ingredients. I don't usually make my stir fries the way that restaurants make them; it's a little too heavy for my taste.

I love snow peas and water chestnuts - will definitely try that out. I've mostly neglected broccoli as well.

xo - For some reason, making dishes with rice makes it not keep well enough for me. I find your combinations intriguing though, especially adding dried cranberries or raisins.
posted by jasminerain at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2008

My personal contribution to Chinese cuisine is this: duck and asparagus.
Goes wonderfully together.
posted by sour cream at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For combos, I keep a few takeout menus in my drawer to use a reference whenever I start blanking out.

I eat a lot of Asian leafy and sprout vegetables plainly stir fried with a few slivers of garlic, a drop of oyster sauce, and sometimes thin-sliced button mushrooms. If you get them fresh, they release a lot of moisture with a bit of salt. You'd be surprised how good a lot of the veggies you're using in combination stir fries, taste good just by themselves.
- baby bok choy
- pea sprouts (the huge bags for $1.50)
- broccoli
- A-choy

They also make great clear soups. Especially during cold weather, soup + rice is super yummy. With a sharp knife, cut some paper thin slices of onion and a fine dice of onion. Sweat the fine dice and add diced green onion. Add the leafy vegetable and some salt. The veggie should start releasing its moisture. Add chicken broth and let it come to a simmer. Add the thin-sliced onions and some slices of mushroom. Add a dash of soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.
posted by junesix at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2008

Have you tried sweet chili sauce? You can find this in any grocery store with a decent international section or, of course, in the asian grocery. Garlic, ginger, sweet chili sauce, and soy is a terrific base for stir fry. My favorite use of this combo is a dish my ex-boyfriend taught me -- rice noodles, lettuce, and crunchy bean sprouts topped with meat stir fried in a sauce made of fish sauce, fresh lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce. It sounds a tad weird but it's really delicious.
posted by theantikitty at 4:48 PM on January 5, 2008

Oh, also...you can basically pull off the same sweet chili sauce stir fry with many fruit jams. Orange marmalade with garlic and soy sauce makes a particular good and easy stir fry. Other jams, like apricot, can also be very tasty.
posted by theantikitty at 4:50 PM on January 5, 2008

Putting your stir-fry in a wrap (I like mu shoo wraps) instead of eating it straight up can make it feel different. Also convenient to carry.
posted by anaelith at 5:22 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Soy Greens.

Heat some oil very hot.

Put two squashed cloves of garlic into the hot pan.

Put in 2 handfuls of cabbage/thick greens per person.

Cook for a few minutes.

Splash on a fair bit of soy sauce (according to taste).


(a very simple Nigel Slater one from memory).
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2008

lime, ginger, chilis, sprouts, tofu, squash (in season, natch), fresh herbs (cilantro, thai basil, etc.), maybe jicama in lieu of water chestnuts. Some Korean hot bean paste (kochu jjang) is a nice twist now and again. Sesame oil is underappreciated.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:10 PM on January 5, 2008

pork + green beans

drizzle both with soy sauce, then coat with corn starch. wait 30 minutes then fry up. the pork makes a light sauce with the cornstarch, and the whole thing is delicious. one of my favorite meals.
posted by lisaici at 9:35 PM on January 5, 2008

Best answer: If you're not averse to beef, then beef and green beans or yard-long beans are nice. The trick is in thinly slicing the beef. Partially freezing it will help. I usually use flank steak, which unfortunately is trendy now and has gone up in price.

In summertime I really like using summer squash/zucchini in my stir fries, but it does get mushy pretty quickly.
posted by cabingirl at 9:38 PM on January 5, 2008

I had the good fortune of living with a student from China. He spoke almost no English but he knew the international language of stir-fry.

1: Just when the sesame oil starts to smoke in the wok, squelch it with a stirred egg. The egg will absorb quickly so be ready to plop it in a bowl for garnish.
2: Ginger and black pepper are the basis for the seasoning and a spectacular brown sauce.
3: Don't let anything stew. Fragile vegetables like green peppers should hit the wok near the end.
4: Experiment. What works for you and your guests works.
Hope this helps.

PS: Slice the scallions diagonally, it increases the surface area for the capsaicin and it looks very nice. (Remember, people eat with their eyes.)
posted by McLir at 10:08 PM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

This thread inspired me to make a stir fry last night.

I did chicken and snow peas with cashews. The flavourings were garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, Chinese rice wine and a little soy, as well as little fresh chilli. I also used a little chicken stock to give the sauce body but you could just use water. Thicken with cornflour solution if you like a glossy, thicker sauce. Finished with some freshly chopped coriander (cilantro). Served with boiled rice.

15 minutes work and taste was out of this world.
posted by Tsar Pushka at 12:25 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I like shrimp or chicken with snap peas, broccoli, and bell peppers. I use trader joe's teriyaki sauce plus a bit of chicken broth. Yum.
posted by lunasol at 4:57 AM on January 11, 2008

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