I love a good stirfry, but it took me many years to learn how to make one correctly. Growing up, I would make stirfries from frozen, pre-made stir-fry packs. Basically, I would boil the vegetables and possibly some meat in soy sauce and their own juices and then serve them over watery minute rice. I thought those ‘stirfries’ were really tasty, but that’s probably a testament to my tastebuds at the time and the amount of salty soy sauce and sweet teriyaki sauce I would pour all over them.
When I got a wok as a wedding gift, out of curiosity about the shape of the pan, I finally looked up how to make real stirfries. The point of the shape, basically, is that—on high heat, using little oil—you first put in the things that need to cook the longest, and as they cook, you push them up the edges of the pan and fill the empty space in the middle with whatever ingredient you have that will take the next longest amount of time to cook. And so on. The foods that are pushed up the sides of the pan will continue to cook, but not as rapidly as the item in the middle of the pan. Thus, eventually, all your foods will be done simultaneously without any being overcooked.
So I had that down, but then I had to learn that if I was going to stir-fry correctly, mise en place was an important element. Fortunately, it only took me one more try to learn that lesson; I was still l chopping the mushrooms when they (and two other unprepared ingredients after them) should have been in the wok four minutes earlier. In that attempt, my first ingredients to go in were overcooked by the time the meal was ready. Well, lesson learned: now I peel/chop up/prepare all my ingredients—even sauce elements—in advance and put them in ramekins and bowls before I ever fire up the oil in my wok. If you didn’t know to do that with a stirfry, I hope I have just saved you a bit of frustration.
Stirfries are great weeknight meals because they are pretty quick to pull together, they typically don’t require a huge number of ingredients, and they are generally healthy. I was inspired by a recipe at Bitchin’ Vegan Kitchen to make my own, soy-free variation of the tasty-sounding pineapple/fried rice/sorta Thai stirfry she offered up.
Soy-Free & Gluten-Free Sorta Thai Pineapple, Cashew, & Veggie Fried Rice
2-3 tablespoons of high-heat safflower oil (or peanut oil)
1 T of dark sesame oil (You should try this if you never have. A little goes a long way in offering a rich flavor to Asian meals.)
2 cloves garlic, minced fine (I used my garlic press)
~2 tsp. raw ginger, minced fine
1 large carrot, grated on a wide grate
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
~1 c. snow peas
~1/2 c. broccoli florets, thinly sliced
3-4 scallions, green and white parts, chopped thinly
2-3 cups leftover cold or room temp. rice (I cooked 1 c. of brown basmati in veggie broth earlier in the day and let it cool)
~2 tsp. fish sauce (check the ingredients before purchasing)
~1 tsp.-2 T. Sriracha hot sauce*, to taste (2 tsp. in a recipe is plenty for me, but put 1-2 T. if you like things spicy)
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. salt (or start with half as much and add more at the end, if desired)
1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped into small pieces
Large handful of cashews (roasted or raw,) crushed lightly
2 T. fresh cilantro, sliced into bits
Prep the ingredients. Combine the fish sauce, Sriracha, and molasses in a small container, and stir well.
Turn the wok on to medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour the cashews in the bottom of the dry wok. Shake the pan every minute until the cashews begin to brown. Pour the cashews into a small bowl, and set aside.
Heat the oils on medium-high in the wok.
Add garlic and ginger. Stir for thirty seconds.
Add the carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas, and green onions, and cook 3 minutes, stirring often. Scrape the vegetables up to the sides of the pan.
In the hole you have in the middle (the ‘well’), add the rice, and pour on the Sriracha mix. Scrape the vegetables further up the edges of the pan so that you can spread the rice out. Let it toast for ~2 minutes. Scrape the rice up the sides of the pan to create a new well in the center of the pan.
Drop the pineapple pieces onto the well. Cook them for 2-3 minutes to allow them to caramelize slightly, then toss them together with the other ingredients.
Add the cashews and cilantro. Stir well to toss all of the ingredients together. Taste to check seasonings, adding more as desired.
A general note: If you have other veggies or fruits to add, try them out! This recipe is ripe for experimentation.
*A note on Sriracha: it is spicy. My husband added probably a tablespoon of it to his serving alone—and ate it with a grin. That amount would make my eyes bulge out of my head. However, Sriracha does add a unique sweet and peppery flavor to this dish (and many other dishes), so even if you are a spice wimp like me, I recommend that you try out using a little of it.
Due to the undeniably healthy, high-antioxidant nature of this meal, I am submitting it for inclusion of the SweetNicks Antioxidant Rich Foods/5-A-Day round-up.