I’ve been hung up on trying to make a good stir fry for as long as I can remember. I love the idea of stir fries because they are so tasty and they are a great way to eat a variety of vegetables (even my husband, who as a rule hates cooked vegetables, will eat stir fries).
However I have been rather lousy at making them! Every so often I would turn out something tasty, and thinking that this was the magical combination, I’d write down all of the exact measurements and ingredients that I used. Then next time I’d faithfully follow that recipe…..but it was no good! It was blah, bland, boring….what was the problem? Was it because I wasn’t using a wok?
So I bought a wok. Tried my hand at work cooking a couple of times. First time was a great success! Yay, it must be the wok! Wrote down everything I did, then made it again. Eh. Not as good as I remembered. What had I done wrong? I put the wok away (it was a pain to season anyway) and didn’t make a stir fry for ages.
Then recently I found myself with nothing for dinner except some chicken and a bunch of veges that needed eating. Ok then, stir fry, but I’m not using the wok. Back to my trusty stainless steel frying pan. I chopped up the chicken and vegetables and started cooking. Only this time I didn’t measure ANYTHING. I chopped up some garlic and grated some ginger. I splashed in some soy sauce and rice vinegar. I tasted it as I went along and added a little more of this and that, and then finished it with some toasted sesame oil. I ended up with the best stir fry I’d ever made!
To prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke, I made it again (especially for this post!) and again I didn’t measure out anything – I just tasted as I went and adjusted accordingly. The result was another deliciously tasty stir fry!
I can only conclude that “stir fry by intuition” is the way to go, although I do have a couple tips that I’ll share below. For the purpose of having a “recipe”, I’ve tried to guestimate the quantities as a guide, but because no two stir fries are ever the same, plan to taste along the way and add a little more of this, and a little more of that until it tastes just right!
Chicken and Cashew Stir Fry
2 tablespoons coconut oil/ghee
4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs (about 1 pound), cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
Soy sauce – 3-4 tablespoons (see note 1)
Rice wine vinegar – about 1 teaspoon (see note 2)
1/2 teaspoon (approx.) Sucanat or coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup cashews (I prefer roasted)
3-4 cups chopped vegetables of your choice (eg. carrots, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms etc)
Red pepper flakes (optional if you’d like a bit of spice)
Toasted sesame oil – about 1 teaspoon (see note 3)
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder mixed in 2 tablespoons cold water (see note 4)
1. Heat oil in a large pan or wok, on medium heat.
2. Add onion and saute for about 5-10 minutes. If using carrots, add these at this point also.
3. Add the chicken, garlic and ginger. Stir it around, then add a couple splashes of soy sauce and the rice wine vinegar. Continue cooking until the chicken is not showing any pinkness (about 5-10 minutes).
4. Add the cashews and vegetables (except zucchini which is easy to overcook). Add a couple more splashes of soy sauce and the sugar. Add red pepper flakes, if using.
5. Simmer until the vegetables are just tender (should be lightly crunchy) and the chicken is cooked through. Towards the end, add any quick cooking vegetables such as zucchini or bok choy.
5. Add a splash or two of toasted sesame oil, then taste and add more soy sauce/rice vinegar/sugar/sesame oil as required. At this point I like it to taste a little on the salty side because it looses some of its saltiness when eaten with rice.
6. At this point, I usually have quite a bit of juice collected in the pan from the chicken and veges. Rather than have a watery sauce, I like to thicken it with arrowroot powder.Turn the heat to the lowest setting and stir in the arrowroot mixture. Stir continuously as it will thicken quickly.
7. Serve over rice, or zucchini noodles to be grain free.
Note 1: I use this brand of soy sauce which is a gluten and wheat-free tamari.
Note 2: Rice vinegar can be purchased either seasoned (with a small amount of sugar and salt) or unseasoned. I use seasoned, but either is fine.
Note 3: Toasted sesame oil lends an authentic flavor to Asian dishes. Only a little is needed otherwise it can be overpowering.
Note 4: Arrowroot is used to thicken the sauce. You can also substitute tapioca starch or corn starch
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