how to stir fry vegetables

How to stir fry vegetables? Everything you need to know

Everyone knows to eat more vegetables right? Especially green veggies. One of the easiest and fastest ways to whip up a veg-rich meal is to stir fry vegetables. Stir frying is a commonly used technique in Chinese cuisine. It’s so simple that you can easily improvise when frying your veggies in a pan or wok and jazz it up with sauces, meats, and various textures, flavors and colors to make a well-balanced meal.

The ultimate flavor base for your stir fry

The only place to start the base of any stir fry is ginger and garlic to achieve the best flavor and aroma. Mince or finely chop a few tablespoons worth of peeled fresh ginger and garlic. You will certainly taste the garlic as a flavor base, but it complements the other flavors and elevates your recipe to the next level while not overpowering the dish. Green onions also play nicely with garlic and ginger in the flavor base department. They give it that authentic oriental flavor and a big depth of flavor.

What vegetables go in stir fry?

An important key to making a great stir fry is the vegetables that are used. With textures ranging from crunchy to soft and flavors ranging from sweet to spicy, the vegetables contribute to the overall texture and color of your stir fry. You can mix and match depending on the seasonality of the veggies. Don’t be shy; remember that veg contain a lot of water, and will cook down in minutes, so add the veggies by the cupful! Some great stir fry options include carrots, broccoli (or even better, tender stem broccoli), sugar snap peas, white or purple onion, mushrooms, green, yellow, orange or red bell peppers, baby corn, bok choy, purple or green cabbage, zucchini, asparagus, chili peppers, and bean sprouts.

What order to cook stir fry ingredients?

Start with your base of chopped garlic, ginger, and spring onion. Remember that garlic burns easily and can alter the flavor of your whole stir fry for the worse if it burns. Consider removing the fried ginger, garlic and spring onions and setting them aside to be re-incorporated at a later stage. If you are adding a protein to your stir, now is a good time to prepare it. Cook it in the same pan that you fried the garlic to add extra flavor. Now set the cooked meat aside. The reason is that if you cook the vegetable before the protein, the veggies will cook for far too long and will become too soft.

Vegetables that stir fry quicker and slower

You should stir fry vegetables that take longer to cook first. Some examples of vegetables that take longer to cook include broccoli, carrots, and regular onions. Next, add the vegetables that stir fry quickly. Some examples of veggies that cook quickly include mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and peppers. Regarding leafy green vegetables, they typically cook quickly and can be added near the end of the cooking time. Most people like stir fry veggies to have a little crunch to them so keep that in mind because the texture is important. Remember that that you only want to cook the ingredients for long enough so that the flavors can inter-mingle. You don’t want everything to become soft and mushy!

How to chop stir fry vegetables

The way that you prepare your vegetables contributes to the overall texture of your dish. Ideally, you want different sizes, shapes, and textures spread across different colored vegetables. Chop and prepare all your veg before you start cooking. The ingredients that make up the base of the stir fry (garlic, ginger, and spring onions) should be minced or finely chopped. Ingredients such as carrots, zucchini, and bell peppers can be chopped into rounds or long slices (julienned), as should chili peppers. Onions can either be finely chopped, or sliced into rings. Mushrooms can be sliced. Some ingredients such as sugar snap peas, baby corn, and asparagus can either go in whole, or can be halved or chopped smaller. Bok choy and baby spinach leaves can go in whole, whereas cabbage can be sliced. Bean sprouts can be left whole. Remember that veggies cook down drastically in minutes, so if you started with a huge pile of veg, don’t be surprised if it reduces considerably. 

What oil to use for stir fry vegetables

Extra-virgin olive oil is popular for cooking, but it’s unsuitable for stir fries because it has a strong flavor and a low smoke point. The smoke point is also called the burning point and it’s the temperature when a fat or oil creates a dark-colored smoke. This will negatively impact the flavor of the dish that you’re cooking. If you must use olive oil for stir frying, use refined or light olive oil. For stir fries, good oils to try are soybean oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil because they have a high smoke point and a neutral flavor.  You can also try peanut oil or coconut oil because they add a nutty flavor and have a high smoke point.

How to make stir fry vegetables

Heat up some suitable oil in a pan or wok. The most important thing to make a good stir-fry is to use a very high cooking temperature to cook the food quickly. Add the prepared vegetables: first the base (garlic, ginger, spring onion) this can be removed and set aside to be re-added later. Next, if you are including meat, add a little more oil and cook in the same pan. Remove the meat and set it aside. Fry the vegetables by cook times, and stir fry until mostly cooked but still crunchy. In other words, add the vegetables that take longest to cook first, followed by the vegetables that cook quickly. Add the stir-fry sauce and cook for another few minutes for the flavors to marry. Add the base of the cooked garlic, ginger and spring onion back to the vegetables as well as the cooked meat. Remove the wok or pan from the heat and scoop over prepared noodles or rice.

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