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How to Stir Fry

Stir fry with Deadon cabbage and seitan

If you’re trying to work more veggies into your diet or reduce the amount of meat you eat, stir frying is a great option. You can pack TONS of vegetables in and use just a little bit of meat and it will taste delicious. There really isn’t a recipe here, just a technique. Use anything you have hanging around, but do all your prep work before you start cooking. This is critical. Stir fry moves fast and things will get overcooked if you don’t have a nice assembly line set up.

Tougher vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus, or whole pea pods) should be blanched first so they are done at the same time as everything else. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the vegetable for two to three minutes or until it turns a brighter shade of green. Then, remove it from the boiling water and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water in order to stop the cooking process. Blanching ensures that the vegetables are neither undercooked and tough, nor overcooked and mushy. It guarantees that just-right consistency. It also makes them taste better because it releases the most bitter and tart compounds from the vegetables into the boiling water.

General Stir Fry Procedure:

  1. If you want rice, start cooking it right away.
  2. Chop your meat and vegetables into consistently-sized pieces. I usually go for about 2 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inches wide, but it depends. Put each ingredient in a separate bowl.
  3. Pre-cook anything that needs to be pre-cooked. In general, if you wouldn’t eat it raw, blanch it.
  4. Whip up your sauce (see recipe below).
  5. Heat your pan for 1 minute over medium heat. We have a wok, so we use it, but a cast iron skillet works just as well. Don’t use non-stick, though. They’re not generally safe for high heat.
  6. Add enough oil to cover the bottom and turn the heat to high. Use an oil made for high temperatures, like grapeseed or sunflower. If your food starts burning, turn down the heat a little.
  7. If you’re using meat, add it now. Let it cook for 4 or 5 minutes, or until cooked through (i.e. no pink in the middle). Use a spatula or large wooden spoon to keep the meat moving around…the “stir” in stir frying.
  8. Once the meat is done, transfer it to a clean bowl, but don’t turn the stove off.
  9. Start adding the vegetables in this order:
    • Group 1: Onions and garlic. Stir fry for 1 minute before adding Group 2.
    • Group 2: Broccoli (pre-cooked), cauliflower (pre-cooked), carrots, cabbage, kale, and the like. Stir fry for 3 minutes, or until almost tender, before adding Group 3.
    • Group 3: Mushrooms, zucchini, green beans (optionally pre-cooked), corn, asparagus (optionally pre-cooked), peppers, etc. Stir fry for 4 minutes, or until just tender, before adding Group 4.
    • Group 4: Spinach, watercress, or other very delicate vegetables. Stir fry just until incorporated.
  10. Remove everything from the pan and set aside in a clean bowl.
  11. Give the sauce a stir or shake and pour it into the pan. Once it’s boiling, whisk constantly and slowly add the flour. Whisk for another 3 minutes while it thickens.
  12. Add the veggies and meat back to the pan, toss to coat in the sauce, and cook until heated through again.

That’s really it. The steps are less about precision and more about taking a little taste every now and then to see if the veggies are done. Don’t let them overcook! Al dente is the name of the game.

Stir fry - always have an assembly line readyStir fry - group  1 - onions and garlic

Basic Stir Fry Sauce
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 TBsp + 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 TBsp Chinese rice wine (mirin)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour


  1. Add all ingredients except the flour to a pint jar (16 oz). Shake well. Alternatively, you could whisk everything in a bowl, but that’s not as much fun.
  2. When all the veggies and meat have been cooked, pour it into the pan and bring to a boil.
  3. Whisk in the flour. It will look lumpy, but just keep whisking. Boil for 3 minutes to thicken the sauce and cook the flour, whisking constantly.
  4. Add the veggies and meat back to the pan, stir to coat, and warm through.

Stir fry sauce - just shake it up!Heating the sauce

Stir fry with Deadon cabbage and seitan

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