I think we probably all do the same thing when we're trying to work out what to make for dinner. You open up the fridge, proceed to the cupboard, maybe even check the fruit bowl, but nothing appeals to the grumbling in the pit of your stomach and the ache in your heart for something other than vegemite on toast or a spotty banana.
This is especially poignant for us twenty somethings who, if I’m totally honest, usually don’t have a lot of money to be splashing around. We’re either students or working full time and either way, if we’re not saving like crazy to travel or buy something big and shiny, we’re letting out the boogie monster on the D-floor every weekend and that means no money to spare on take away Pad Thai.
Thankfully, cooking a stir-fry is one of the most cost-affective ways of fulfilling that need for an asian-inspired takeaway all the while using up those weird, random ingredients in your fridge.
Here are the stir-fry basics for my stir-crazy babies.
1. Raid and chop
Stir-frys are the most versatile meals of all time. My favoured technique when choosing is the ‘Raid and Chop’, where essentially I raid my fridge for vegetables and whatever else I can find and chop it all up.
You can also add any type of meat, seafood or soy protein that you have on hand too.
The key is to get a good, sharp knife and chop your vegetables into similar sizes. Then, sort them from the densest to the softest. The dense ones like carrot will need to cook longer than veggies like zucchini.
2. Pick your grain
Another important, yet overlooked, part of creating a stir-fry is the various options of carb-goodness that you can add to satiate your hunger long term. White rice, brown rice, rice noodle, udon noodle; the options are endless.You can even add quinoa or couscous and say a big ‘fuck you’ to stir-fry purists. Use what you’ve got ladies and gents, that’s how we do.
Fresh noodles like udon can easily be put straight in the pan along with the vegetables/If they’re dried, let them sit in a bowl of covered boiling water from the kettle for 5 minutes. As for rice, quinoa and couscous; either buy microwavable or read the instructions on the packet (I ain't got time to explain that to you).
4. Baby, what’s your flavah? (<-- does anyone else remember Craig David?)
In cooking 101, we spoke about sautéing garlic and onion in oil as a flavour base. This can be done for stir-frys, but you also have the option to add other aromatic vegetables and flavours. The most common are things like ginger, green onion, shallots and chilli. Then, consider your herb options. My favourites are thai basil, regular basil and coriander. These are best added fresh, right at the end.
3. Get saucy
Yes, it’s easy to go buy a pre-made stir-fry sauce but they are expensive and full of sugar. Here are 3 of my favourite go-to sauces which you can mix and match. Don’t forget that youtube and google are great places to start if you’re trying to make a sauce with what you already have in your pantry.
All of these recipes have enough sauce for two people. They are all made by combining all ingredients. If you’d like a thicker sauce, dissolve a teaspoon of cornflour into the mix and stir vigorously until its dissolved. The cornflour will act as a thickening agent when it’s heated up!
- Basic Soy -
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup of any stock
- Peanut Satay Spice -
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 table spoon sweet chilli
2 teaspoons of soy
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 clove garlic; minced
1 tablespoon miso (optional)
Sriracha or hot chilli (optional)
- Pad-thai -
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or any other sweetener)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
Sriracha or hot chilli sauce to taste
4. One, Two step
This is the fun bit. First, add your aromatic vegetables. When it starts to smell incredible, add in your meat and cook until it’s brown on the outside. To avoid overcooking it, take the meat chunks out of the pan and put them to the side. Throw in the densest veggies you have, cook for a lil bit and proceed to add the rest of the veggies (and noodles, if that’s your vibe). Cook for a minute or two, then add in your sauce and meat. Toss them around in the pan until the meat is cooked and you’re done, baby!
Serve with rice or another delicious carb and you’ve got a super healthy meal that tastes like take-away and won’t break the bank.
5. A beautiful mess, just like you
Stir-frys are a bright, bold and beautiful mess and sometimes I can relate to them on a spiritual and molecular level. If you’re proud of your stir-fry, why not take a sneaky pic and upload it on instagram. Don’t forget to tag us at @twentysomethinghumans and write a bad-ass caption.
Laura is a 21 year old Italian grandmother who likes coffee, going to bed early and snapchat filters. Follow her on instagram @laurajmasia
Images: Laura Masia