Asian Stir Fry Origins

While I didn’t grow up eating a ton of home made Southeast Asian food, it has always been one of my most favorite collection of cuisines.  From sushi to stir fry to curry to egg rolls, I love it all!  I have spent years experimenting in my kitchen so that I could enjoy all of these cuisines at home and while I know how to make some pretty authentic and complex dishes, there’s nothing like a simple stir fry to quench that craving.

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These green onions are red at the bottoms but they pack the same flavor punch as their less colorful relatives. They also make for quite the pretty picture don’t they?

The Holy Trinity of Asian Food

I’ve mentioned The Holy Trinity in New Orleans cuisine and there is a similar foundational rule of thumb for most southeast Asian cuisines.  They all pretty much start with the white (or in this case red) part of the green onion, garlic and ginger.  There is also the option of chiles if you want some heat but that’s completely optional.  These aromatic veggies get a quick saute in the pan before they are joined by whatever veggies you have on hand for the stir fry.  At this point you are three quarters of the way to meal time.

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Prepping and chopping the veggies is probably the most time consuming part of making this meal and it really isn’t all that time consuming. It’s also a great opportunity to practice your knife skills because practice makes perfect.

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You just want these guys in the pan long enough to start to smell really good. You don’t want them to brown because if they will be spending more time in the pan.

Anything Goes

Another thing I absolutely love about this recipe is that you can use just about any veggie you have.  Bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, kale, spinach, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussel sprouts, green beans, onions, and more.  It is one of my favorite ways to use up veggies that need to be evicted from the crisper.  It’s also a great way to prepare a new veggie that I’m not sure how to cook.  Most things taste great in a stir fry.

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I happened to have zucchini and bell peppers on hand but I’ve made countless version with all kinds of veggies.

Layering Flavor

It wouldn’t be a stir fry in my opinion without Tamari or soy sauce and sesame oil.  These two flavors add a little something extra to the dish and also create a bit of sauce in the pan.  The extra moisture and oil will help to keep your veggies from burning in the final stages of cooking.  You should also add a little salt at the end as well.  I often find that even the regular sodium Tamari or soy sauces don’t have enough salt in them to properly season the dish.  That is unless you want to drown your food in it and if you do, I don’t judge at all.  You do you.

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You want to add the Tamari or soy sauce and sesame oil when the veggies are pretty close to how you want them. Add it too soon and you could end up burning the shit out of the soy sauce and oil and that doesn’t taste very good.

The Final Touches

Now that you are pretty much ready to plate this meal it just needs one last thing.  It needs a little bit of fresh brightness.  All of that stir frying and cooking gives the dish an earthy quality and the addition of fresh basil, the tops of the green onions and cilantro at the end brightens it all up.  While Thai Basil is more authentic and has a great flavor to it, I often use regular ole sweet basil in these dishes.  It’s close enough, gets the job done and I can use it in a bunch of other dishes like pasta or curry.  Same goes for the cilantro and green onion tops which can do double duty in tacos, a curry and more.  I’m all about finding multiple uses for whatever I bring in my house.  I’m not going to be the only one multitasking dammit!

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The fresh herbs not only add a lot of dynamic flavor they are also a gorgeous garnish to your dish.

Time to Enjoy

This dish whips up super quick.  Get some rice or noodles going as part of your prep so you can create a complete meal.  Top them with your delicious veggie creation and sit down to a perfectly satisfying meal made by you.

Delightful Recipe

Serves 2-4


  • 2-3 lbs of veggies, washed and chopped into similar size pieces (Bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, kale, spinach, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussel sprouts, green beans, onions, and more)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 green onions, green tops separated from the bottoms, bottoms minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of oil (grapeseed, veggie or other neutral flavored oil)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped basil
  • Salt to taste
  • If you are going to serve with pasta or rice, get that going according to package instructions.
  • Over medium high heat, heat veggie oil.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the garlic, ginger and minced bottoms of the green onions.  Saute for a couple seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the chopped veggies into the pan with a small pinch of salt and stir constantly.  If they are taking too long to cook or if they are burning, add a little water to the pan and cook until the water evaporates.
  • When the veggies are almost done (they are as tender as you want them 5-15 mins), add the soy sauce and sesame oil and cook until the soy sauce is fully absorbed.
  • Remove the veggies from the heat and top with the chopped cilantro, basil and the green onion tops.  Serve with the cooked rice or pasta.
simple asian stir fry

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