Veggie stir-fry

Stir-fries are one of my favourite go-to meals at university: they’re quick, cheap, and tasty. Being a vegetable fanatic, stir-fries favour highly with me, as they’re easy to pack full of different greens.

I have developed my stir-frying technique over the past year, and learned a few little tips along the way. First and foremost, don’t overheat the wok. On one memorable occasion, I sent the occupants of my kitchen into synchronised coughing fits as I fried chilli and garlic to crisps, sending forth a cloud of spicy fumes. I’m now very cautious when heating the oil, and I lift the wok up now and then to make sure that the spices aren’t sticking to it.

Another fairly obvious point is not to overload the wok. If you shove in too much, you won’t fry everything evenly.

My flatmates were also keen stir-friers, and I used to joke that my parents’ old wok was the most popular member of the hall, being frequently called upon for its services. I observed with interest some of their methods, and learned how to stir-fry chicken (ten minutes until cooked through, then take it out before you add your spices.) They were more inclined to use stir-in sauces and ready-cooked noodles; the latter didn’t really appeal to me, resembling as they do sun-deprived worms in their plastic packaging. (I pointed this out once, not very helpfully.)

So, naturally, I was keen to brush the dust of my wok at home. My mum has an aversion to mushrooms and noodles, hence why it has been so cruelly neglected; but on this occasion, she wasn’t in to oppose my wishes. I excitedly bought a variety of veggies and selected a good, strong knife for some fine chopping.

Here’s my recipe. I always opt for fresh ingredients over ready-prepared, but supermarkets do useful bags of chopped assorted vegetables for stir-frying, if you want to make things even easier.

You’ll need (to serve four):

  • olive oil
  • 3cm fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • one red chilli (or less, if you don’t like it hot)
  • four spring onions
  • 500g mushrooms (buttons are easiest, as they only require slicing in half)
  • a pack of babycorn
  • 300g mangetout (one or two packets)
  • medium egg noodles
  • dark soy sauce
  • sesame oil

(These are the ingredients I used: if you prefer peppers, peas, beansprouts, carrots, or anything else, go for it!)

Start by peeling and finely chopping the ginger and garlic, then the chilli. (Leave the seeds in if you’re brave enough.) Chop the tops off the spring onions and thinly slice the bottoms. Put all the choppings into a bowl.

Slice the mushrooms into the thickness of about half a centimeter – you don’t want them too thin, because they’ll shrink substantially as they cook. Cut the babycorn in half.

Have some water simmering in a pan, with your noodles ready to go in. Egg noodles usually only take a few minutes to cook.

Heat the wok over a medium heat for a little under a minute – it’s ready if when you flick water inside, it sizzles. (You can use a large frying pan if you don’t have one.) Pour in some oil, and tilt the wok to ensure that the base and sides are evenly coated; if the oil smokes, the wok is overheated. Heat the oil for another thirty seconds.

Throw in the spices, and immediately start moving them around with a wooden spatula so that they don’t burn. Lift the wok up if you’re worried that everything is getting too hot and sticking to the sides. Watch the garlic – if it’s going brown, it’s too hot! Stir-fry for about a minute, and enjoy the lovely aromatic smell.

Add in the mushrooms (not all at once if you’re using a large amount) and continue to stir-fry. When they have slightly reduced, throw in the babycorn. Put the noodles into the pan of simmering water, using a fork to help them unravel – you don’t want them to clump.

The mushrooms release a fair amount of water as they reduce, but don’t worry – this makes for quite a nice bit of sauce! After a minute, add the mangetout. By this point, your wok is likely to be pretty full: you may have to fry the vegetables in batches, or remove the mushrooms once they’re done.

Give the mangetout another minute, then remove the wok from the heat. Drain the noodles, and if there is space, add them to the pan. Give everything a generous splash of soy sauce, then mix well with two big spoons. (Dark soy sauce tastes far better than light, although the former does contain more salt. So try not to go too wild.)

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I bought sesame oil after looking at some recipes recommending to drizzle it over afterwards, but to be honest, I’m not quite sure that it made a whole lot of difference. Perhaps I didn’t add enough!

Serve it up, and enjoy! I love the taste of the ginger and the spiciness of the chilli; the different textures of the babycorn, mushrooms, and mangetout give it varying degrees of both crunch and softness.

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I’m keen to learn more about stir-frying;  this article from thekitchn helped me out, and it’s definitely worth a read for some more expert instruction! To bulk it out more and up the calorie and protein content, feel free to add chicken; I’d also like to try tofu, from both a perspective of curiosity, and of reducing my meat consumption.

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