If you prefer to pick up beef with broccoli or kung pao chicken from your local Chinese take-out rather than spend the time in the kitchen to make your own, I can't fault you. It will take time to prepare a fantastic stir fry at home, but when you add the first clove of garlic to the hot skillet and experience cooking this dish with all of your senses--it will be so worth it.
There are some essentials you will need to keep around the house to create the perfect stir fry flavor profile. Soy sauce, for one, is a key ingredient in homemade stir fry. The salty flavor acts as a base for the sauce and silky texture gives it body. Rice vinegar is an Asian staple that can either be found in the International aisle or with the oils in your local store. Vinegar will give a fresh acidic flavor to the sauce. To round out the flavor profile, we need two more things--sweet and spicy! I used regular white granulated sugar in this recipe, but brown sugar, fruit (like pineapple), hoisin sauce, and sweet chili sauce are also commonly used in stir fry to add a touch of sweetness.
Now let's discuss spiciness. I know not everyone loves spicy foods (as much as my husband does), but I think that without even the touch of spice, stir fry can be a bit...bland. On the rare occassions that we do dine out, we generally choose our favorite Cincinnati Thai restaurant, Wild Ginger. If you've dined at Thai restaurants before, you'd know that they are similar to Chinese restaurants in fare, but in my experience the food is of higher quality and the dining experience is more enjoyable. (There's also the addition of curry on Thai menus, but that's another post, another day!) Usually your server will ask, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how spicy would you like your stir fry?" No matter how spicy you enjoy your food, I would not suggest going higher than a 5 or 6! In Asian cooking, very spicy ingredients such as sriracha , spicy chili sauce, and chili oil can be added to make your dishes increase on the spiciness scale. A little bit of these spicy ingredients goes a very long way.
So I'd suggest, as you ponder making a stir fry in your own kitchen, that you consider adding as little as a hint up to a copious amount of spiciness. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of that range. (I'm a 3 in Thai restaurants, in case you want to order like me.)
The actual stir frying doesn't take very long, but you need to make sure you have everything prepared before you heat up the oil in the skillet. As soon as you start cooking, the process goes fast.
Don't forget to start the rice! I like to bring the rice to a boil before I even start on the stir fry, and nights when I miss this step, it is pure torture waiting for it to finish while my formerly crisp veggies sit in the warm skillet and begin to get a little rubbery. You will thank me for this reminder when you are sitting down to sensational dinner!
You may never pick up take-out again.
Beef and Snap Pea Stir Fry
Recipe adapted from Everday Food Magazine
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp spicy chili garlic sauce
12 oz boneless New York strip steak, trimmed and thinly sliced across the grain
1/4 cup green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
8 oz snap peas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high. In a small bowl combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and spicy chili garlic sauce. Season the steak with salt and lay in a single layer in the hot oil. Use tongs to set the steak in the oil to avoid being splashed by the sizzling steak. Cook for 2 minutes on one side until browned, then turn and cook for 30 more seconds until cooked through. Remove steak from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
Add snap peas, green onion, garlic, and ginger to the skillet. While stirring constantly for one minute to allow the vegetables to slightly brown and then add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Cook for 2 minutes, remove the lid, and cook until the water has evaporated, about 1 minute.
Add the soy mixture and cook until fragrant, only about 10 seconds. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice, and toss the beef back into the skillet. Serve over rice.