Some styles of recipes need many tweaks to become 30-minute meals. They may need a laundry list of shortcut ingredients, or else an extensive array of sneaky tricks to shave off time. Stir-fries, however, are not these recipes.
Surely you have thrown together many a rough-and-tumble stir-fry late on a Thursday night, making the most of whatever vegetables and leftovers are in your fridge. These meals certainly come together quickly, but they’re not often memorable.
Luckily, it is not particularly challenging, nor time consuming, to improve a stir-fry.
First, make sure you slice and dice everything before you even think about turning on the heat. While there are cooking techniques for which it is more effective, time-wise, to stagger ingredient preparation, this is not one of them. A stir-fry should take only minutes to cook, so you’ll want to stand by the stove at all times.
This also applies to your stir-fry sauce. You’ll want it at the ready to add just as your vegetables have softened; it’ll put the breaks on the heat, if only for a few seconds, and will prevent anything from burning or overcooking.
The sauce is also the only place where you can run into trouble as far as ingredient count goes. Make sure to use ingredients that can do double- or triple-duty. In the recipe below, you’ll find a mix of oyster sauce (soy, sugar and a thickener included), rice vinegar and chili-garlic paste. Add a little water to mellow the mix and it is ready to go.
Once the sauce is set, you only need to slice a protein and trim a vegetable before you fire up the stovetop. Below, you’ll find flank steak, which should be cut as thinly as possible, against the grain, so that it cooks and becomes tender in a matter of minutes. You can certainly use pork or chicken here, or even pressed and diced firm tofu, if you prefer. Springtime snow peas pair well with the beef and the oyster sauce, but snap peas, asparagus or even frozen baby peas would work just as well.
Finally, the cooking: Get an oil-coated skillet ripping hot, then add the steak in a single layer. Let it cook on its own —don’t mess with it — until it is sufficiently seared on one side. Then you can give it a toss and cook until it is just a touch pink. Add the peas, followed by the sauce, and you’re only a stir or two away from dinner.
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