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Veggie Riot Stir-fry

March 13, 2007

Veggie Riot Stir-fry

I have never been that interested in Chinese food. I’ve stir-fried things before, but it was always just a random conglomeration of ingredients, with no specific sauce, and usually served over pasta. Chinese cooking seemed to rely on an entirely different collection of methods and ingredients that held no particular appeal to me at all.

Until I bought a new wok. I’m not really sure what the power of this wok is. I’ve owned woks in the past, and never felt compelled to toss together Kung Pao Chicken or Beef with Broccoli. This wok, though, immediately sent me to various Chinese cooking websites (not having a single Chinese cookbook in the vicinity of my kitchen) to learn to put together an actual Chinese-style stir-fry. I searched and read and took a trip to the hippy mart, and eventually ended up with this: a crazy mix of delicious vegetables and a soy garlic stir-fry sauce. I ended up with something that actually resembles Chinese food!

The Centre Street Cafe, here in JP, has something on the menu they describe as “a riot of veggies.” I’ve always loved that phrase (and the dish, which involves eggs and broccoli and peppers and all kinds of other excellent vegetable products, and it rocks). I had to plagiarize it for my stir-fry, because a riot of veggies is most certainly what this was. 

Veggie Riot Stir-fry

  • 2 medium carrots, sliced (I like to cut them on the bias, so they get that cool diagonal look)
  • 2 c. broccoli florets, trimmed
  • 1 c. sliced baby bellas, or any other kind of mushroom you like. I pull the stems out, because I think they’re easier to cut that way, but you can leave them in.
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced thinly and into two-inch long pieces
  • 1 small can of water chestnuts, sliced
  • a little bit of olive oil, and a little bit of sesame oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 T. water
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 3 T. dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Heat a wok (or a really big skillet, if you don’t have a wok) over high heat. When it’s super hot, add a bit of olive and a bit of sesame oil. The coolest thing about my new wok is that I hardly had to use any oil at all, and it got much hotter than any of my other pans do. It is a super cooker!

Add the broccoli and carrots, and stir around a bit so the oil has mostly coated everything. Put a lid over the veggies so they can steam, for probably about five minutes. Check them every now and then, and stir a bit so they don’t burn on the bottom.


While the veggies are steaming, you can mix up the sauce. Put everthing in a bowl and stir it. There: You have a sauce. I also added a few drops of hot chili oil. You can add some ginger, or some red pepper flakes. I needed to add a little more cornstarch, but even with closer to 1 1/2 teaspoons, it didn’t really get that thick. I think that’s ok.

Once the broccoli and carrots are softened a bit, remove them from the pan into a bowl. Add a little bit more oil (not very much) and add the mushroom and red peppers. Toss it all to coat it in oil, and then leave to cook, stirring only occasionally, for another few minutes. Add the water chestnuts, and then add the broccoli and carrot mix back in. Toss it all together and stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the sauce. Keep sauteeing and stirring it around, until the sauce has coated everything and thickened up a little bit.

Veggie Riot!

I served this crazy stir-fry over some wild rice, which I sadly overcooked. Today I brought the leftover veggies to work, and decided to leave the mushy rice at home, and it was pretty awesome just on its own. I’m not a big rice fan, so I would probably even eat this over spaghetti or something.

For my first foray into Chinese cookery, it was not bad. My new wok is awfully fun to cook in, and all those veggies make me feel nice and vitamined up. What I really want to try next is Garlic Chicken, one of my ultimate favorite Chinese dishes. I spent a fair amount of time looking for a recipe for something I used to love at the O’mei, a mind-blowing Chinese restaurant in Santa Cruz: Peppery chow mein. It had ham, and squash, and this out of control black pepper and egg sauce. If anyone knows what this is or how I can make it on my own, please please, don’t leave me in suspense!

So perhaps the methods and ingredients aren’t really so foreign as I thought. With a bit more practice (and maybe a bit more Chinese take-out) I think I can get a handle on it. Or maybe I just want to play with my new wok some more.


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