From Too Many Chefs -

February 9, 2006
How I do Vegetarian Stir Fry

Stir Fry TofuWhen I was growing up my mom didnít ever make stir fry because she was never happy with any brown sauce she came across. But here is the recipe for a sauce that I picked up at a cooking class on the beach in Thailand. (Time for Lime--if you happen to be on Koh Lanta, I highly recommend it. In addition to teaching a rotating menu of Thai fusion dishes, they whip up a very good mojito (again with the mojitos!)) Iím so happy with it that it has assumed a standard rotation in our dinners. For the veggies, you can use whatever you want. I have a friend who grows organic Asian veggies locally, so I buy whatever heís gotóusually bok choy, tat soi and/or komatsuna. In addition I almost always use onion and green pepper, and maybe mushrooms and/or broccoli for the majority of the volume. Regardless, itís always garlic and ginger first and sesame seeds last.

Veggie Stir Fry

4 Tbs veggie oil for stir frying, or more depending on what veggies are being used (broccoli and eggplant are notorious for soaking up oil)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, cut up real small
Roughly 10 c. assorted veggies (any of the above plus squash, baby corn, whateverís seasonal/local/fresh)
1 Tb sesame seeds

The Sauce

50 ml water
1 T chili paste
3 T oyster sauce (OK, so itís 99% vegetarian. I donít have access to mushroom sauce. Either is fine, just make sure itís the thick gloopy stuff)
3 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
1 t dry vermouth
1 t sugar
½ t black pepper

Cut up all the veggies first because once the stirring starts, it donít stop Ďtil the break of dawn (or until the food is cooked, whichever comes first). None of this "I'll cut up the onion while the broccoli is cooking" stuff. A separate prep bowl for things that require longer cooking time is a good idea.
Make the sauce
Heat wok well (Time for Lime has these gas burners that have the largest flames I've ever seen. The sort of burners that no builder would ever put in a house in the US due to fear of lawsuits)
Add vegetable oil
Add garlic and ginger (1-2 min.)
Add veggies starting with broccoli (if being used), then onion (until a little soft), then everything else (5-7 min)
Add oil tablespoon at a time, if needed
Add sauce
Add tofu (2 min to heat through)
Add sesame seeds

I like to serve this with mango nectar and some Thai pop music (oh wait...there's a reason there's just one Thai pop song in my iTunes).

Serves four, if you make rice, which you should because otherwise itís not an Asian meal. Did You Know?: In Thai, a common greeting is to say "Did you eat rice yet?" and you can't ask that question without the word "rice".

Some (OK, several) notes based on my experience with this dish:
*The recipe actually calls for veggie oil (4 T!) in the sauce as well, but I find that that makes the final dish too oily.
*You can steam broccoli separately and add it later with everything else, but Iím too lazy for that.
*If you want your tofu browned, cook that first, remove, and add back in at the end.
*If you buy too much of the Asian veggies (as I invariably do), just know that they go great in many soups.
*The first few times you make this you might consider adding 75% of the sauce and then, if you feel like it needs it, add the rest. I personally hate seeing sauce left in the wok when all the veggies are gone and would rather have it in a container in the fridge for next time.
*If I got them, I like to throw in some Thai peppers (not the bird chilies--the really small ones--but some bigger dried red ones) near the end for color and spice (in case anyone thinks the sauce isn't spicy enough).

Posted by Justin in BogotŠ at February 9, 2006 9:38 AM | TrackBack

Sounds lovely! I'm so jealous of the class, too...

Posted by Meg in Paris on February 10, 2006 at 2:20 AM

sounds wonderful. do you have any suggestions about chili paste?

Posted by paul on February 10, 2006 at 12:46 PM

Meg, when you're planning your trip to Thailand, I can recommend to you classes all over the country. And, in general, it's so inexpensive. Lots of fun.

Paul, I have been using Lee Kum Kee simply because it's the only chili sauce I can find, but it's a good choice. The important thing is to avoid the ones that have ground up fish paste. That's a different product but they look similar and are often sold next to each other on the shelf. Just see to it that the ingredients are chilis and oil (and maybe garlic and salt). The list of ingredients shouldn't be much more than that. I think I used to buy Mae Ploy. You could look for that label; it's a common import to the US.

Posted by Justin on February 10, 2006 at 4:15 PM

I love tofu. I never thought I could eat a purely vegetarian dish until I started cooking a lot of silken tofu which is really healthier since it doesn't need to be pan fried. Never tried adding vermouth though. Thanks for the idea. :)

Posted by Connie on February 14, 2006 at 7:51 PM

Just a little vermouth will bring out flavors that are only soluble in alcohol. Any alcohol will do, of course, but vermouth is fortified and an open bottle will last a lot longer in the fridge than regular wine.

Posted by Justin on February 14, 2006 at 9:39 PM