Not Your Mom-in-Law’s Stir-Fry, but Mine!


stir fry
stir fry


I am also a musician, and like to improvise on my guitar when we are getting together with a couple folks for a jam-session. This recipe will give you the freedom of doing just that… culinarily speaking (don’t use this dish to play music, it might get awkward).  It’s my Mother-in-Law’s Stir Fry recipe that was posted on one of those church Cookbook collections. It beats a lot of recipes out there, and I can vouch for it since I am making it every other week! The secret is in the garlic, of course. Read on, good people…

The Stir-Fry’s is A Four Legged Creature

There are 4 (four) main groups of ingredients that goes in a traditional stir-fry as we know it here in the west. Of course there are variations of this but at least for now we’ll be focusing on this one. Have these four down and you’ll be improvising the most creative and exquisite stir-fry dishes on the Planet!


1. The Protein

1 Lb of anything anything that’s got protein in it — from mushroom, beef (any cuts will do, but flank steak is quite popular), pork tenderloin, shrimp (peeled and deveined), skinless and boneless chicken breast or thighs (who would want breast when you have thighs?!?), and of course tofu (cubed, extra-firm). If it’s meat, cube it or cut it in strips.

2. The Marinade

Of course the protein needs to sit somewhere cozy (in the fridge) for about 30 minutes or so here comes the marinade. It merely consists of:

  • 2 tablespoons dry cherry (or Chinese rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch (or arrowroot)
  • 1 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
saute meat
saute meat

3. The Vegetables

A 4 cups mix of anything that classifies as an edible vegetables you can imagine or rather that you have in the fridge right now. Anything like peas, blanched broccoli or cauliflower, mushrooms, , snow peas, shallots, onions, scallions, leeks, bell peppers, celery, carrots, bok choy, savory cabbage, cherry tomatoes, edamame, baby spinach, asparagus – the fridge is the limit!

saute veggies
saute veggies

4. The Sauce

This is the sauce that goes into the dish just before the grand finale. Here you can group certain ingredients to make your stir fry personal. Always start with the base of:

  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch (or arrow root)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

For instance you can improvise here by adding 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce. You might want to reduce the amount of chicken broth with the same amount of whatever liquid sauce combination (like the oyster sauce) you might be adding, so your sauce will not turn out too soupy.

Take The Heat!

Let’s talk about fire. I need to emphasize the need of a high BTU flame (or heat source) for this dish, since you aren’t making a stew where you can get away with long and moderate heat. Not, this one has lightning fast cooking times (2-4 min cooking times) and very high heat that can be achieved on a good stove, or one of those propane turkey fryer. Your barbecue chimney lighter will work excellent if using lump charcoal.

And of course you should make yourself a favor and use a wok. The one I have here is a cheap one (nonstick) from IKEA (I think I paid $10 or so). Using a skillet just doesn’t cut it and you’ll end up with half of your ingredients on your stove.

Prep It!

No big science here. Combine your protein, and marinade in a ziplock bag and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then add 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok, and set it on high heat, once you see the oil lightly smoking (1 min) add the vegetables. BEWARE, oil will splatter so use mittens. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes and remove vegetables. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil, swirl it around until hot, and add the protein. Stir fry it 4-5 minute or until done. In the end add the vegetables back to the wok, and add the sauce. Continue cooking and gently combine everything until the sauce starts thickening a little, about 1-2 minutes. Serve it immediately over rice.

Done! What, you expected more? Sorry to disappoint… Leave a comment with your “improvisation” on this recipe — curious to hear about it!

stir in veggies
stir in veggies
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