5 stir fry recipes to try this weekend – whether you like yours with vegetables, chicken or seafood

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Time to upgrade your stir fry skills…

When you’ve had a tiring day and want something quick and easy for dinner, a stir fry often feels like the inevitable choice. Who among us, in pre-lockdown times, hadn’t stood in a supermarket at 7pm, wearily buying a bag of ready-chopped vegetables and a packet of noodles because we simply didn’t have the energy to make anything else?

As a result, you may have cooked some distinctly lacklustre stir fries in your time. But done right, stir fried dishes can be the exact opposite: vibrant bowls of good stuff bursting with flavour and texture.

The technique of using an oiled wok to quickly fry chopped ingredients is believed to have originated during the Ming Dynasty in China around 600 years ago, before becoming popular in many East Asian cuisines – from Thai and Korean to Japanese and Singaporean. However, it wasn’t until 1945 that the English term ‘stir fry’ was coined.

Below, we’ve got five stir fry recipes that are guaranteed to elevate your skills with a wok – whether you like yours with chicken, seafood or vegetables. 

  • Kwoklyn Wan’s mushroom lo mein recipe

    Kwoklyn says: “Unlike chow mein, in which noodles are fried to crispiness; lo mein is cooked in a sauce to keep them soft. You’ll be surprised how much flavour they take on, providing you with a great comforting bowl of savoury, noodle-y delight.”

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp rice wine
    • 3 tbsp mushroom stir-fry sauce (recipe below or use shop-bought)
    • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
    • 2 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp Chinese five spice
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
    • ¼ tsp white pepper
    • 2 nests of fresh lo mein egg noodles (vegan option: use fresh udon noodles)
    • 2 tbsp oil (vegetable, groundnut or coconut)
    • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    • 2 spring onions (scallions), cut in half and then into thin strips
    • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
    • 1 large portobello mushroom, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 6–8 baby corn cobs, quartered lengthways
    • 30g (¼ cup) canned water chestnuts, drained and sliced
    • ½ tbsp sesame oil

    Method

    Combine the rice wine, mushroom stir-fry sauce, soy sauce, sugar, Chinese five spice, rice vinegar and white pepper in a bowl. Set to one side.

    Loosen the noodles by soaking in a bowl of warm water, drain and set to one side.

    Place a wok over a medium-high heat and add the oil, garlic and spring onions and fry for around 20 seconds until fragrant.

    Add the carrot and mushrooms and fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the baby corn, water chestnuts and the loosened noodles. Fry for a further 2 minutes, add the sauce mixture and continue to fry until all of the ingredients are combined well and warmed through.

    Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and transfer to serving bowls.

    Kwoklyn Wan’s mushroom stir fry sauce recipe

    Kwoklyn says: “The Chinese have been using mushroom sauce in their cooking for centuries; its savoury flavour is ideal for stir fries and in noodle dishes, and is widely used in Western Chinese dishes across the world.”

    Ingredients

    • 4 medium dried shiitake or Chinese mushrooms
    • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
    • ½ tbsp oil (vegetable, groundnut or coconut)
    • 1 nori seaweed sheet, ground into a powder
    • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
    • ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)

    Method

    Rinse the mushrooms under warm water and put into a large bowl. Pour over the boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes until soft.

    Gently squeeze the excess water out of the mushrooms, reserving the liquid for later. Remove and discard the stalks from the mushrooms, then cut the caps into 4 slices.

    Heat a wok or non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and fry the mushroom slices for 3 minutes. Remove and place to one side.

    Place the mushroom liquid, powdered nori, fried mushrooms, soy sauces, sugar, salt and cornflour into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and gently simmer until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about a third. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

    Store in an airtight container. The sauce can be kept in the fridge for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

    Storing tip: freeze the sauce in ice-cube trays – once frozen, transfer to a ziplock bag kept in the freezer. Defrost only as much as you need each time.

    From The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan (£15, Quadrille), out now

  • Jane Hornby’s prawn pad Thai recipe

    Jane says: “Give tofu a try in this quick Thai café classic. Leftover cold roast chicken could be added to the noodles, too.”

    Preparation time: 15 minutes

    Cooking time: 10 minutes

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 400 g (14 oz) wide rice noodles
    • 1 (250g/9 oz) pack firm tofu, drained
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 bunch spring onions
    • 1 small bunch fresh coriander
    • 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
    • 3 tbsp tamarind paste (optional)
    • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
    • 3 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
    • 1 1⁄2 tbsp sugar
    • 1 handful roasted peanuts (optional)
    • 4 large (UK medium) eggs
    • 200 g (7 oz) uncooked large shrimp (prawns), shelled and deveined
    • 1⁄2 tsp dried chili flakes (or more if you like)
    • 2 limes
    • 100 g (1 cup) bean sprouts

    Method

    1. Boil a saucepan or kettle of water. Put the noodles into a large heatproof bowl, then pour over enough just-boiled water to cover. Stir gently and let soak until you get to step 8.
    2. While you wait, cut the tofu into cubes about 2 cm across. Crush the garlic and thinly slice the spring onions. Pick the leaves from the coriander.
    3. Put a large nonstick skillet, frying pan, or wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the tofu. Fry for 6 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the tofu is golden all over. Lift the tofu onto paper (kitchen) towels using a slotted spoon. This will absorb any excess oil.
    4. Meanwhile, put the tamarind paste, chili sauce, nam pla (Thai fish sauce), and sugar into a small jug (pitcher) and stir together. Coarsely chop the peanuts, if using. Crack the eggs into a bowl and loosely beat them with a fork.
    5. Put the pan back over high heat. It shouldn’t need more oil. Add the prawns (shrimp) and fry for 2 minutes, until they turn completely pink. Now add the garlic, chili flakes, and half the spring onions. Cook for a few seconds, stirring, until the garlic and scallions smell fragrant.
    6. Transfer the prawns to a plate, then add the beaten eggs to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, moving the eggs around the pan a little with a wooden spoon until just set, like an omelette.
    7. Lift the omelette out of the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Roll it up like a pancake, then cut across the roll to make long thin strips. Take the pan off the heat if you feel you need to concentrate on this part.
    8. Return the pan to the heat, drain the noodles, and add them to the pan. Add the sauce, most of the coriander leaves, the shredded egg, tofu, prawns, the remaining spring onions, and a squeeze of lime juice, then toss well.
    9. For an authentic look, serve the peanuts and bean sprouts in little piles alongside the noodles, then sprinkle with the rest of the coriander. Cut the remaining lime into wedges and put a wedge on each plate.

    From Simple & Classic: 123 Step-By-Step Recipes by Jane Hornby (£29.95, Phaidon), out now

  • Kwoklyn Wan’s spicy hoisin mixed vegetables recipe

    Kwoklyn says: “Chunky vegetables stir-fried in a rich, sticky sweet, aromatic sauce, with a hint of chilli and served with creamy cashew nuts; it’s no wonder that, once tried, this dish is cooked time and time again. Everything happens in your wok so washing up is a doddle afterwards too.”

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
    • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 carrot, diced
    • 30g (¼ cup) canned water chestnuts, drained
    • 3 baby corn cobs, halved lengthways
    • 35g (¼ cup) canned straw mushrooms, drained
    • 60g (1 cup) button mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 30g (¼ cup) canned bamboo shoots, drained
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • ½ cup hoisin sauce
    • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
    • 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tbsp water
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • 30g (¼ cup) unsalted roasted cashew nuts (if you have salted cashew nuts, rinse under cold water and pat dry)

    Method

    Place a wok over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

    Add the onion and carrot and fry for 2 minutes, then add the water chestnuts, baby corn, straw mushrooms, button mushrooms and bamboo shoots and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.

    Turn the heat down to medium, add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and chilli flakes and stir-fry for a further 2–3 minutes.

    Gradually add the cornflour mixture, stirring constantly to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat, add the sesame oil and cashew nuts and mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and tuck in.

    From The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan (£15, Quadrille), out now

  • Joy Bauer’s chicken stir-fry with sweet dates and peppers

    chicken stir fry

    Joy says: “If you love Chinese takeout as much as my family does, this recipe is for you. There’s one layer of flavour after the next here: dates for natural sweetness without adding in sugar, toasted sesame seeds for crunch, and so much more. Peppers provide a crispy texture, and you’ll notice I’ve opted for the sweeter varieties like red, yellow, and orange, but hey – if you prefer the fourth pepper hue, then, as they say, go green!

    If you’re cooking for more than 3 people, my advice is to make a double batch – it goes fast and people always want seconds. With a stir-fry, though, it’s important that all elements are exposed to the surface of the pan or wok evenly; too crowded and they’ll lose the pan-fried effect that makes stir-fries so tasty. So, if you end up doubling the recipe, sear the chicken in separate batches, one after the other. It’s the best way to guarantee a mouthwatering outcome.”

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
    • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
    • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 2 medium peppers (red, yellow, or orange), cut into ½-inch pieces
    • ½ cup pitted dried dates, thinly sliced
    • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced (optional)
    • 1 to 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

    Method

    In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

    Liberally mist the bottom of a large pan with nonstick oil spray and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium, add the chicken, spread it out so all the pieces are touching the bottom of the pan, and cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Stir-fry for another 1 minute, adding more oil spray if the pan gets too dry.

    Add the peppers and dates and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the vinegar-soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds, if desired, and serve.

    From Joy Bauer’s Superfood! by Joy Bauer (£21.99, Abrams Books), out now

  • Kwoklyn Wan’s stir-fried aubergine with sesame seeds recipe

    stir fry aubergine

    Kwoklyn says: “Toasted sesame seeds always add an extra special something to a dish; not only do they offer little nibbles of crunch, they also pack a punch of distinctly nutty flavour that is totally unique to these tiny morsels. Here we have soft aubergine stir-fried in a rich, dark, aromatic sauce with a subtle sour note and rich umami taste, amped to the next level by a liberal sprinkling of sesame seeds.”

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
    • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
    • ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tbsp rice wine
    • ½ tbsp sugar
    • 1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
    • 2 spring onions (scallions), halved and thinly sliced lengthways
    • 1 green bird’s-eye chilli, thinly sliced
    • 2 large aubergines (eggplants), cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 4 tbsp water
    • 1 tsp sesame oil

    Method

    Heat a dry, non-stick pan over a medium-high heat and toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and set to one side. 

    In a bowl combine the light and dark soy sauces, rice vinegar, rice wine, sugar and cornflour and mix well. Set to one side.

    Heat a wok over a medium-high heat and add the oil, garlic, ginger and spring onions and fry for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the chilli and fry for a further 30 seconds before adding the aubergine and frying for 1 minute more.

    Add the water and turn the heat down to a simmer. After 10 minutes of simmering time, increase the heat, add the soy sauce mixture and combine well. Continue cooking over a medium-high heat to reduce the liquid by half.

    Transfer to a serving plate, drizzle with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

    From The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan (£15, Quadrille), out now

Images: © Sam Folan

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