Follow three simple rules for a top-notch stir-fry dish (2024)


The Columbian

Published: June 3, 2013, 5:00pm

Follow three simple rules for a top-notch stir-fry dish (1)

Food & Dining

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In theory, a stir-fry is the model weeknight dinner. It’s fast, it combines vegetables and protein in a single dish, it’s relatively healthy, and it requires no accompaniment other than rice. (OK, fine, maybe also some Riesling or a beer, preferably a pale ale).

But many home cooks shoot themselves in the foot by being far too ambitious in their stir-frying. Stir-fries can accommodate many different kinds of meat and produce — but that doesn’t mean you should dump the entire contents of your refrigerator in your skillet or wok.

In fact, the best stir-fries are as restrained: They combine two principle ingredients — one protein, one vegetable — with a trio of essential aromatic seasonings and a simple, delicious sauce.

Food & Dining

For more recipes and reviews of Clark County restaurants, visit

This recipe, featuring chewy tofu (made chewier via freezing, if you have time) and vernal asparagus, is the ideal stir-fry iteration, as far as I’m concerned. But it can serve as a blueprint for virtually any stir-fry, so long as you remember three fundamental rules.

The first is to cook your protein and your vegetable separately, and combine them only after both are fully cooked.

A second rule of thumb for stir-frying: Choose one vegetable per stir-fry.

Finally, always remember to add liquid only after everything is more or less finished cooking.

Stir-Fried Tofu, Asparagus, and Shiitakes

Yield: 2 to 3 servings; Time: 25 to 30 minutes, plus time to freeze, thaw tofu

One 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry

2 tablespoons peanut oil

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 medium jalapeno or bird’s eye chile, seeded and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound asparagus, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch segments

3 1/2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

Cooked short-grain brown or white rice for serving (optional)

At least one day before you plan to make the stir-fry, cut the tofu into 1/2 – to 3/4 -inch slices and cut each slice into 1- to 2-inch triangles or rectangles. Freeze the tofu overnight, then thaw it in the refrigerator.

Put 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the tofu, season with salt and pepper and cook, turning every 3 to 5 minutes, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the tofu to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the pan. When it’s hot, add the ginger, jalapeno, and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Return the tofu to the pan, and add the soy sauce and mirin. Cook, stirring gently, until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve hot, over rice if desired. (Store leftover stir-fry in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a few days).

Follow three simple rules for a top-notch stir-fry dish (2024)
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