If you have been following my blog then you may have the wrong idea about how I usually eat. Most of you (followers) know by now that I only eat meat if I have killed it myself. The one general exception is fish, as I am a truly incompetent angler. Still, I tend to eat red meat about two or three times a month (sometimes less); fish crosses my fork about four to five times a month. I tend to lump pork and fowl in with the red meat category.
So for the rest of my meals I eat plants and their fruits. And cookies. This can be further detailed as legumes, nuts, grains, a variety of leafy greens, and a variety of fruits (sweet and savory) and vegetables. And cookies.
Last night I decided to make a Szechuan style vegetable stir-fry. I borrowed some ideas from my friend Dorothy Huang (she lives in Houston and teaches Chinese cooking classes and offers tours of Houston's Chinatown district). If you are going to embark on Asian style cooking you will need to stock your pantry with some basic ingredients. I keep on hand: Oyster Sauce, Mushroom Sauce, Black Bean Garlic Paste, Sambal, Sriracha, Tamari (or soy sauce), and some hot sauce that my friend, Chef Christina Lee, made. There are myriad other ingredients you can add to your collection but these things have been pretty standard for me whenever I choose to cook something Asian. I also keep a box of cornstarch handy for thickening some of the sauces I make. This is pretty common in Chinese (or Chinese-American) food. So while I generally don't eat a lot of corn-based foods I also figure that a tablespoon here and there is not a big deal.
This recipe is improvised but I will give you a fairly accurate approximation of measurements at the end of the post. Also, feel free to top the finish product with chicken or shrimp, or add in some browned meat near the end of the cooking time.
Oh, it helps to have one of these, too.
For my vegetables I chose green beans, carrots, onions, red bell peppers,Shiitake mushrooms, and ginger. Snap the stems off the beans and break them into 1" lengths. Cut the carrots into small sticks. Slice the onions and red bell peppers. Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms and slice the caps. Finely mince the ginger.
Set the prepped vegetables aside while you get your sauce ingredients ready. Mix together in a bowl the mushroom sauce, black bean garlic sauce, sambal, and tamari. (I mixed in some of that hot sauce my friend made, too.)
Set the sauce mixture aside and make a little slurry of cornstarch and water (1 Tbsp:1 Tbsp). Get your oil ready. I do the initial frying in canola oil as it has a higher smoking point (it can get hotter) than roasted sesame oil. I use the sesame oil near the end of the cooking time for flavor.
Preheat the wok over high heat and leave the heat source on high. Place a fair amount of oil, 3-4 Tbsp., in the hot wok and let the oil get hot, too. Add the green beans and allow them to fry, turning slightly charred in spots. Don't worry if it seems like there is a lot of oil in the pan. The mushrooms will soak that up.
When the green beans have cooked for about 5 minutes add the carrots and let them cook for 1-5 minutes, depending on how thick you have cut them (thicker = longer).
Keeping the heat source high and stirring constantly you may now add the onions and bell peppers. Sauté them until they are just translucent, about 2 minutes.
Now add the mushrooms and minced ginger. The mushrooms will quickly soak up all the oil. This is where I add about 1 Tbsp. of roasted sesame oil for flavor and aroma. It also helps to keep things from sticking too much.
When the mushrooms start to show some signs of caramelization and the ginger is very fragrant mix the cornstarch slurry into the sauce mixture and pour the whole thing into the vegetable mixture. Stir quickly and continuously so that all the vegetables get coated and the cornstarch can thicken. This step should only take a minute or two.
Serve your stir-fry immediately over rice, garnishing it with a little chopped, fresh cilantro. I squeeze a little Sriracha on my plate at the table because I like a little more heat than The Missus. Chopsticks are optional.
Szechuan Style Vegetable Stir-Fry
1/2 # Green Beans, stems removed and cut into 1" pieces
1 Carrot, peeled and cut into thick batons (match sticks)
1 small Onion, peeled and sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper, cored and sliced
1/2 # Shiitake Mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1+ Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
For the sauce:
2-3 Tbsp. Oyster or Mushroom Sauce
1 Tbsp. Sambal Chili Sauce
2 Tbsp. Black Bean Garlic Sauce
2 Tbsp. Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Corn Starch
1 Tbsp. Water
1/4 cup Canola Oil
2 Tbsp. Roasted Sesame Oil
Chopped Fresh Cilantro for garnish
Sriracha for added heat at the table
In a small bowl mix the ingredients for the sauce and set aside. Mix together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside. Just before stirring the sauce into the hot vegetables mix it with the cornstarch slurry.
Heat a wok over high heat, add the canola oil and let it get very hot.
Add the green beans and fry them until they are slightly browned in spots.
Add the carrots and fry them until they are slightly browned in spots.
Add the onions and peppers, sautéing until they are just translucent. Remember to stir the vegetables continually.
Add the mushrooms and ginger. When the mushrooms have soaked up all the remaining oil add the sesame oil. Keep stirring.
When you notice that the mushrooms are limp and slightly browned, and that the ginger is starting to stick a little, add the sauce (mixed with the cornstarch slurry) all at once and stir, stir, stir. The cornstarch will begin to thicken fairly quickly. When all of the vegetables are evenly coated turn off the heat and serve the vegetables over rice. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and Sriracha (for more heat).