Growing up, wok-fried meals were on the menu fairly often. We made homemade Chinese food for dinner, and then we’d set out several dishes, serve our own portions, and pat ourselves on the back, oozing compliments for one another about how much better our homemade food was than take-out. It was.
It is easy to imbue stir-fries, whether meat, noodles, veggies, or rice, with lots of flavor, via the seasonings, the marinades, and the sauces. And it’s always nice to know that no matter how much oil you stir fry in, you’ll pretty much always be adding less than they do at the local take-out joint.
Though we make our fair share of noodles and rice, for some reason I haven’t been turning to my wok as often for seafood, meats, or vegetables. When I do stir fry, I haven’t found myself posting about my meals, probably because stir fry seems to be one of the great challenges of food photography. The food looks shiny and over-sauced, the pictures hardly do justice to the taste. It sounds shallow, but I think its general lack of photogenic-ness is the primary reason I haven’t shared recipes for stir fry before this.
The benefits of stir fry, as those of you who make it often know, are easy to enumerate. Stir fries are simple, pantry-friendly dishes. They’re one-pot, except for rice, since you can throw all your proteins and veggies into the same pan. They are healthful and infinitely variable. You can whip them up in almost no time. They do require your full attention during the few minutes you are actually cooking, so they’re not necessarily the best for real dinner parties. But for dinner for yourself, or two, or four, they’re a wonderful go-to.
This particular wok-fried meal uses leeks, which isn’t something I would have thought to do had I not found a bunch in my fridge drawer. It may not be authentic–I don’t really know–but like every other dish leeks grace, this one benefits from their sweetness and their bulk.
I’d love to hear what your favorite stir fry ingredients are in the comments!
From my kitchen, stirring and frying to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Chicken & Leek Stir Fry with Snowpeas
Makes 2-4 servings
Stir frying is all about the prep. Though it’ll take some time to clean, measure, and mix your ingredients, once you get going, dinner will be on the table really quickly. If you don’t have mirin, you can sub a sweet-ish white wine. Serve with white rice.
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise into thin slices
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 leeks, cleaned well and cut into very thin slices
12 ounces snow peas, trimmed
Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and whisk together. Add the chicken, toss lightly, and set aside for 10 minutes while you finish the rest of the prep.
In a small bowl, make the sauce: combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1 rice wine vinegar, and stir to combine. Set aside.
Heat a wok over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and swirl around. Add the chicken with the marinade and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, until just about cooked. Scrape onto a plate and carefully wipe out the wok with a paper towel.
Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute, until softened and barely golden. Add the leeks, stir fry to coat them with the oil, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon mirin. Toss again, then cover the wok and let the leeks simmer for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the snow peas and stir fry for 2 minutes. Scoop the chicken pieces up from the plate, leaving the excess oil, and add them to the wok. Toss, then pour the sauce over everything, stir fry 1-2 minutes until the chicken is hot and the sauce is reduced. Serve immediately.