How to Make the Quickest Stir-fry

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Have you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants can serve up your stir-fries in minutes? Here’s how to recreate them at home!

I love including at least 1 or 2 stir-fried dishes in weekly rotations and meal plans because of how quickly they come together! A true stir-fry only lasts 5-8 minutes in the wok. The perfect solution for an easy weeknight meal!

If you find yourself taking longer than that, here are 2 easy hacks that will help you get your stir-fry game under 15 minutes – and that’s only because you’re waiting for your protein to marinate!

#1 – Prepare Your Aromatics All At Once

The beauty of Chinese stir-fried dishes is that they almost always call for the same aromatics – garlic, ginger, and scallions. It truly is a marvel how such simple flavorings can impact a dish.

The painful part? They always call for it to be minced. Depending on your skill level, it can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. If you include the time needed to hand-wash your knives and cutting board after, that could take up to 30 minutes!

I hate washing dishes. The thought of having to wash knives and cutting boards after every meal was enough to convince me to get takeout. Even when I’ve already bought groceries. Oops.

The solution? Prep all those in one sitting so you don’t have to fuss with it again during the week! You can do this while prepping your first meal of the week.

How to prep garlic

Count the number of garlic cloves you need for the week, then peel and mince them all at once. If you have a food processor, pulse a couple of times and you’re done! Store them in an airtight container in the fridge and use as needed. Do not cover them in oil – garlic in oil can foster the growth of clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Garlic prepared and stored this way will lose its flavor over time, so prepare only the amount you plan to use within the week. When the stir fry calls for minced garlic, scoop a teaspoon and add it to the wok. In general, 2 cloves garlic = 1 teaspoon minced.

Bonus Tip(s):

  • If you can’t be bothered to peel garlic, buy the peeled ones. They’re pricier and aren’t as fragrant as fresh ones but you trade that for convenience.
  • Alternatively, you can buy a really nifty garlic press to skip the peeling and chopping.
  • If you have garlic left over after the week that is still good, shallow fry them to make garlic oil and store them in the fridge. Drizzle them on ramen days when you don’t feel like cooking but want to jazz up your meal a little.

How to prep ginger

In the same way, if a recipe calls for grated ginger, you can peel and grate ahead of time and store it in an airtight container – the same way as you would the garlic. Make sure you also keep the ginger juice with it!

Do note that freshly grated ginger has a much stronger aroma, so make a little more than the recipe calls for to make up for it. A mini food processor works great as well.

You can do the same if a recipe calls for sliced ginger. I personally don’t do this since it’s relatively easy to cut a few slices the day of. But don’t let that stop you if convenience is a priority for you. That said, I do peel the amount needed ahead of time.

How to Prep Scallions AKA Green Onions

You get the idea. Prep the amount you need and store them in an airtight container. Airtight containers are key. Click this link for the ones I use. For julienned/ribboned scallions, soak them in water so they curl up beautifully for garnish.

Some might argue that you don’t really need scallions for garnishing. But something about it just elevates the dish from “meh” to “this could have been made at a restaurant!“. So practice the above tip and make all your dishes restaurant-worthy!

#2 – Make an All-Purpose Stir-fry Sauce

The base of every stir-fry is the sauce! However, you might find yourself wondering what sauce would go best with your ingredients. This is where having an all-purpose sauce base (aka brown sauce) can take the guesswork out of stir-frying when you’re crunched for time. Recipe follows:

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All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce

All-purpose stir-fry sauce for any Chinese stir-fry dishes
Prep Time1 minute
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time6 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: brown sauce, chinese brown sauce, chinese stir-fry sauce, sauce, stir-fry
Servings: 1.5 cup
Calories: 30kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  • Combine all sauce ingredients into a saucepan and mix. Turn the heat to medium high and let the sauce come to a boil. Lower the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes. Make sure the sugar has dissolved.
  • Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature within 1 hour (for food safety reasons) and store in an airtight jar in the fridge.
  • Give the jar a good shake right before using.

Notes

  • Label the date you made the sauce so you can keep track of freshness. I typically use it up within 2 weeks for any stir-fry dish, but it can last up to a month or two if stored correctly.
  • Depending on the sodium level of your soy sauce, you may want to adjust the amount of water to your sauce mixture.
  • Makes about 1.5 cups.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cup | Calories: 30kcal

You can also add hoisin sauce, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, la doubanjiang, etc. to the wok when cooking to add more complexity. There are no hard rules to brown sauce, so tweak and adjust the recipe to your liking. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a little cornstarch slurry (1.5 tsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp water) at the end of your stir-fry and let it cook for another 30 seconds.

The best thing about having an all-purpose stir-fry sauce in your fridge is that anyone can make a consistent tasting stir-fry every time in minutes.

Bonus Tip(s):

  • I use this even for fried rice and marinades. When using as a meat marinade, add a pinch more salt and a teaspoon of cornstarch. When using it for stir-fries (for 4 servings), start with 1/4 cup and adjust from there.

Summary

And there you have it. To sum it all up:

  1. Prepare your aromatics (garlic, ginger, and scallion) ahead of time and store them in airtight containers in the fridge for up to one week.
  2. Make an all-purpose stir-fry sauce base ahead of time. This will be your go-to sauce for the laziest of days.

One last comment: The same principles apply to your vegetables and proteins. Chop up everything you need for the week in one sitting (or two) and you will have dinner in 5 minutes. Seriously. If you don’t have dedicated time to prep, even incorporating the next meal’s shared ingredients into today’s prep makes a cumulative difference over time. By the way, this is the not-so-secret secret of how Chinese restaurants are able to serve up plates upon plates of food in such a short amount of time.

So take their wisdom and skip the take out next time!

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Hi, I’m Ariel 

I’m a foodie with a simple philosophy: why should amazing food be reserved for the weekends alone? I’m all about making every meal delicious because, let’s face it, we only have so many meals in our lifetime.

My mission? To take the stress out of cooking with easy-to-use meal plans so you can enjoy mouthwatering recipes any day of week. Join me on this tasty journey and let’s savor “more taste, less waste” in every bite!

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Hi, I’m Ariel 

I’m a foodie with a simple philosophy: why should amazing food be reserved for the weekends alone? I’m all about making every meal delicious because, let’s face it, we only have so many meals in our lifetime.

My mission? To take the stress out of cooking with easy-to-use meal plans so you can enjoy mouthwatering recipes any day of week. Join me on this tasty journey and let’s savor “more taste, less waste” in every bite!