Stir Fry & Rice! Basic Recipes + Techniques & Advice
This blog will cover the basics of creating an Asian inspired Sir Fry & Rice dish, all while leaving plenty of room for learning, experimenting and customizing it for your friends and family. As with most of my blog posts the recipe and ingredients come first, followed by a how-to that will include a few tips, ideas and words of encouragement. Lastly, you might even get a life story as with many blogs, but I work to keep that to a minimum and always put it last.
What you need for the rice
- A sauce pan or stock pot with a lid (2-4 quart +/-)
- Any rice of your choosing. Personally, I like Jasmine Rice.
- Coconut cream or milk, (1/2) can
- Salt... Flavored and specialty salts are great to experiment with!
- Seasoning and veggies — Get creative and choose those that you like!
Today I used
- 5 cloves garlic
- Yellow/Madras curry powder
- Half of a small onion
- Crushed red pepper — I was fortunate enough to have some homegrown Thai chilis around.
What you need for the Stir Fry
- A wok (preferred), a large skillet or a griddle
- A good chef's knife
- Sesame seed oil, olive oil or really any oil, but preferably a high-temp oil
- Coconut cream or milk (remaining 1/2 can)
- Stir fry stuff of your choosing. My go to list usually includes 3-7 of the following, and is generally what I find laying around the house when I'm hungry.
- Meat — Beef, pork, venison, chicken, anything. Buy whole cuts, don't start with ground meat.
- Veggies — Onions, mushrooms, bell or Anaheim peppers, carrots, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, broccoli, celery, sugar/snap peas, green beans, asparagus, etc. There are no rules here; pick ingredients that look appealing in the store and appear to be fresh and firm (and that you like).
- Spices — Salt, pepper, curry powder, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha, etc. For more about selecting and pairing seasonings see below.
Making the Rice.
Start by preparing the rice. As the rice cooks you will have time to cut up the fixings for the stir fry and get it ready. A general rule of thumb is 2 parts of water per 1 part of rice. While I’m sure this works, I choose to not measure and wing it. First off, these ratios are guidelines and ultimately it’s about how you like your rice. I always start with a little more rice than the 2:1 mix. I do this for a couple reasons. One is because if you keep an eye on the rice as it cooks you can always add more water/liquid in as it cooks to get it fully done. If over done with liquid from the beginning, it’s tough to correct, and can make your rice overcooked and/or soupy. While there is nothing wrong with that, I tend to like my rice a little drier. This is especially true if I plan on frying some of it, which I often do!
For the liquid I dislike using only water. Any liquid will work, and it imparts and brings more flavor into the rice. While I’ve never used bourbon to make rice — mainly because I’m drinking it — you could, and I’m confident the rice would absorb the liquid and take on the flavor of the bourbon. I often use coconut milk, but veggie/beef/chicken stock, bone broth, etc. are all good to work with and will bring more flavor to your rice. Use ingredients that fit your dish, and that you and your family and friends enjoy. Get creative and have some fun experimenting, it’s tough to screw up, but do watch the salt/sodium content of the liquids that you are using.
Speaking of salt, general rule of thumb here is about a ½ teaspoon of salt per cup of rice. Some say more, but I like to start here and taste the rice as I go. You can always add more salt in the end, but it’s impossible to take back out, and really tough to dilute down when the rice is already cooked. Should the liquid you choose to use have a heavy amount of salt to begin with, cut back on the added salt until you have the opportunity to taste it.
So — liquid, rice, salt. That covers you for rice, but again, I like to bring more to it. Cutting up a few veggies or using the edible cuttings and/or scraps that come from your stir fry fixings can add more flavor and depth to your rice. I’ll toss in a few small tomatoes cut in half or quarters, onion slices, carrot slices, potatoes, etc. Again, be creative and use those that fit your taste and those that you are cooking for. Adding these veggies is kind of like cooking the rice in a home made veggie stock, but the pieces are also delicious and make for great bites when it comes time to eat. I also like to add some spices, in particular I love adding curry powder, when paired with the coconut milk, it is just simply delicious. I also was fortunate enough to have some homegrown Thai chilis around my house, and I love spicy food so I added a couple of them as well.
Put the liquids in, pour in the rice, toss in the veggies and spices, and give it a quick stir. The ONE AND ONLY time you are allowed to stir it! Basically, all ingredient into the pot, stir just enough to mix, put the lid on the pot turn the heat to low, and start prepping the ingredients for the stir fry. As the rice starts to cook, pull the lid off every 5-10 minutes and take a peek inside. You will slowly witness the liquid disappear as the rice takes it on. When the majority of the liquid is gone and absorbed, grab a fork and give the rice a taste test. DO NO STIR IT! Just grab a little on your fork and give it a try. If you like it, just turn the heat off the stove, leave it covered, and let it sit. If it still has a little crunch or two much bite to it, add a little more liquid and put the lid on again and check back in another few minutes. Do this as many times as necessary until you get the rice to a consistency that you desire.
DO NOT STIR. I’ve made it a point to say do not stir the rice. I saw this not because it will make the rice inedible, but it will make the rice more creamy — think risotto like. While great in some instances, I like my rice with stir fry to be drier, somewhat sticky and easy to fry.
Really, that’s it. Rice is a very simple staple to cook, and while I’ve added some veggies and spices to mine to bring in more flavor, I’ve also made it a bit more complicated than needed. You can simply take 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice, toss it in a pan, bring it to a boil and turn off the heat while leaving it covered and you will have some great rice. It will also be a little more bland, and you will have more dishes to do in the end. Grab a pot, wing it and learn as you go. As you get more comfortable in the kitchen feel free to experiment and try some different spices and flavors. You may just create your own masterpiece.
Making the sir fry.
Preparing the meat. If you have a meat tenderizing hammer use it and pound the meat out before slicing. If not, first cut the meat into about ½-inch to 1-inch thick pieces, then slice down into around 1/8-inch thick strips. In my opinion you can’t go too thin. Slice as thinly as your knife and skills allow. It’s fun to practice your knife skills here and see how well you can do. However, in the end, it’s all going to taste great anyway. This is a great time to practice and if a few pieces come out too small, or some come out larger no one will ever notice, and it will cook just fine. If you have time ahead, feel free to marinate this in an a mixture of your choosing, but I never do, and it always still comes out great and packed with flavor.
Preparing the veggies. Fairly simple here, but slice them into bite-sized pieces. No rules here, but a few guidelines that will help. Heavier and more dense veggies cook slower and should be cut thinner than others. Light, less dense veggies can be bigger. Think carrots versus mushrooms here. Equal pieces of carrot and mushroom will take different lengths of time to cook. I try and size them accordingly so I can toss them all into the wok at the same time. Alternatively, you can keep them separate, and toss the carrots in first, cook for a minute or two and then start tossing in the rest. More details to come.
Cooking the stir fry. Turn the heat on the wok as high as possible. You want the wok to be hot when you start cooking. Toss in a little sesame (or other) oil and try and get it so it has coated all sides of the wok where food will touch. Let it preheat until you just start to see the oil start to smoke. Toss in some sesame seeds and mix them in with the oil, spread them around on the wok and keep moving them around until you start to see them brown just slightly. Add in the meat and move it around every minute or so or until you see it start to cook through, then add in the veggies and keep mixing and stirring at the same time interval.
While these get coated in the sesame oil and sesame seeds, add in some of the coconut milk in small spoonfuls as you stir. The key here is never add enough liquid to cool the wok off, but enough to keep them from getting dry. When adding the liquid it should sizzle and boil upon contact to the wok. Also season the mixture while you stir, adding salt, curry powder, soy sauce, ginger, etc. as you go. I’m not a great person to ask for price pairing for Asian food, but I know how to cook for myself and my wife. Look around and find some great ideas and try them all over time!
Don’t add too much to the wok at once. I’ve been there. It ends up cooling the wok off too much and then the wok requires a lot of time to heat back up. By the time you get the veggies up to temperature they are cooked through. Cook smaller individual batches to keep the wok hot and get the veggies hot quickly but not cooked through.
Don’t overcook the stir fry. I like the pieces of veggies that I get to be hot, but only partially cooked through. A little crispness and bite to them is better than soft in my opinion. A little crunch mixed with rice and a great sauce it just hard to beat!
Cut all the veggies and put them in individual bowls. Let your friends and family pick their own selection and cook each persons individually. You can also adjust the seasoning and sauces for each person as well. Start with the vegetarians and then move to the omnivores/carnivores to prevent having to shut the wok down, wash it and then get it hot again.
Get as heavy as wok as possible that will hold in some heat. Le Creuset makes a great one that is cast iron that will last you a lifetime! Take good care of it as well — Don’t wash cast iron with soap!