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How are we doing out there, parents? Checking in on you as we’ve just closed out our first full month back to school. And what a busy month it was. Whew!
This month I want to let you in on another of my weeknight secrets – the stir-fry. This one is exciting because it has so much to offer. It’s flexible, it’s fast, it’s better than takeout, and it’s a great way to pack in the vegetables and introduce your children to new and interesting flavors.
How is it flexible, you ask? Well, the vegetables you use are completely up to you. I’ve used broccolini, mushrooms and cabbage in this recipe, but you can easily change that up and base it on what you just happen to have on any given day. In fact, if you only have one main vegetable, that is completely fine – just be sure to use enough of it.
And the protein, if you choose to use one, is also completely flexible – use what works for your family. This flexibility is what makes it a game-changer. On weeknights, we rarely have the luxury of not making something because we happen to not have the exact ingredients.
It is important to note, however, that there is less flexibility is in the flavoring ingredients: the garlic, ginger, chilies and the sauce. If you omit these, you completely change the end result and the reality is that it’s just not as good. The good news, though, is that these ingredients are either shelf stable in the case of the sauce, or long lasting in the case of garlic, ginger and chilies.
Did I mention how fast it can be? The most important key with stir-frying is to get every single ingredient ready before you start cooking because the cooking process is fast.
It’s fast for two reasons: we are cooking over high heat and we are cutting things small so they cook really quickly.
Another pro tip is to organize your ingredients in the order that you cook with them – this streamlines the process and makes sure that you think through the cooking times of all ingredients so that you don’t end up with some over-cooked items and some under-cooked items.
There’s a general order:
- Sear your protein and remove
- Add your aromatics – garlic, ginger, chillies, onion
- Add your longest cooking vegetables and then progressively add quicker cooking vegetables in order
- Return your protein to the pan
- Add your noodles and sauce
- Finish with any fresh items or garnish – green spring onions, sesame seeds, Thai basil, cilantro, etc.
After doing this a few times, I promise you won’t even need a recipe anymore!
Better than takeout? You bet. The secret is in the sauce. Stock up on the ingredients you need for it and even consider making a quadruple batch and storing it in the refrigerator. That way you have the next four stir-fry nights covered. Work smarter not harder – isn’t that what they say?
Go round up your ingredients and your confidence to cook with high heat – you won’t be disappointed.
Stir-fried Noodles with Chicken, Broccoli & Mushrooms
3 tbsp. Oyster sauce
1 tbsp. Soy sauce
1 tbsp. Fish sauce
2 tsp. Dark soy sauce, divided
2 tbsp. Palm sugar
8 oz. wide rice noodles
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
5 cloves garlic
1-inch knob of ginger
2 Thai chilies
1 small onion
3 spring onions
1 bunch broccolini
1-2 cups snow peas
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms
½ head of napa cabbage
3-4 tbsp. Avocado oil
- To prepare the sauce, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, one teaspoon of the dark soy and palm sugar in a small bowl. Whisk well to combine and set aside.
- Place the rice noodles into a large bowl and cover with very hot tap water. Let them soak and soften for about 15 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Thinly slice the chicken thighs and place them in a bowl. Add the remaining teaspoon of dark soy sauce and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss to coat and set aside.
- Prepare vegetables and place them into piles on a sheet pan. Finely chop the garlic and ginger, thinly slice the chilies, slice the onion and set them aside.
- Separate the spring onions by slicing them in half where the white ends and the green begins. Thinly slice the white parts and cut the green parts into 1-inch segments.
- Cut the broccolini into 1-inch segments.
- Prepare the snow peas by snipping the end and pulling the string on one side.
- Trim the stems from the mushrooms and discard. Slice the caps into thick slices.
- Slice the cabbage half lengthwise and then slice horizontally into 2-inch pieces.
- Drain the noodles and set them aside – they should be relatively soft and pliable.
- Now that you’ve prepared all of the ingredients, it’s time to stir-fry.
- Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat and 2 tablespoons of the avocado oil.
- When the oil is hot, add the chicken and move it around almost constantly – it will cook quickly. When chicken is cooked most of the way, remove it and place into a bowl.
- Add 2 tablespoons of avocado oil to the pan and when it is hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, whites of the spring onions, and chili. Cook for 1-2 minutes, moving it around constantly.
- Next add the mushrooms and broccolini and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the cabbage and snow peas and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan and toss everything around.
- Add the noodles to the pan and pour the sauce right over them. Toss everything several times to combine. Cook for a few minutes and taste everything – noodles should be soft and vegetables should be crisp-tender.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the green pieces of the green onion and toss. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. ENJOY!
- Don’t have a wok? No problem – use a large saute pan instead.
- Gluten free? Use tamari instead of soy sauce
- Don’t have palm sugar? No problem – you can use brown sugar instead. Don’t have brown sugar? In a pinch, you can always use regular granulated sugar.
- Want to use different vegetables? Go for it! Just make sure you account for their cook times – add the most dense and longest cooking first.
- Don’t want to use chicken? No problem – substitute any protein you like – including tofu or pumfu.
- Don’t have Thai bird chilies? No problem – you can use jalapeños, serranos, etc. If you really want Thai bird chilies but can’t find them – look in the freezer section at your local Asian market. You can store them in your freezer at home and take out a few at a time when you need them.
- Sensitive to heat? Leave it out. The heat is to your taste!
- Don’t want to use noodles? You can always serve it with rice if you prefer. Just end the recipe right before adding the noodles – but be sure to add the sauce!
Hello, I’m Natalie! I’m a professionally-trained chef and culinary instructor living in Ann Arbor. A career change, a trip through culinary school 20 years ago, and being a lifelong Julia Child enthusiast has led me to a career doing my very favorite thing: making food and cooking approachable to home cooks of all ages!
My passion for creating great food experiences and getting people excited about learning and having fun in the kitchen is always at the heart of what I do. I teach virtual adult and family cooking classes through Ann Arbor Rec & Ed, as well as my own private cooking classes and corporate events at NatalieMarbleCooks.com. You can find me on social media at @NatalieMarbleCooks and can sign up for my bi-weekly email newsletter here, where I share family-friendly recipes, tips & tricks, new class information, and hopefully a little inspiration!