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Wednesday Wind-Down: Simple Stir Fry

stir fryThe Japanese call it umami: the fifth taste. It’s a savoury, salty flavour found in ingredients such as anchovies, parmesan cheese, fish sauce, and soy sauce. It’s guaranteed to liven up any meal. A basic ragu is transformed into somthing really special by some anchovies or parmesan, while the simplest home-made Chinese stir-fry is brought to life by soy sauce.

This simple stir-fry recipe, which contains soy sauce is totally umm..ami. It’s a great way of using up whatever vegetables you’ve got lying about.

Onions and peppers are integral to this stir-fry. With the exception of carrots, avoid root vegetables (parsnips, celeriac, sweet potato etc.); almost anything else will do.

Stir fry2It will take no more than 10-15 minutes to prepare. The vegetables should only be cooked for a few minutes on a very high heat – they should retain their bite.

Simple Stir Fry

Feeds two gluttons or three regular folk


  • 1 medium red/white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped

Stir fry3And at least two of the following veg:

  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • Two big handfuls of spinach, washed
  • 5-6 pieces of baby sweetcorn
  • A handful of mangetout or French beans
  • 5-6 broccoli florets


  • 1 diced chicken breast or some diced beef (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 inch ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 birdseye chilli or 1 red chili, chopped (adjust depending on your own chili threshold!)
  • 2 dessertspoons soy sauce
  • 1 dessertspoon sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 dessertspoon rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar;  if you don’t have either don’t worry, it’s not essential)
  • A squeeze of lime (optional)


  • Heat the oil in the wok until smoking hot
  • If you’re including meat or chicken, add it now and cook for about 5 minutes
  • Throw in the onions and stir for a minute
  • Add in the garlic, ginger, and chillies, stir for another minute
  • Add the remainder of the vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the rice wine vinegar if you have it
  • Finally add the soy sauce and stir.

Serve with noodles or rice.

Or if you’re feeling really lazy…

Skip the garlic, ginger, soy, rice wine vinegar, and chillies. Use a jar of Jimmy’s instead. I’m not really a fan of tinned sauces such as Uncle Ben’s and Sharwood’s. But Jimmy’s Satay Sauce – €2.95 for 360g on the Asia Market on Drury St – is in a league of its own.

The ingredients are basic: vegetable oil, peanuts, soy sauce, sugar, spring onion, garlic, shrimp, curry and chilli. It’s my fallback when I want something half-way between a ready meal and fresh food. Spicy in all the right places and full of flavour, a jar of this will last for months. Umami.

All you need to do is stir-fry the ingredients as usual and add two dessertspoons of Jimmy’s Satay Sauce about 30 seconds from the end.

One Comment

  1. Umami……mmmm….MSG, glutamate, or simply the taste of more!