The 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.
It 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
And 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.