12:57 PM

Celebrate a World of Flavors: Asian Flair

Liane Vadheim Headshot

By Liane Vadheim, Registered Dietitian, Holy Rosary Healthcare 

As we close National Nutrition Month with our theme, “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” we wanted to share another opportunity for you to experience something new, using ingredients we can find at home. This week we are sharing a healthy, global crowd-pleaser: Stir fry. 

As we are sharing at Holy Rosary, you might not realize that the resources we need to showcase healthy flavors from cultures worldwide are available right here in Miles City. Whether it is from any local grocery store, our locally sourced meat producers, farmer's markets, or our gardens in the summer, the ingredients to find tasty ways to nourish ourselves are right here in our community. Often all it takes is a special ingredient or two to turn our usual fare into a culinary trip around the world.

Stir fry is an ancient cooking technique that originated in China and has spread throughout Asia and now found around the world.  It began as a way to conserve fuel since foods are cooked quickly over high heat. Stir fry is a fresh and fast way to cook with nutritious tastes and textures for everyone.  It is adaptable to personal preferences and available ingredients.  

A trip to the Asian food aisle in the grocery store will convince you that all but the most exotic ingredients are easily available.  In fact, the number of different choices can be overwhelming.  

World of Flavor Stir Fry copy

Trying some of the different items is fun, but here are the basic building blocks:

Underneath it All:  Rice (lots of kinds), noodles (even more kinds), quinoa, lettuce or cabbage.

Oil: It doesn’t take much–this is one place NOT to use olive oil because it’s smoke point is too low.  Use canola or peanut oil.  Sesame and chili oils are options for a flavor punch.

Vegetables: Anything you like from the produce aisle. If you are in a hurry look for pre-chopped fresh or frozen stir fry vegetables. Think fruit also–pineapple, oranges, or mango.

Protein: Beef, pork, chicken, seafood, tofu, or vegetarian

Sauce and Marinade: The simplest method is to buy a stir fry sauce that you like.  I use a few basic ingredients to create my own: lower sodium soy sauce, broth, cornstarch, rice wine vinegar, dry sherry, and add whatever taste I am looking for with things like hoisin, oyster, fish, or chili sauces.

Equipment: A wok or a large skillet.  Something to stir with.

The basic rules of stir fry are simple:

  • Have ingredients ready before you start cooking.  Cut foods into similar sized pieces.
  • Use high heat–just below smoking hot
  • Add ingredients in small batches–everything needs room to move
  • Keep it moving–the first word in stir fry is stir

The “special ingredients” that I think make all the difference are:

  1.  Fresh ginger-It’s that knobby looking root in the produce section.  I always keep some in a small bag in the freezer ready to grate, mince, dice or slice.
  2. Fresh garlic-Another thing that is easily available but a key ingredient.
  3. Sesame oil - This is the flavor that says “Asian” to me.  It is intense so I just add a bit near the end of cooking rather than use it as the stir fry oil.