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Recently I found myself with a hankering for Chinese food but couldn’t decide whether I wanted lo mein or stir fry. What to do, what to do…The problem was solved when I created a hybrid of the two dishes. I made a small amount of Szechuan sauce (recipe here) but then tossed the whole thing together with soba noodles in a method more akin to lo mien. Lighter than a stir fry with no need to wait for rice, this lovely meal satisfied my craving and was ready in less than thirty minutes.
Hey, I didn’t say that this story was terribly interesting. Though there are a few tid bits that I hope are helpful to someone considering what to cook for dinner, perhaps even for the very first time.
First, if you’re new to the kitchen, this recipe is for you. My husband (who pretty much never cooks) actually made the sauce in about ten minutes and had no problem at all. You’ll get that great Chinese food smell you want, too, while happily sautéing ginger and garlic in sesame oil—and you’ll have created it yourself with a fraction of the sodium and far more vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your dish from all those veggies and whole grain noodles.
Second, this recipe can use any mix of vegetables and protein that you like. (One example is here, which includes more details on how to prep the veggies if you’ve never done it before.) Usually I advise choosing just a few veggies and perhaps a protein or nut for a meal that allows individual flavors to sing, a “less is more” kind of approach. Then again, sometimes I just throw in whatever produce I have on hand, like today’s mix of broccoli, red peppers, yellow onion, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, and water chestnuts, with toasted almonds for crunch. Do what makes you happy. The fun addition in today’s recipe is the leaves I had been saving from a head of cauliflower specifically for this dish. The outer leaves are perfectly edible and make a wonderful addition to a stir fry: they taste a bit like (Chinese) cabbage given cauliflower is in the same cruciferous family. It’s a terrific opportunity to stretch your food dollar and avoid food waste, which ends up in landfills and releases climate-warming methane, a greenhouse gas about twenty-one times more potent than carbon dioxide. (More food waste facts here.)
Tasty, quick, and a great recipe for a beginner cook, what more incentive do you need to make your own stir fry the next time a craving for Chinese arises? Well, if you do need another reason, I will humbly admit that I’ve been told by many people that my Szechuan sauce is their “go to” recipe tacked on their fridge for easy weeknight meals that are healthy, flavorful, and kid-friendly to boot.
Here’s hoping you enjoy it as much as they do!
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Dr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic disease through diet and the relationships between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to hep people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time.
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