My parents are from India. Maybe you’re Chinese. And my favorite cookbook right now is all about Vietnamese food…who cares!! Food goes into a pan or wok (in a stir-fry), it gets heated it up, and it’s flavored with spices in a step-wise process for optimal results. I love traditional food, but I won’t get hung up on cuisine coming from a specific area, as one area’s cuisine has multiple influences and is thus quite diverse! Elements of Indian cuisine has strong Portuguese influence for example.
So the following asian fusion stir fry recipe involves methods and ingredients used throughout India, China, as well as Vietnam. I just want to share with you a simple method that can be adjusted to your liking. It’s not easy to screw up a stir-fry. This recipe should take <30 minutes from start to eat…Let’s go!
Prep (10 minutes)
- Leave the meat out and allow to come to room temperature.
- Finely chop, peel, and de-seed 1 roma tomato and additionally finely chop the following: 1 clove of garlic, several slices of ginger, 1 medium-sized shallot, 1-2 thai green chilis, and a whopping of green cabbage
- Beef (substitute chicken or tofu if vegetarian)
- Spices and herbs
- 1 medium-sized shallot (finely chopped)
- A little bit of ginger (finely chopped)
- 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1-2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1-2 roma tomatoes (de-seeded and peeled)
- 1-2 thai green chilis (they’re used in India too but they are commonly referred to as thai green chilis)
- 1/2 tbsp oil (will get into this shortly on what kind I use).
- Basmati or Jasmine rice
- Lime and mint for garnishing
Step 1: Dry Roasting (2-3 min)
The first step is to heat up the pan with cumin and bay leaves on it. Turn the heat up to medium-high. This dry roasting step is used in Indian curries. I personally love the flavor and smell of cumin. It’s intense, warm, and energizing, with a sassy tang to it. Bay leaves on the other hand don’t smell like much, but they add a unique flavor to whatever you cook with it, and I’ve learned to add it for extra flavor to my dishes.
Step 2: Adding the core Asian flavors to the dish (2-3 min)
Ginger, garlic, onions, and some form of hot pepper are core ingredients to many asian dishes. I’d go as far as to estimate upwards of 40% of all asian dishes include these four ingredients. It seems that >80% of recipes use garlic. In Indian cuisine, garlic, ginger, and onions are often mixed into a paste to form the base of a sauce.
In this simple stir-fry, our second step is to add about half a tablespoon of oil. The oil will start to splatter, so lower the heat a little bit (keeping it above medium still) and allow the oil to spread evenly on the pan. You should notice that the cumin is a darker color. This means it’s flavors are coming out.
Now I used beef tallow, sort of. It’s technically not beef tallow but I don’t know if it has a name. It’s the fat I skimmed off my bone broth (here’s a video recipe on that). It’s super yellow, because it’s rich in carotenoids. It makes for a good moisturizer too for my face. I don’t find that it adds too strong of a taste to my dishes, thus, I’ve enjoyed using it for cooking so far.
Next, add the finely chopped ginger, garlic, and shallot. Stir and let sit for 2-3 minutes
Step 3: Tomatoes + chilis (3-5 min)
Add the peeled, de-seeded, and sliced tomato or two to the pan. The tomato will thicken the stir-fry a little bit, adding juice. I like adding ingredients that do this because I get to use less oil. Add in the chilis in this step. I’m not sure if it matters whether or not chilis are added earlier on, but what I’ve seen is that it’s usually added after the garlic and ginger. If you know why let me know! Let the ingredients cook now for a few additional minutes.
Why remove the skin and seeds? Well I’m a huge fan of mixing traditional knowledge with modern science to understand health. I recently learned from Dr. Gundry, author of “Plant Paradox” (on the “Beyond Your Wildest Genes” podcast by the way), that traditionally skins and seeds of plants were removed. Now we know that they contain lectins, which he believes are a contributory factor to the etiology of cardiovascular disease. Then the other day, in my vietnamese cookbook, I found a recipe that called for removing seeds and skins, so this will be a norm for me from now on. However… my grandmother and father both denied removing seeds. My grandmother mentioned that people with high uric acid levels are advised to avoid seeds. Hm, I’ll have to sit on that one. Personally, with the seeds I can get way more juice out of the tomato, so I’ll have to read up on this more!
Step 4: The meat + fish sauce (~10 min)
I strip off the ground beef into small pieces and spread them evenly on the pan. Almost immediately, the juices from the meat start to work their way around the pan, preventing things from burning and from having to add additional oil.
Add in 2 tbsp fish sauce now, and feel free to turn the heat up a little bit again.
Step 5: Cabbage (5 min)
I add the cabbage in a bit later because it doesn’t take long to cook. I prefer it slightly crunchy but no where near raw so I like to have it sit in the pan for maybe 10 minutes maximum. Sometimes I add it in earlier and it gets very soft, which is more palatable in other ways. Now remember that in a stir-fry things are stirred quite a bit. Don’t just add the ingredients and let them sit. This is common sense. Stir things around continuously, taking small breaks here and there. A wok is probably the best way to stir-fry anything, but this pan has worked quite well for me for a few years.
Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low and let all the ingredients sit for a bit.
Step 6: Rice (final step–5-10 min)
After the beef is about finished cooking, (few if any pink areas on the outside), add in the rice. In a separate bowl I cooked some basmati rice with 4 cardamom pods. This added a light cardamom flavor to the rice. I’ll go over flavored rice in a future recipe (I haven’t made too much of that yet, but since I love adding spices to foods I will learn it soon). Stir it all around.
Congrats, you’re done!
The Vietnamese part comes in with the addition of mint as a garnish. It added a nice aroma in my nasal cavity as it was chewed with the rest of the ingredients.
This tasted good, and I believe it was GREAT for my body. I have two observations to prove that. One my forehead started glistening a little bit (not visible in picture). That’s from the chili. Next my veins popped out a bit more (vasodilation). Generally, after good food, I am vasodilated. I’ve noticed this from simply inhaling the aromas of spices cooking on a pan as I cook Indian food, and also after eating quinoa, or anything with a fair amount of spices in it. If I eat overly heavy and fatty food, I do not observe any vasodilation. I’ll have to take a before and after pic for the next recipe. Happy eating!