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help me spice up some stir fry!

Last night I made brown rice & green lentils (they cook pretty much the same, so I just throw in a handful of lentils when I'm making rice). Sort about 1/4 cup of lentils, then throw it, a pat of butter, and 3/4 cup of brown rice into 2+ cups of boiling water, turn it down, and wait 45 minutes before removing the lid. I heated a little peanut oil in the wok, then threw in some garlic for about 15 seconds, then removed it. Added in a chopped carrot and got it going for a few minutes, then a chopped green pepper, stirstirstir, then seasoned it up with some red pepper flakes, a pinch of cayenne, some paprika, and the tiniest bit of cumin, then added in some broccoli chopped small and kept going until it all smelled really good, then turned off the heat and set a tortilla on top to get soft while I waited for the rice to finish. Tore the tortilla into quarters, served up a little rice and topped it with about 1/2 my stir fry and had it with a beer. I may fry the rice next time and add some soy or sweet pepper sauce to make it taste more asian.

I've recently started to make some variation on this a few nights a week, but I'm a little timid when it comes to seasoning the dish - I'd welcome some suggestions on how to spice it up a bit. I'm not sure what to add to bring out the flavors of the vegetables. I usually don't cook the rice in broth because I want to add salt or soy later, though I do occasionally throw in some dried mushrooms, especially if I want to skip the lentils.

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  1. I really like five spice powder in stir fry. You don't need a lot though!

    1. Fresh ginger is your friend, it makes everything better. Chop it fine and add it with the garlic (don't remove either, just keep adding stuff to the wok). Since you like lentils, explore some south asian flavors: tumeric, cardamom (use the whole pods), fenugreek, coriander, whole cloves, pieces of cinnamon stick. Also get some whole cumin to sautee/toast along with the garlic & ginger...if you like cumin, you'll love the roasty-toasty results. Substitute storebought naan for your tortilla, and you've got homestyle indian. Just remember not to bite into the whole spices.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        I also really like fresh ginger in a stir fry (i soak the minced ginger in warm water for about 20 minutes, dry it, then toss it with a bit of flour, which helps to thicken the resulting sauce. Then I saute that with the garlic, and for a sauce use a few tablespoons of black bean and garlic sauce and a few tablespoons of soy.

      2. Rob!
        I third the addition of fresh ginger...oh SNAP it's good.
        When I make rice, I like to switch it up too - here's my basics...hope it helps.

        For indian flair - try garam masala (available thru Penzeys.com) it sor tof combines a lot of the flavors together so you don't have to buy incredible amounts of spices which can get spendy.
        add your lentils or chickpeas, some onions, garlic etc.

        For fried rice, we use soya sauce and a fried rice packet (easy to find, like taco seasoning for chinese) although if you're a msg watcher, read the labels...most are filled with it. Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots, peapods, scallions, onions, garlic, bean sprouts and ginger!

        For mexi-rice, canned diced tomatoes with chilies, cilantro, black beans, onions, chipotle powder or chili powder etc. top with cheese and roll up in your tortilla!

        good luck

        1. Thanks for all the suggestions so far! Its incredibly helpful to learn about spices that go well together. I wasn't aware that some of those spice mixes existed, either. I'll keep an eye out when I'm shopping.

          I've always taken out garlic when doing stir fry because I didn't want it to burn - I never take it out when I'm cooking sauces but it seemed appropriate here. I'll have to try leaving it in, and adding some ginger!

          1 Reply
          1. re: itsrob

            some good ones you can get at Penzeys

            chipotle powder
            garam marsala
            Bangkok Blend
            Chinese 5-spice
            Balti Seasoning

            There are many curry blends too if you love curry (as do i)
            if you don't have a local penzeys (it's awesome to smell them all) you can order easily and they usually throw in some bay leaves in the box - nice touch.

          2. you are correct that the garlic will burn. when i stir-fry, in order to avoid burning the garlic (and ginger and scallions), i add them near the end. i grind the garlic into a paste, grate the ginger into pulp and mince scallions, then put them all into a small bowl w/ a small amount of peanut oil, which i mix in. shortly before the dish is done, or just prior to adding any sauce i might be using, i clear the center of the pan and dump in the bowl of garlic, etc. i pull the pan off the heat (i stir-fry in a 12" cast-iron skillet), and stir for 30 seconds while the residual heat cooks the garlic mixture.

            as to adding flavors, all the suggestions here are good. i'd add that fresh herbs added at the end are nice. basil, especially spicy globe or thai, and cilantro are often good additions. also, most spicy peppers are good in a stir-fry. i cut long, tapering peppers into discs, little ones (like jalapenos, tabascos, serranos) i generally cut into matchsticks, larger ones i dice.

            1. fresh ginger is great. I think Thai fish sauce adds great flavor

              1. Diced serrano (or half) or jalapeno added into the stir-fry would kick it up a notch. Mmm. Hot.

                1. A TOUCH of sesame oil when finishing is always a great addition to stirfry...

                  --Dommy!

                  1. Honestly my favoriate stir fry is the following.

                    (This makes enough for about 4 -5)

                    1.5 cups of basmati rise

                    Cook up chicken breasts
                    1 large onion diced (or 2 small)
                    2 or 3 sticks of celery
                    1/2 each green/orange/yellow/red pepper
                    3 -4 green onion
                    1 -2 carrot diced
                    1/2 teasspoon of Garlic powerder, parsley, basil and oregano
                    2 cloves of garlic
                    Braggs Soya sause for taste (3 to 4 squirts while cooking)

                    Cook everything on medium for 30 minutes (after precooking chicken)

                    1. I always add either a good squirt of sriracha or Huy Fong chili garlic sauce. (Go sparingly with the chili paste until you get a knack for how much is right for you!)

                      In addition to all of the fresh ginger rec's I'd like to add a tip for storing fresh ginger - wrap a whole "hand" in plastic wrap then put in a freezer ziploc bag. Then when you need some, just peel a bit, grate or slice it right off the "hand" then stick it back in the freezer. It makes grating SO much easier, plus it keeps forever.

                      1. You might enjoy some Chinese fermented black beans (they are soft and come in a cellophane bag in Chinese markets). You chop them up with a clove of garlic, add them to the hot oil before you put in the vegetables, stir them around for under a minute till you smell them, then add the veggies with a bit of liquid.

                        Sesame oil at the end is a nice finish for this--also some chopped scallion greens.