I make stir-fries a lot. They're a really simple and tasty way to make a quick and veggie-packed dinner. Usually, by the time the rice is done, my meal is done, as well (or at least really close to being done!) I often use a few variations on some common themes: beef and broccoli (sometimes with red bell peppers or carrots) with a lightly sweet soy sauce; shredded pork and cabbage with dark soy and a little heat from sriracha or sambal olek; sliced pork or chicken with Thai red curry paste, lime leaves, green beans, and basil. And sometimes I just dump in whatever I have on hand, with whatever condiments, vinegar, sauces, herbs, and maybe some crunchy toppings, sound good. The great thing is, it's pretty hard to screw up. As long as I don't overcook my meat and veggies, or make the sauce too salty, it's all pretty tasty. But I don't find them worthy of posting, because I don't measure, and while they're always good, they're never great. Not something you'd feel comfortable telling someone "Hey, you should make this! You'll like it."
Well, this time I made one that's really good, and worthy repeating (and a blog post)! Cabbage and snow peas are great in stir-fries, but the real winner here is the cucumber. Stir-fried until slightly softened, the flavor becomes sweeter, milder, and almost a little nutty. The texture becomes more silky, and it loses some of that graininess. It becomes a really nice and unexpected foil to the crisp and crunchy cabbage and peas. The mint and cilantro are a must here, too, as they cap off the stir-fry with a nice, fresh, herbal note. With a side of your favorite rice, this is a lean, healthy, satisfying meal that feels like a real treat.
Crunchy Cabbage, Cucumber, and Chicken Stir-fry
2 tsp neutral oil, like canola or peanut
1 lb ground chicken
1 tsp very finely minced lemongrass
1 1/2 TB soy sauce
2 TB oyster sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chili-garlic sauce (or more to taste)
1/4 cup snow peas, chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 head savoy cabbage, cored and chopped into 1" pieces, about 4-5 cups
1 medium cucumber, peeled, sliced lengthwise into quarters and cut crosswise into 1/8" slices
2 TB mint, chopped
3 TB cilantro leaves, chopped
sesame seeds for garnish
rice as accompaniment
In a large, high-sided frying pan, heat the neutral oil over medium heat. Add the ground chicken and lemongrass, breaking the chicken up with a spoon. When almost cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, add the soy sauce and stir. Add the cabbage and peas, and drizzle on the oyster sauce, sesame seed oil, vinegar, and chili-garlic sauce, tossing to coat the veggies. When cabbage starts to wilt, add the cucumber, and stir-fry until cabbage is slightly wilted and crisp-tender, and cucumber just begins to soften but is still firm in the middle. Remove from heat, add the mint and cilantro, and toss to combine. Serve over rice, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Serves 4.