The Ultimate Guide to Stir Fry Sauce - Plus 4 Quick Recipes

Become a more confident stir fry cook! Learn how to use east and southeast Asian ingredients to make the best stir fry recipes at home.

In this guide we run through the essential knowledge you need to get started, plus 5 great stir fry recipes.

Browse ingredients you might need for the recipes at our Chinese supermarket online.

What is stir fry?

Stir fry is a fundamental technique in East Asian and Southeast Asian (ESEA) cooking.

From a big family meal to a solo dinner, stir frying is fast and efficient. It's usually done in a wok or similar sauté pan. 

The main ingredients, vegetables or proteins, are cut into small pieces so they cook quickly and therefore keep their nutritional value. Aromatics and sauces are added to enhance the ingredients and make them delicious. 

First, let's break it down into main ingredients:

Stir fry sauce ingredients

As you encounter more ESEA regional cooking you will see the techniques are similar.

It’s only the seasoning ingredients that change the further you travel. Aromatics and sauces are added to enhance the ingredients and make them delicious.

Seasonings can be bold, as stir fry dishes are usually eaten with rice. 

What are the basic stir fry sauce ingredients?

  1. Soy sauce is common in all its variations. 
  2. Fish sauce also, in Southern China and Vietnam through to Thailand, but hardly used in Japan. 
  3. Sugar and vinegar balance salty flavours. 
  4. Or given more depth and umami with oyster sauce or shrimp paste. 

      How to stir fry greens and vegetables 

      All over ESEA, the variety and deliciousness of leafy stalky green vegetables is incredible. ESEA cooks know not to mess with them!

      Choose a different stir fry sauce for different vegetables

      • Cook greens quickly. Dress with a little oyster sauce (vegetarian also available) and soy sauce. 
      • If your vegetable releases its own moisture, e.g. morning glory or spinach, then you don't need to add any liquid to create a sauce. 
      • If you’re cooking something like asparagus or gai lan, the sauce can be created using water or chicken stock. Not everyone has chicken stock ready to hand, so use chicken powder which is essentially chicken-flavoured MSG or mushroom powder for extra umami.

      Five tips for vegetable stir fry

      1. Cut vegetables into small bite size pieces before cooking. If you're using different vegetables, try to make them an even size.
      2. Blanching vegetables before stir-frying ensures that all the vegetables are cooked evenly, and are quick to stir fry once drained.
      3. When blanching vegetables, add them to the pan in the order of long they take to cook. For example carrot (least tender) > broccoli stems > broccoli heads > asparagus (most tender).
      4. Add smashed garlic to cold oil, before it heats up. Once it turns golden brown you know it'll be infused and ready to add your vegetables.
      5. A little bit of sugar helps to make a sauce cling to the vegetables and make them shine.

      The best stir fry sauce recipe for mixed vegetables 

      This recipe for a miso stir fry sauce is a great recipe to try first, when you are learning how to blanch and stir fry vegetables.

      You can use any three vegetables you have at home, along with some store cupboard staples such as miso, stock and soy sauce.

      Find the full stir fry vegetable in a sweet and savoury miso stir fry sauce recipe

      How to stir fry meat or fish

      These are the top tips when preparing meat or fish for stir fry:

      Cut the meat or fish so it can be cooked quickly

      Cooking meat quickly allows it to retain its juices, ensuring that it stays tender. 

      When stir frying meat, it is vital to cut it in a way that allows it to be cooked quickly. Tender cuts can be cut larger, maybe in slices. Tougher cuts will need to be minced.

      Marinating helps add tenderness and flavour

      Meat can also be marinated for added flavour, also to help keep the meat tender and succulent.

      Cut the meat or fish so it can be cooked quickly

      When cooking meat with vegetables, the above principles apply. You need to start with the least tender ingredient first. Since vegetables are generally tougher, you should precook or blanche them first. Then stir-fry them with the meat.

      Cook from room temperature

      Take your meat or fish out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature before cooking. You can also use this time to marinate.

      Cooking from room temperature and not fridge cold, allows more even cooking and prevents the protein from loosing too much moisture.

      However, you should never leave raw meat out of the fridge for more than 30 minutes.

      Best stir fry sauce recipes for meat 

      These are two great stir fry recipes for meat:

      Chicken with chillies and basil

      Pork and cabbage in black bean sauce 

      The best stir fry sauce recipe for fish and seafood 

      King prawns and cashews in a sweet and sour sauce

      Feeling inspired? Shop our wide range of Chinese or South-east Asian Ingredients.


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