I used to love getting chinese take-out. Broccoli with any kind of meat or fish in a garlic stir-fry sauce was my staple order. For me, it was all about that sauce! The garlicky, sweet, thick sauce smothering spongy over-cooked vegetables topping a pile of rice was the most comforting food I could put in my mouth.
But we travel a lot. Along the way, we quickly realized how consistently bad most chinese take-out places are out there. I wanted something that tasted like stir-fry but less sweet and one that used fresh, lightly cooked vegetables. That’s why I learned how to make chinese take-out dishes at home.
Authentic vs Take-Out: There’s a Difference
I’m the kind of person who will try eating anything once. I’ve had authentic recipes from a variety of Chinese provinces. For the most part, I enjoyed all of it. I’ve also eaten my body-weight several time over in the americanized take-out stuff. There is a big difference. Authentic Chinese food ranges from very pungent, fermented, and bold to very fresh, simple, and raw. Americanized chinese food, however, is pretty consistent. It’s sweet, cooked thoroughly, and usually greasy. It’s still tasty!
Stir-Fry Ingredient Ideas
- Broccoli, sliced water chestnuts, mung bean sprouts, and baby corn
- Thinly-sliced fried chicken, pork, or beef strips with broccoli
- Shrimp, bell peppers, green onions, water chestnuts, and chopped peanuts
- Thinly-sliced fried meat with sliced jalapeño
The Secret Sauce
A good brown garlic stir-fry sauce is the key to replicating many take-out dishes. You can adjust this recipe by adding whatever cooked vegetables or meats that you like. Serve it next to a bowl of plain white rice and you’ll think delivery has already arrived.
- 1 head garlic sliced thin (about 8 cloves)
- 2 tbsp ginger fresh, minced
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup broth
- Peel and thinly slice one small head of garlic (about 8 cloves) and add to a small bowl.
- Peel and mince about 2 inches (2 tbsp) of fresh ginger. Add to the bowl.
- Add the cornstarch, sugar, sriracha sauce, and sesame oil to the bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients into a paste. Creating this paste will prevent the cornstarch from making your sauce lumpy.
- Stir in the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and broth until the sauce is smooth. While you prepare and cook your vegetables, stir the sauce occationally to keep it loose.
- Prepare your stir-fry. About 5 minutes before your stir-fry is done, pour the garlic sauce into the pan. Cook at a medium-high heat until the sauce thickens. Enjoy.
Making Garlic Stir-Fry In A Tiny Kitchen
Unlike many authentic chinese food recipes, making a garlic stir-fry is exceptionally easy. Dishes will include a cutting board, knife, a large saute pan, one bowl (can be the one you will eat out of), and a spoon.
The first thing you want to do is prepare the sauce in a bowl. This way, the sauce has the most time to sit and soak up the flavor of the garlic and ginger. Then, wash and prepare your vegetables. When they are almost cooked to your liking, dump the sauce in the pan. A few minutes later, you have a chinese take-out style dinner just waiting for you to dig in.
Leftover chinese food stores well in the fridge. The sauce itself usually gets made just before cooking, so I don’t know how it holds up if you prepare it in advance. If you’ve experimented with keeping the sauce overnight, I’d love to hear how it comes out so I can update this recipe.