In January, a friend gave me beautiful lacquered chopsticks from Shanghai. That was a spur for me to pull out my wok for a stir-fry of spring onions and young carrots of all colors: purple and dark red-orange, yellow and the familiar orange.
I’ve made many rainbow pepper stir-fries, but this time I used my multicolored carrots, and cut them into matchsticks so they would cook quickly along with the spring onions. I wanted this to be a main dish, so I added tofu, as well as the aromatics that I always use in my stir-fries: garlic, ginger, dry sherry, soy sauce and a bit of sugar.
The list of ingredients in stir-fry recipes can look long, even daunting. But most of the ingredients don’t require knife skills, just measuring spoons, so the preparation is simple. And the actual cooking goes very quickly, so quickly that it’s important to have everything prepped and within reach of your wok. Read through the recipe a couple of times before you begin cooking, because once you start, you won’t have time to refer to it.
Rainbow Carrot Stir-Fry
1 14-ounce box firm tofu, cut into dominoes
2 tablespoons soy sauce (divided)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot
2 tablespoons peanut or other neutral oil (divided)
2 to 3 teaspoons minced garlic (to taste)
2 to 3 teaspoons minced ginger (to taste)
1 pound carrots, preferably a mix of colors, cut into matchsticks
1 bunch spring onions or 2 bunches scallions, white or purple, and light green parts separated from dark green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon black or toasted white sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cooked grains or noodles, for serving
Drain and dry tofu slices on paper towels. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, rice wine and stock. Combine salt and sugar in another small bowl. In another bowl, dissolve cornstarch or arrowroot in 2 tablespoons stock or water; stir well. Have ingredients within reach of pan.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in 1 tablespoon oil by adding it to the sides of the pan or wok and swirling, then add tofu and stir-fry until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining soy sauce; stir-fry until no liquid is visible in pan. Remove tofu to a plate.
Swirl in remaining oil; add garlic and ginger, and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds. Add carrots and white and light green parts of onions or scallions; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add salt, pepper and sugar; toss together and add soy sauce mixture. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender.
Return tofu to wok along with sesame seeds and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir cornstarch or arrowroot slurry and add it to pan along with cilantro and onion greens. Stir until everything is lightly glazed and remove from heat. Serve with hot grains or noodles.
Note: You can prepare your ingredients hours in advance. Keep in refrigerator until 15 to 30 minutes before you begin cooking.
Yield: 4 servings