- Always use fresh vegetables - I have tried many, many times to dump frozen veggies into my stir-fries and they are always very blah. I guess if you have to, a little bit of frozen veg may not hurt, but this time I used all fresh and you could tell.
- Don't over complicate the sauce - Stick to one or two main flavours. I think with many of my previous attempts, I have tried to get that perfect sweet, salty, sour, spicy mix and let's be honest, I am not a trained chef and I have not mastered this technique. This time I let ginger be the main flavour and didn't add tons of other ingredients. When you aren't sure, keep it simple. Good rule to live by.
- Add veggies in the right order - Sometimes I get impatient. I am usually hungry and it's late by the time I start cooking, so I dump everything in at once. You can't do this and get a good stir-fry. It is not possible. Carrots, onions, celery take a lot longer to cook than bok choy and mushrooms. Add the base veggies and let them cook a bit before adding in other items.
- Add the grain right into the stir-fry as it is cooking. This is simple, I usually will not do this unless I am adding noodles, but it helps meld all the flavours together.
- Finally, Make enough of the marinade to add right in the stir-fry and no steaming - OK, maybe this is two final things. Luckily because you have chose to cook vegan, you can just dump your leftover marinade right into your meal and not worry about food poisoning. Now, after adding the sauce, don't steam it. It really just helps keep the food bright and crisp which is much better than a soggy mess. When I have rushed, dumped all my ingredients in at the last minute, I usually have to steam them or they won't be cooked. Try to avoid.
So, we now have some rules. Let's get to what I did to finally get a stir-fry that didn't suck.
Barley Tofu Stir-fry
Makes 3-4 servings, 20 minutes if the barley is cooked, 60 if not
- 1 1/2 - 2" piece of ginger, peeled
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp agave or brown rice syrup
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp lime juice
- 1-2 spoonfuls of miso
- 2 tbsp of oil (I used sesame)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 block of tofu, pressed and sliced however you like
Stir-fry (Really, you can add what you want, but this is what I did):
- 2/3 cup of cooked barley
- 1/2 onion
- 2 carrots
- 1-2 stalks of celery
- handful of mushrooms
- 1/2 orange pepper (more if you like pepper, I do not, but keep trying to learn)
- 3-4 leaves of bok choy
- Oil for frying
If you are wanting to make this quickly, do some prep. The morning or night before making this cook your barley and make the marinade. I made the marinade in my magic bullet. If you are using a blender, you should mince the garlic and ginger first. If magic bullet is your thing, add the ginger and garlic and pulverize it. Next add the remaining ingredients and blend. Pour the Marinade on your chopped tofu and let it soak overnight. If you are making this the day of. Make the marinade and then get the barley cooking so it can marinade for an hour.
Now make your stir-fry. Chop all the veggies into bite-sized pieces. Put the oil in the wok and get it hot. I usually go on medium heat because my stove is kind of hot. Add in the carrots, celery and onion and cook until they are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Now add in the Tofu (Not the marinade though) and cook another couple minutes or until the tofu starts to brown a little. Now add the mushrooms and peppers. Cook another 5 minutes or so. Next, add the bok choy, barley and the leftover marinade. Toss it well and cook until the bok choy softens.
Who knew a simple stir-fry would cause me so much trouble!
As a last thought, barley in a stir-fry is amazing. I almost always stick to noodles, but this was such a good addition. When you are trying an easy stir-fry, mix it up and use a different grain. Quinoa, Rice, Barley, Millet, Wheat Berries would all be excellent choices. It kind of shakes things up, just a little bit.