Stir-fry (or other Healthy-ish Suggestions)

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Assistant Cook
Jan 30, 2012
East Tennessee
I went vegetarian this year and have recently started making an effort to eat "better," whatever that really means. Mainly, I've been trying to eat more veggies and protein and less pizza (cheese and bread). Basically this seems to mean salad (which I'm quite tired of at this point) or tofu stir-fry. Which is tragic for me, because no matter what I put in a stir-fry it always ends up in the garbage disposal.

I guess my question here is, what do you put in stir fry to make it taste decent? Sesame oil? Honey? Garlic? Pepper? Teriyaki? And what exactly do you even do with tofu to get a decent result...?

Aside from that I would LOVE some other ideas. I can see stir fry getting old really quick...
It's the sauce.

Typical basic sauce ingredients are soy sauce, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, chiles, sugar/honey, wine, rice vinegar, corn starch to name a few. (Not all together in one sauce.)
Just curious - what is your reason for going vegetarian? Fish, shellfish and poultry are good sources of protein and the fish and shellfish contain healthy fats. They definitely make stir-fries more interesting :)

You can buy simmer sauces in the grocery store for Chinese stir-fries and Thai and Indian curries. It's not traditional (except in Indian food), but you can add beans, like chickpeas, to stir-fries and curries to add protein.

I love this site for Asian-inspired food: She has lots of easy recipes. Also, take a look at the Ethnic Cuisine forum here on Discuss Cooking.

I never developed a taste for tofu, so I can't help you there. Sorry :)
Agree with Andy and GG. You can also get some very good frozen vegetarian potstickers from places like Trader Joe's or an Asian market. They also sell some nice premade stir fry sauces. I usually wing it as far as stir fry sauces. Mix and taste, and add whatever else you think it might need. (I actually use all the sauce ingredients Andy mentioned in one sauce!)

Not a big tofu fan here either.
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Just curious - what is your reason for going vegetarian? Fish, shellfish and poultry are good sources of protein and the fish and shellfish contain healthy fats. They definitely make stir-fries more interesting :)

It just didn't feel right to me anymore. I figure when you feel guilty about something it's time to quit doing it. :) It's been a gradual progression. I quit eating pork in high school, and red meat my freshman year, poultry last year and seafood this year. But I don't hold anything against omnivores. To each their own!
Now that summer is here I would eat more country farm stand style meals. Things like sweet corn on the cob, green beans with tiny new potatoes, buttered beets and greens, fried green tomatoes, zucchini casseroles, stuffed peppers. Add a pan of fresh cornbread, biscuits, muffins etc... and you will have a feast.

Make a batch of macaroni, potato, or bean salad as the focal point of a summer meal and round it out with some sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, deviled eggs, etc...

Use up the odds and ends of vegetables that accumulate in the back of the fridge for a summer soup, fried rice, or frittata.

Stuff salad greens, marinated garbanzos, tomatoes, onions, olives, cheese, etc... into a pita for a quick easy meal.

Finally a simple baked potato, russet or sweet, can be an easy meal. Toss a couple in the oven when you get home from work, change your clothes, check the mail, have a drink, make a salad or steam some broccoli and dinner is ready. Always bake an extra one to give you a head start on another easy meal in a day or two.

Good luck!
Like you, I am in the process of transitioning to something like a Paleo diet, though not strictly. I'm not a fanatic about it. I have eliminated most processed foods, although I still like my bread (homemade sourdough) and dairy (homemade butter, Greek yogurt and now Kefir.) If it were me, I would replace typical stir-fry oil or shortening with coconut oil, or oven roast with a lightly tossed coating of olive oil.Vegan, or low meat/fish diet doesn't mean a lifetime of salads! Oven roasting, sauteeing in a healthy oil or water, wilting, and one of my favorite ways, soups. Pro-vegetarian isn't a sentence... it's an opportunity to get creative - new cooking techniques, new dishes, and even new foods.
Ok. My husband is a vegetarian. I am not. I end up mostly eating vegetarian simply because it's easier to make one meal rather than two. I tend to eat more meat in the summer, because the BBQ makes things easier.

There is more to a vegetarian life than stir fry. Way, way, way more.

First off, look at Indian cuisine. Hindus are vegetarian. They've mastered it. It is delicious. My favourite Indian cookbook is India's Vegetarian Cooking: A Regional Guide by Monisha Bharadwaj. It's a beautiful book, but as the title suggests, it goes through each region and discusses what is grown in that area, why certain things are popular there, etc. I got it at Homesense (so if you're in the states, the equivalent is Homegoods. Same company, just one is on the Canadian side and one is state side.) for $7.99. has a bunch for under ten bucks with shipping included. Monisha Bharadwaj, India's Vegetarian Cooking - AbeBooks

A nice food blog that has some good stuff in it is Veggies and Gin. She has some nice stuff on there. And I love a good gin cocktail, too.

Another whole food/vegetarian cookbook I really like is At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin. Now, this book is a bit more pricey and you can find it on AbeBooks in the thirty dollar range. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin - AbeBooks

But, my favourite is The Complete Tassajara Cookbook: Recipes, Techniques, and Reflections from the Famed Zen Kitchen by Edward Epse Brown. He cooked at a Buddhist temple in California. This book is lovely. Now, there's no photographs. Everything is hand drawn. It is 526 pages long. It's massive and FULL of information. It is one of my prized cookbooks. It changed the way I approached food.

Now if a big tome like that is intimidating, there's the more accessible Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics and Appetizers by Karla Oliveira. Now, all of the recipes in this book are in the big book. But this one is half the size and full of glossy photos. It's a beautiful book. I own both. Tassajara Cookbook - AbeBooks

There's also Thug Kitchen if you have a sense of humour and don't mind curse words. He has a cookbook (and it's great), but he also has a blog. Thug Kitchen

Ramsons & Bramble is a nice vegan blog, with more upscale recipes if you are out to impress. Ramsons & Bramble - Made-from-scratch food that delights!
Oh, and for tofu, marinating is key! I like marinating it in the fridge for a few hours in a mixture of soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, lime juice, lemon juice, sesame oil, honey and garlic. Maybe some rice vinegar if I'm in the mood, but not necessary with the other acids in there. Then I bake it. I'll often slice it into small matchsticks once it's been baked and the outside is crispy. Sprinkle that on a bowl of pho or an udon noodle bowl. . . Yum.

And if you want it crispy, but don't want to fry it, you can always dredge it in flour, then egg white and then panko and then bake it. That is, if you're an ovo-lacto vegetarian and eat dairy and eggs. But don't forget to marinate it first. Otherwise it doesn't taste like anything.

And yet another edit ('cos I'm excited about this thread. I've had dinner parties where I've gotten hardcore carnivores to eat and enjoy tofu): Look to see if there's any locally made tofu near you. There's a place here that does. They grow their own soy and then make tofu in town. You have to go to the back of a warehouse, knock on a door and wait until someone let's you in and you can only pay cash, but it's great quality, and super cheap. The first time we went it seemed a bit sketchy, but we've gotten used to our backdoor tofu deals. :)
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There certainly is a lot more to eating vegetarian than stir-fries and tofu. Do you still eat eggs? Eggs are a great source of protein.

I eat a lot of vegetarian meals. Indian is definitely one of my go-to cuisines for inspiration.
It just didn't feel right to me anymore. I figure when you feel guilty about something it's time to quit doing it. :) It's been a gradual progression. I quit eating pork in high school, and red meat my freshman year, poultry last year and seafood this year. But I don't hold anything against omnivores. To each their own!

It's fine. I was thinking if you thought it was unhealthy, you might want to reconsider, since it's not. You just need to learn more ways of getting protein into your diet.

Anyway, you've gotten a lot of good advice. I was also thinking the same as Aunt Bea - having several of what might be considered side dishes is an interesting way to eat a lot of vegetables, especially with summer here now.

I recently made stuffed zucchini, grilled potatoes with mustard aioli and a marinated cucumber salad. For me, these were sides, but they would make a nice vegetarian dinner.
I guess you've tried roasting veg? For example, quartered onions, along with chunks of courgettes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes (all drizzled with oil)? Would make a great ratatouille! Just add beans.
Pesto. The kind found in the refrigerated section at your store is better than the jarred stuff on the grocer's shelf. Stir a spoonful into stir fried veggies just before serving. I like it with veggies/ pasta dishes. Whether you include the pasta is up to you. Good served hot or cold.

Tabbouleh. A terrific summer salad. Lots of herbs for flavor. You can make in smaller size servings, so it's always fresh. Besides bulgur, you can use quinoa, couscous or cooked lentils for the base.

Tex/Mex/Southwest flavors are conducive to vegetarian dishes. Beyond bean burritos and tacos, you can make Stuffed zucchini. Cut in half, remove most of the innards. Mix the innards with spiced beans, garlic onion, and more... there's recipes on the net if you omit the meat. This probably isn't the season, but vegetarian chili is as good as any chili.

One of my favorite websites for ideas is Vegetarian Times - Great Food, Good Health, Smart Living
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I just eat veggies and leave out the meat protein. Love grains, love legumes, love adding cheese or tofu. It sounds as if you are still stuck on "meat" and can't get your head around how to get meat out of your diet and still have the flavor you want. Spices are your best friend.
IF your adding tofu to a stir fry, What tastes best is tofu that is fried in oil first, so it has a crispiness and chewiness to it. That being said, it is also the least healthy. IF not going to pre fry it, then at the very least use a Firm or Extra firm tofu, as it will hold up better during the stir fry process, and add it towards the end, or else the continuous stirring will cause it to break up, resembling scrambled eggs.

Ive been a vegetarian over 25 years,feel free to IM me if you have any questions .
I agree that deep fried tofu is wonderful... but the fat hit is noticeable. I often brown sliced tofu in a small amount of butter before adding it to a stirfry. be sure to use a non-stick pan... It's different than deep fried but tastes really nice and reduces the fat a lot.

My go to stir fry sauce is made from garlic black bean sauce, some spicy red pepper sauce, fresh ginger, a little cornstarch, a little vinegar and a lot of fresh chopped garlic. At the very end I toss in some sesame oil and a handful of chopped cilantro or basil.

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