Many readers have told me that they are interested in quick and easy recipes that can be made in just 30 minutes or less. Today I’m really excited to share this easy and delicious Japanese Stir Fry Vegetables dish called Yasai Itame (野菜炒め).
In Japanese, “yasai (野菜)” means vegetables and “itame (炒め)” is a noun form for verb “itameru (炒める)” which means stir fry.
From the name you might assume it’s a vegetarian dish; however, Yasai Itame usually contains a small amount of thinly sliced pork or sausages.
FYI, I have this recipe also categorized as vegetarian & vegan as you can easily make this into vegetarian/vegan friendly recipe by omitting the meat and oyster sauce. It’s not by mistake – I just didn’t want my vegetarian/vegan readers to miss this delicious recipe.
Why Stir Fry Vegetables?
I don’t know the exact history of this simple dish, but it has been around for many many years and mostly cooked at home. You might see this dish served as Teishoku 定食 (lunch/dinner set) at Japanese diners. Personally, I feel this dish is underrated and I want to share the reasons why this dish should be made and enjoyed more often.
- It’s quick! – No time to cook? Throw in some ingredients and it’s ready to serve in just 15 minutes. Plus, this is an ideal summer dish as you don’t have to stay in your kitchen for too long.
- It’s nutritious! – It’s got vegetables and meat in one dish. And not just one kind of vegetables, but several colorful vegetables.
- It’s easy! – Once you learn a few tips on how to stir fry, it becomes a very handy kitchen skill.
- It’s versatile! – Don’t worry too much about what goes well together. Stir fry dishes is great for using small bits and pieces of ingredients hidden in the refrigerator. You got one shiitake mushroom? Stir it in!
- It’s super simple, but DELICIOUS! – This is a basic Japanese dish that doesn’t require fancy ingredients. If you are new to cooking or don’t cook too often, this can be a new repertoire you can count on!
Stir Fry Vegetables Tips
I put together a list of the things I do when I make stir fry dishes. Hope these tips will be helpful if you are new to stir fry dishes.
- Prepare all the ingredients and seasonings before you start cooking. You won’t be able to stop in the middle of the stir frying process, so don’t try to chop vegetables as you cook.
- Either wash your ingredients ahead of time or remove the moisture before cooking. You don’t want to add moisture to the stir fry dishes otherwise the ingredients get “steamed” and lose their crispiness.
- Cut the ingredients into bite sizes so that they will all cook evenly and faster.
- No wok? Use a big, flat-bottomed fry pan (details in next section).
- Preheat your wok/fry pan before adding the oil and coat well with oil.
- When you add the ingredients, they will reduce the temperature of the wok/fry pan. Make sure not to overcrowd the wok/fry pan with the ingredients and give them enough room to make contact with the heated surface. It’s important to stir fry without losing too much heat while cooking.
- Cook thicker and harder vegetables first as they will take a longer time to cook.
- Keep stirring and tossing so that all the ingredients are equally and evenly cooked.
- Make sure the rest of your meal is ready to serve or on the table already so that you can enjoy the stir fry dish immediately after cooking.
Do We Need a Wok?
If your question was whether stir fry dishes taste better when cooked in wok or fry pan, the answer would be easy. The wok would win every time. You just can’t beat the flavor of charred ingredients cooked in a good carbon steel wok on very high heat.
However if your question is whether you will need a wok in order to cook good stir fry dishes at home? The answer is not necessary.
My Chinese blogger friend Maggie from Omnivore’s Cookbook wrote this post, sharing her 10 reasons why we should use a frying pan to make stir fried dishes instead of a wok. This might make you rest easy about cooking stir fry dishes even without a wok.
I own a Calphalon stainless steel wok, but for this recipe, I used this All-Clad PFOA-free non-stick frying pan (12 inch). Many Japanese home cooks also use a fry pan to cook Yasai Itame. This recipe when cooked on a standard stove may not taste the same as a stir fry vegetable dish from a Chinese restaurant. However, please do try this great home cooked recipe because you don’t need “proper” equipment for it to taste delicious.
As long as the pan gives the ingredients enough room to make contact with the heated surface, you can still makes great stir fry dishes at home.
- 6.5 oz. (185 g) thinly sliced pork (skip for vegetarian/vegan)
- 10 snow peas (about 1 oz / 30 g)
- ¼ large onion (about 3 oz / 90 g)
- ¼ cabbage (about 7 oz / 200 g)
- ½ carrot (about 3 oz / 90 g)
- 1 clove large garlic
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) ginger
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 cups loosely packed bean sprouts (about 3.9 oz / 110 g)
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sake
- 1 tsp. oyster sauce (skip for vegetarian/vegan)
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- ½ tsp. salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- Cut the meat into smaller pieces if necessary, and marinade the meat with 1 tsp. soy sauce and 1 tsp. sake in a small bowl.
- Remove the strings from snow peas and cut the onion into thin slices.
- Cut the cabbage into 1” (2.5 cm) pieces.
- Cut the carrot into 2” (5 cm) long slabs then cut into matchsticks.
- Crush (or mince) the garlic and mince the ginger.
- In a large frying pan or wok, heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil on medium high heat. Once it’s hot, add the garlic and ginger. When fragrant, add the meat and cook until it’s about 80% done. Alternatively you can cook till no longer pink and take the meat out, then add your meat back in when all the veggies are cooked. This will prevent the meat from getting over-cooked.
- Add the onion and stir fry until almost tender. Then add the carrot. If you are going to add other kinds of vegetables that are not in the recipe, start cooking the thicker and tougher vegetables first as they take a longer time to cook.
- Once the carrot is getting tender, add the cabbage and snow peas. Continue to stir and toss the ingredients.
- Then add the bean sprouts and toss one more time. Add 1 tsp. oyster sauce and 1 tsp. soy sauce.
- Add the salt, freshly ground black pepper, and drizzle 2 tsp. sesame oil. Enjoy immediately, this dish is fantastic with rice and miso soup.