Since vegetarians began to appear at family dinner tables, this stir fry (from Chatelaine, with my own tweaks) has become one of my "go to" dishes. At large family events, there are always many choices on the table so it's hard to be precise about how many this will serve. With an entire box of cooked bucatini pasta, and nothing else, it would be good for 4-6 servings. If buying 450-g package fresh Oriental chow mein or precooked noodles (as per original recipe), I can't picture that quantity - and it may well be that you'd need more than a 450-g package. Back to my family meal - as one of many choices at a table of 8-10 guests it goes far. It is always a really big hit - with debates about who will take home leftovers - if there are any.
I make this almost à la minute, and one guest is usually generous enough to mind the stove and pull this together. With absolutely everything prepped and pre-measured (and with the offer of a clean/funky apron) guests seem happy to step up and deal with the 5 steps. 1) oil and onions 2) first set of vegetables 3) add sauce 4) add last two veg and pasta; 5) big finish with onions and sprouts. See all my Tips below...
Ready, Set, Go!
- Prep all vegetables before beginning to cook. (These can be prepared up to 1 day in advance.)
- Prepare soy mixture beforehand.
- Start to boil the pasta water right at the start, and cook noodles or pasta sooner vs. later during the process - tiny bit of multi-tasking here - or another guest's job.
1 yellow bell pepper
1 cup oyster or shiitake mushrooms
2 small baby bok choy
1 red onion
Pepper: core and seed, then slice into bite sized strips
Mushrooms - trim tough ends from oyster mushrooms, or from Shiitake mushrooms - entire stems which are too tough to eat; if small leave whole; if larger cut into bite-sized pieces
Bok choy - slice lengthwise into strips.
Red onion: Cut red onion into 1/4" wide wedges.
2 tsp vegetable oil
Heat oil in a large wide sauté / fry pan set over medium high heat. Add red onion and cook for two minutes, stirring often. Then add pepper, mushrooms and bok choy (prepped as outlined above) and stir often for 3 minutes
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 3/4 tsp hot-red-pepper-flakes
1 tbsp cornstarch
Stir together rice vinegar with soy sauce, water, brown sugar, pepper flakes and cornstarch.
Stir soy mixture into vegetables. Stir constantly for 2 minutes.
8 stalks asparagus, about 1/2 bunch
1 cup snow peas, ends removed
Asparagus: (optional, if not in season) Cut off and discard tough ends of asparagus and slice spears diagonally into 1 inch pieces. (about 1 cup). Add asparagus and snow peas and stir for two minutes.
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts (optional)
Stir in green onions and bean sprouts (if using). Reduce heat to low.
Add drained noodles and toss well. Serve.
Notes and Tips...
- Mushrooms - my preference for this is shiitake
- Red pepper flakes - I like a little spice kick but not a lot. I use only about 1/4 tsp. It's easier to give guests a condiment to add spice. If the dish turns out too spicy, then it may be appealing to fewer guests.
- Bucatini - having tried a few pastas, I keep returning to bucatini. I like the look and texture of it - but variations are possible linked to preferences.
- Asparagus: selecting - I prefer local and seasonal so I am not making asparagus all year round. Ideally, in the store, the asparagus should be standing in about an inch of water which helps ensure it's freshness. The "Goldilocks Rule" apples - not too thin, and not too thick - in between is "just right"! (And fingers crossed that the vendor was reasonable enough to bundle similar thicknesses together.)
- Asparagus - "to snap or not to snap"? In recent years it became trendy to bend the asparagus and supposedly it would snap at the point between fresh and not fresh. A favourite Swiss/French chef I worked with convinced me this was nonsense and wasteful. He cuts 1-1.5 " off the bottom. (For him it was important that the stalks be the same length.) Then he used a vegetable peeler to remove any tough outer skins that might be on the bottom 2-3". Here's support for this from @thekitchn.
- Bean Sprouts - the recipe works fine without them. I used to use them but that was when they were sold in a loose display and I could just grab what I needed. Now, in stores where I shop, sprouts are sold in sealed plastic bags - often already seeming to be slimy - ick. And if use only half the bag, the other half is even more slimy by the time I figure how to to use them...
- Serving dish - this tends to appear on the family table in a large Itlaian style pasta bowl / serving dish and everyone helps themselves.
- Make ahead - see 'Ready, Set, Go' above - this can all be prepped the day ahead and then comes together like magic.
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