A Guide to Stir-Fry Sauces

The Three Commandments of Stir-Fry:

1. When you make a true stir-fry, you add the sauce at the end, after the food is pretty much done*. Why? Because stir-fry sauces can burn or over-reduce quickly causing a soggy, soupy product. Blah…meh.

2. You also cook on medium-high to very high heat. Why? You want to sear the proteins and shock the veggies. You don’t want to marinade, saute or boil. It has to sear; smoke, crackle, pop. Make some noise.

3. Add 4-5oz (about a large handful) of “stuff” unless you have a huge wok that is racing hot. More food means you will cool down the temperature when you dump a bunch in. Serve up a dish at a time. Trust me, it goes quick.


Now let’s go Stir-crazy, not salt crazy!

Beginner Stir-fry Sauce

serving size 1 dish

  • 1 tsp Sesame oil
  • 1 TBL lite-Tamari (gluten free) soy
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp starch (starch keeps the taste evenly dist. on the food, thickens up the liquid and adds a nice gloss for presentation)

You don’t have to add tons of things to a beginner stir-fry! Fresh and exotic veggies can do wonders (e.g. straw mushrooms). It’s this simple. Sear your veggies in sesame oil with minced ginger 1 (tsp) then towards the end around add some garlic (1 tsp). Don’t burn it, but that’s why we do it at the end. Then add sauce for 20-30 seconds. Call it a day. Bam.

Intermediate Stir-fry Sauce

serving size 2 dishes

  • 1/2 cup sodium-free chicken stock
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 TBL dry sherry (or Shao ‘Xing Chinese Sherry)
  • 1/4 tsp starch
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp minced green scallion (white part only)

Mix this and let it sit overnight so the essence of the aromatics can marry. Follow the three commandments at the top

Getting Super Saucy Stir-fry Sauce

serving size 2 dishes

This is from Chengdu, China. Bloom these spices. Simply get a smooth non-stock pan and get it hot. Put these in for 30 seconds:

  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seed crushed
  • 1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorn (or fresh cracked pepper but it won’t have the numbing effect)

Then put these two oils in for 10 seconds and stir:

  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili oil

You should start to cough a little. Your kitchen is starting to smell like a proper kitchen. Then put these in for 30 seconds and stir:

  • 2 scallions minced
  • 1/4 cup minced ginger
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Put this in, wait 10 seconds, turn the stove off and let it cool.

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup lite-soy
  • 1/4 minced garlic or fresh paste
  • 3 tbl black vinegar

Now you have three nice stir-fry sauces in your arsenal. A great way to impress dates, wow your partner, make your parents proud or educate your kid’s palettes. Don’t be afraid to keep adjusting things until you and your dinner mates find it perfect.