Most forms of vegetarian stir-fry contain a wide variety of vegetables, giving the dish a range of textures, colors, and vitamins. Other types of stir-fry include meat for protein, but a vegetarian version must have other, meatless ingredients that are still rich in protein. These vegetables and other ingredients are quickly fried in hot oil in a wok or skillet. The cook finishes the dish by adding a sauce to the stir-fry and serving it over rice or noodles.
Tofu is common ingredient in vegetarian stir-fry. This meatless food product, made from the curds of soybean milk, is rich in protein, iron, and manganese, among other important nutrients. Cooks often cut the tofu into chunks and squeeze out excess moisture when using it for stir-fry. Many add salt, pepper, or other spices or flavorings before adding the tofu chunks to hot oil and frying until golden in color. The tofu is then removed from the pan and kept warm while the cook fries the other ingredients.
A vegetarian stir-fry typically includes a broad range of vegetables. In many cases, these vegetables are added in batches. Broccoli, as a hard vegetable, takes longer to cook than many other vegetables common to vegetarian stir-fry. If the cook wants all the vegetables to have a similar tender-crisp texture, he or she will fry the broccoli for a few minutes before adding any of the other vegetables.
After frying the broccoli for a few minutes, the cook usually adds other, softer vegetables to the oil. Bell peppers, snow peas, and onions are among the most common additions. Other popular options include sliced carrots, bok choy, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. The cook pan-fries these vegetables for a few minutes while he or she also finishes cooking the broccoli, if included in the stir-fry.
When the cook finishes pan-frying the vegetables, he or she usually adds the pre-cooked tofu, if included, back into the wok or skillet to warm it back up and allow it to soak in some of the flavor from the vegetables. Alternatively, cooks who do not like including tofu in their stir-fry may add nuts, like slivered almonds, walnut chunks, or peanuts, to add a healthy dose of protein to the vegetarian stir-fry in place of meat. The nuts are often added near the end of the cooking process.
As with any other stir-fry, the cook finishes a vegetarian version by adding a sauce to the cooked ingredients before serving. Sweet and sour sauces and teriyaki, or other soy sauce based sauces, are popular choices. After warming the sauce, the cook serves the stir-fry over previously-cooked white or fried rice or noodles. Asian noodles, such as Japanese soba noodles, are more popular than Italian-style pasta noodles. The entire dish is meatless from finish to start, making it a quick, easy, and nutritious option for individuals observing a vegetarian diet.