Iowa Writes

Thai Stir-Fry

     This is a very simple recipe. Any vegetables can be used. Big leaves from kale and collards, bok choy (very good), spinach—everything green you can use. Green onions are very good. I put green onions in almost every dish. I like to play with color. My grandmother always said food is not just yummy, it has to look good too, so I put different colors in there. I will add yellow squash for color. Squash takes less time to cook than kale. Or I add cabbage or onion for white— I like cabbage crunchy, so I don't cook it much. You can add red peppers or tomatoes for red.
     We have different vegetables in Thailand. The pumpkin is very popular; I haven't found a similar tasting one in the US. Every baby has to eat pumpkin because of the vitamins. Pumpkin goes well with shrimp in this recipe. Thai eggplants are long and thin.
     I serve this dish with jasmine rice. In Thailand, many traditional meals, such as spicy curry, soups, and stir frys, are served with white jasmine rice. When I have extra money, I buy brown rice and mix it with the white rice. Brown rice has more fiber and nutrition.
     When cooking stir-fry recipes, it is best to use a very heavy, cast iron wok, bowl-shaped. The thin, light woks they sell in most stores in America don't work. A real wok is made from iron. Ancient people believed that when you cooked from an iron pan, you got some iron in the food. My grandmother loved to cook. Her wok was so big that it could have been a swimming pool! She always cooked when we had a festival in the temple in South Thailand. I have cooked since I was little. I learned to cook with my mom. My sister's job was to clean. My brother's job was to take care of the outside.
     I grew up in the kitchen. I love cooking. Cooking real Thai food cheers me up. I love to share the food. I made 150 spring rolls last week. My children brought some egg rolls to school and I brought some to work to share. I put a coupon in the elementary school auction offering "Learn to make Spring Rolls." It sold for $75!

Core Ingredients:
Garlic, chopped
Olive oil
Black pepper
Oyster sauce (available at Asian groceries; Chinese and Thai brands are recommended)
Fish sauce or soy sauce

Ingredients to choose according to season and preference:
1 cup of meat (chicken, pork, or turkey) or tofu
3 cups of chopped, fresh vegetables, based on season and preference: zucchini, green onions, yellow squash, cabbage, red peppers, onions, eggplant, Thai chiles, Thai pumpkin, kale, collards, bok choy, or spinach.
Fresh ginger and/or basil if available

•  If you are using chicken, pork, or turkey, slice it into small pieces. Marinate the meat in a mixture of oyster sauce, garlic, black pepper, and mayonnaise. Put meat in fridge until ready to use.
•  Warm one teaspoon of oil in pan; when hot, add chopped garlic. When the garlic turns golden brown, add firm tofu (if you like tofu). Add three shakes of the oyster sauce and one shake of fish sauce.
•  Add zucchini or other vegetables and leave the meat in the pan. When the zucchini or veggies are almost done, add black pepper.
•  Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

Variation: For a spicy recipe, eggplant and ground turkey are best. Cook the eggplant until soft, then add Thai chiles, oyster sauce, fish sauce, ginger, and basil. Turn off the stove after you put the basil in.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Aum's story and recipe were included in Food Roots, a cookbook published in 2010 by Local Foods Connection (LFC) in collaboration with an Art and Ecology class at the University of Iowa. Clients and farmers interviewed for this book come from Illinois, Iowa, California, Mexico, Guatemala, Republic of the Sudan, The Togolese Republic, El Salvador, and Thailand.

Local Foods Connection ( enrolls low-income families and the agencies that serve them in CSA programs. CSAs provide a season's worth of fresh produce to consumers while paying local earth-friendly farmers fair prices for the food they grow, raise, and produce. Clients have the opportunity to visit a farm, as well as to learn healthy cooking methods. These opportunities are part of LFC's larger educational program, which covers nutrition, cooking, and environmental issues.

This page was first displayed
on July 04, 2011

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