- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 2
Stir-fried greens are a staple of Chinese meals. If you go to a restaurant or you’re eating at home, there’s usually a plate of stir-fried greens on the table. This recipe is for what I call “standard-issue” stir-fried greens. It’s a bulletproof way of sautéing bright green, toothsome leafy greens that have both flavor and textural integrity. It’s not difficult, but there’s a formula that requires high heat, steam, and a well-balanced cooking liquid to yield my ideal plate of greens.
Here I call for mature spinach with a stem, but feel free to use baby spinach or any tender leafy greens such as yam leaves, watercress, bok choy, or Chinese broccoli (if you want to cook hearty, leafy greens, try my recipe for Ginger Kale with “Lobster” Sauce. Or, for much sturdier vegetables like cabbage, try my Hunan Hand-Torn Cabbage With Bacon and Chilis). There is one very important rule to adhere to for cooking stir-fried greens that I inherited from my dad: choose garlic or ginger, but never both. Using too many aromatics could risk muddling the flavor of this dish, so we pick one to stand out. You’ll also find the leaves will absorb more of the flavor from the cooking liquid than the stems, so mix your greens well to ensure well-balanced bites.
A note: Once you turn the heat on your pan or wok, this dish will come together extremely quickly. To make sure everything goes smoothly, have all your ingredients prepped and measured before getting started. —Lucas Sin
garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
spinach, yam leaves, or watercress, cut into 2-inch-long pieces
chicken powder or MSG
- Heat a flat-bottomed skillet or wok over high heat. Once hot, add oil and heat until barely smoking. Add garlic and stir until aromatic but not golden, about 5 seconds. Add the greens and toss immediately to prevent the garlic from burning. Once well mixed, add the water and cover. Let steam for 2 minutes.
- Once the greens are beginning to soften and are cooked about 60 percent of the way, season with salt, sugar, and chicken powder. Toss well and plate, letting the residual heat cook the vegetables fully (the final product should be bright green, barely wilted, and glossy).