Stir-fries are versatile and almost anything can be used to flavour them. Use some Fajita Spice instead of a chinese sauce and the dish is now tex-mex. Have a gluten-free, everything-free friend coming for dinner and not sure of the ingredients in your stock of sauces -a just use salt and pepper. Have a random bottle of piri-piri or Jamaican jerk sauce in your fridge that’s been there for ages? – try that and turn your dish into something entirely different again. Making a side dish for a roast? – lower the heat and use butter & herbs and turn it into a sauteed veg side dish. I once made a stir fry with mayonnaise and branston pickle for an experiment.
Cooking skills are transferable and one doesn’t always need very different skills for different cuisines. Going carb free for a diet? – lower the amount of salt, omit the usual rice accompaniment, and just have the veg as a meal on it’s own or have it with a steak.
Most sauces have enough salt, sugar, and/or vinegar in them to last way past the best before dates. I regularly keep and use sauces 1-2 years past the date and I’m still alive. I do try to rotate through them, but I live alone and I like trying new things so I can’t always finish them in time. With the usual disclaimer of Your Mileage May Vary etc… I’m just saying anecdotally that I do that, whether you follow my advice is up to you. *wink*
I have a vast collection of sauces, but I have lived in the same flat for 3 years, and it can be assumed that that’s 3 years of accumulated ‘ooooh that looks interesting’. Even with a budget limit and a common sense limit, that can still build up. But before I go to the alternative stuff, I want to teach the basics of what I use, so I should stop rambling and get on with it.
The ‘core’ sauces which I go to the most often are soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sweet (malaysian) caramel soy sauce, oyster sauce and ‘min see’ or a chinese malaysian form of yellow bean paste or miso. I add the sauces after the dish is cooked. If I’m using meat I might add one dash once the meat has brown, and another dash after the vegetables are done. The bean paste is a paste not a sauce and so I tend to put it in halfway through browning the garlic, and fry it off a little before adding the meat or veg. There are some dishes which taste better with one or another, but as a go-to basic, any of them will do and are interchangeable.
Amounts vary depending on taste and preference.. and I don’t use measuring spoons for sauces. It also depends on whether you’re feeding children, family members with high blood pressure, diabetes etc. And on whether you’re accompanying the stir fry with plain rice, flavoured rice, or nothing at all. It doesn’t have to be rice either. I have a friend who doesn’t like rice and uses bulgar wheat as a replacement. Cous cous is also a good alternative. A lot of very specific chinese dishes out there get called lettuce wraps, but really lettuce wraps can be made with any stir fry. Or just slice up some lettuce and stir it in just before eating for some extra crunch and bulk without the calories of carbs.
Stir frying is easy and versatile and it forms the bulk of my cooking. I don’t do any advance planning, the most I’d do is think about whether I want meat the next day and take it out to defrost, sometimes with some thought to the veg in the fridge, sometimes without! Sometimes I think about dinner while I’m on my one hour commute home and do some planning based on what’s in the fridge then. Never do I plan stir fries before a supermarket trip. That amount of advance planning is unnecessary, and frankly, i my humble opinion, a hinder to new, busy, cooks!