Growing up in a half-Chinese household, stir fry was often on the menu several times a week. And while there are countless types of stir fry, changing what you serve with it is a great way to keep things interesting and add more balance to your meal.
Even though I could eat steamed rice every day, a little variety is always appreciated. So, whether it’s a special occasion or a quick weeknight meal, here are 7 of the best things to serve with stir fry any day of the week.
1. Steamed Rice
Maybe not the sexiest or exciting option, but plain old steamed rice is an essential stir fry side dish. Growing up with my Chinese grandma, we ate steamed rice with just about every meal, stir fry or not. So, maybe it’s partially nostalgia for me, but steamed rice might be the perfect choice.
It’s a blank canvas that works with almost any stir fry, and it’s a perfect vessel to soak up all that stir fry sauce. I’m partial to white rice, but brown rice is another good option with a bit more nutritional value.
Steamed rice is an easy choice, but making it right isn’t always quite as simple. Making rice in an old-fashioned pot is a badge of honor in my house. But, using one of these Japanese rice cookers does it perfectly every time without any headache.
2. Fried Rice
Fried rice is another great option if steamed rice isn’t your thing, or you’re just looking to mix things up.
While fried rice requires a little more work than steamed rice, it doesn’t need to be complicated. A little ginger and garlic, maybe an egg, and some spare vegetables are really all you need. And just like steamed rice, fried rice is a great vessel to soak up the sauce from whatever other dishes you’re serving.
Fried rice is technically a stir fry dish on its own, and can serve as an entire meal if you want it to. I like to use fried rice as a way to clear out my fridge of odd bits of this and that when I might be due (or overdue) for a trip to the store.
Pro Tip: Cold, leftover rice makes for the best fried rice. It’s generally drier and less likely to stick and clump together.
This is a pretty broad category, but noodles make for a great addition to a lot of different stir-fries. You can make a wide variety of noodles that are as simple or complex as you want, or have time for.
Something like a plain lo-mein or rice noodle are great options when you want to mix things up from your standard steamed or fried rice. You can use them as a bed for your stir fry, or you can mix them with your stir fry to make something similar to a one-pot meal.
In a pinch, you can even use something as simple as dried spaghetti or linguine noodles, just season them with a splash of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.
4. Steamed Vegetables
Steamed vegetables make a great side dish, and they create a nice contrast to stir-fries that can sometimes be on the greasy and salty side.
Steamed vegetables can definitely get a bad rap as being soggy and flavorless. But, you can avoid that by eating seasonally and choosing fresh vegetables that are at the peak of their growing season. Not only will vegetables that are in season taste better, but they’ll often be less expensive as well.
Soup is another versatile side dish that has an endless number of possibilities, and it’s another option that can be easy or elaborate.
In some traditional Chinese restaurants, you actually start off with a small cup of clear broth to get your stomach ready for the meal to come.
And while hot and sour, egg drop, and wonton soup are your standard Chinese-American restaurant options, there are a vast number of recipes online to keep things interesting all year long.
6. Pickled Vegetables
Cool, refreshing, and acidic pickles are the perfect accompaniment to balance out any stir fry. The cold temperature, crisp texture, and sour flavor all work amazingly well with stir-fries that can be hot, spicy, and oily.
Cucumber pickles and kimchi are staples in my house that are almost always on the table when stir fry is on the menu. Kimchi can take a lot of time and effort to make yourself. But you can toss cucumbers, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce together and they’re ready to eat in a matter of minutes.
7. More Stir Fry!
Stir fry is a catch-all term for a wide range of dishes cooked in a certain way (hot, fast, and ideally in a wok). So, choosing 2 or 3 (or more) different stir-fries can make for a fun meal with a lot of variety.
Some of my fondest food memories revolve around meals where a seemingly endless number of stir-fries and other dishes were continuously passed around the table. So, if you’re really feeling ambitious, cook this entire list for a meal that will certainly be one to remember.
For more ingredient substitutes and culinary principles take advantage of our wealth of knowledge in the Kitchen Ambition Cooking School.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can I Serve With Stir Fry Instead Of Rice?
Noodles are a great option to serve instead of rice. And there are a lot of different noodle options to fit any taste or dietary preference.
What Meat Goes Well With Stir Fry?
While any meat can be a great choice for stir fry, what’s more important is how it is cut. Since stir fry is a fast cooking process, you want all of your ingredients to be cut into small bite-size pieces. That will help everything cook quickly and evenly.
Do I Have To Serve Sides With Stir Fry?
No, stir-fries work well as a one-pot meal. It’s common for them to contain vegetables, protein, and starch for a well-balanced meal.