As a Chinese-American girl growing up on everything from pot roast and pasta to tofu and stir-fries, I’ve always had a rather eclectic appreciation for food. But for those really busy workweeks, I always find myself — in an unironically stereotypical sort of way — coming back to one basic strategy from my Chinese roots. I call it the “serve with rice” strategy.
The "Serve with Rice" Dinner Strategy
The great thing about said strategy is that it’s incredibly versatile, and all you need to do is put together one dish each night. Served with rice, it’s a full, satisfying meal. Your week looks something like this: You make a giant batch of steamed rice on Sunday and reheat it to go with dinner each night during the week. On Friday night, you can transform any leftover rice into the ultimate treat: a big bowl of tasty, fragrant fried rice.
The key to making this strategy successful is to concentrate on variety. In this set of recipes, you’ll find an awesome vegetarian dinner; some chicken, beef, and fish; and a fried rice made with … what else? Bacon and eggs (it’s awesome, trust me). Many of the seasonings and aromatics you need for each dish are the same, including soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic.
While Asian cooking can be a mystery for many, it’s actually one of the easiest, fastest ways to prepare meals. There’s no major make-ahead prep required, and everything comes together very quickly. All you need to do is have a big pot of rice standing by.
5 Stir-Fried Dinners to Serve with Rice
- A quick and easy (not to mention vegan) Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Stir-Fry.
- Chicken and Snap Peas Stir-Fry — done in 20 minutes from start to finish.
- A Thai-inspired Quick and Easy Basil Beef.
- Optional: Serve with Thai Stir-Fried Greens with Oyster Sauce as a vegetable side dish.
- Seared Salmon with Soy, Scallions, and Ginger (Don’t forget to use your rice to soak up all that delicious sauce!)
- Optional: Serve with Spicy Stir-Fried Zucchini as a vegetable side dish.
- Leftover rice? Wrap up the week with a better-than-breakfast Bacon and Egg Fried Rice.
Your Meal Plan
- Shop for ingredients to make your weeknight meals. Feel free to store your protein (chicken breast, flank steak, salmon fillets) in the freezer at this point, as you’ll be defrosting them throughout the week.
- Cook a big batch of white or brown rice — you’ll need enough for five dinners! You can also cook another batch midweek if needed.
- It’s meatless Monday! Go vegan without sacrificing flavor by roasting a head of cauliflower and stir-frying it with some great aromatics.
- Reheat your rice and dig in.
- Place the chicken breasts in the refrigerator to defrost for Tuesday night.
- Make a healthy and delicious chicken and snap pea stir-fry and serve with rice for a complete meal.
- Transfer your flank steak or sirloin from the freezer to the fridge to defrost for Wednesday’s dinner.
- Make another amazing dish that takes only 20 minutes to prepare — saucy basil beef.
- Take out four salmon fillets and put them in the fridge to defrost for Thursday.
- If you’re running low on rice, make another batch for Thursday and Friday’s dinners (you'll need five cups for the fried rice).
- Sear the salmon and prepare a quick scallion-ginger sauce. The sauce is amazing when mixed with hot rice.
- Use up any leftover rice for the perfect bacon and egg fried rice.
Your Shopping List
This list reflects just the ingredients for the main dishes; please see individual recipes for the ingredients for the optional side dishes.
To buy at the store:
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 pound flank steak or sirloin steak
- 8 ounces bacon
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 pound snap peas or sugar snap peas
- 6-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 8 scallions
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (about 1/4 bunch)
- 1 cup fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves (about 1/2 bunch)
- 2/3 cup chicken stock
- 3 onions
- 12 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
From your pantry (check to make sure you have enough):
- Rice (enough for 4 dinners plus 5 cups cooked for fried rice)
- 3 large eggs
- 7 ounces vegetable oil
- 7 ounces soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)