Why are stir-fries one of the most popular Asian dishes made at home? Because they are versatile, economical, and fast. No matter what you have (or don’t have) in the fridge, a stir-fry can generally be had. So today, we’re going to introduce one that is less familiar. Chanpuru hails from Okinawa, and like many stir fries, it’s made with commonly found veggies, a small amount of protein, and some seasoning. Intriguingly, Chanpuru highlights the contact Okinawa has made with foreigners who’ve influenced the cuisine. A mashup of Japanese, Chinese, American, and Southeast Asian cuisine, Chanpuru often features bitter melon (called Goya in Okinawa) and luncheon meat or Spam. Yes that Spam, the canned pork product that enjoys an enormous popularity throughout much of Asia: a holdover from the war and the rations eaten by American soldiers. If you look at where there have been American bases or heavy US military presence, you will see Spam featured on the menu in fascinating ways.
I like bitter melon fine, but it can be hard to find in Miami. And I love a good mystery meat or even challenge meat, but the weird spongy texture of spam and the absurd shelf life are not my thing. So today, I’m taking influence from the spirit of Chanpun, which is to make it with what you have readily on hand. I’m making my Chanpuru with chicken, tofu, and easily found veggies, but feel free to sub in your own favorite proteins. Cabbage, carrots, onion, and beansprouts are very common both in Okinawa and in America. Cheap, abundant, and filling… But by all means, if you can get your hands on some bitter melon or you love Spam, go for it!
There are a few stir-fry basics to keep in mind, and these make the difference between a perfect stir-fry or one with things over/undercooked:
- Prep all your ingredients and have them within reach.
- Preheat your pan first. (FOR SEVERAL MINUTES SO IT’S HOT)
- Then add the oil.
- Keep it moving! (In other words, emphasis on the STIR part of stir-fry)
So I begin making the Chanpuru by prepping the proteins and veggies, and making sure I have the sauce ingredients close at hand.
Now that the proteins are ready, I begin prepping the vegetables.
Stir Fry Time!
Now that everything is prepped and ready to go, it’s time to heat your pan. I used a large 12″ skillet and it was barely enough room. You can split the amount in half and make it in batches if your pan is smaller. The first step is to fry the tofu so it’s browned and crisp. I like the crunchy chewy texture that it gives to the Chanpun. If you’re short on time or don’t want to bother with this step, you can add the tofu in cold. In that case, I would add it towards the end, after most of the stir frying is done, to keep it from breaking apart.
It’s important to let the egg cook halfway before gently scrambling. If you scramble immediately, your eggs will breakdown into tiny bits that will disappear into the dish.
Once you’ve mixed the beansprouts in, taste the dish before plating. Watery vegetables give off a lot of moisture, so it’s important to adjust seasonings before serving to avoid a bland dish. The last touch, which I think makes this dish special, is adding a hefty dose of katsuobushi flakes on top. Their smoky goodness really makes this simple stir-fry shine.
Love how quick and easy stir-fries come together? Then you’ll love my Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry, Yakisoba, and this simple pork one! I hope you give Chanpuru a try and let me know what you think. Comment here or tag us @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 4 Tablespoons neutral oil
- ¼ head green cabbage (I used Taiwan cabbage which is more tender)
- 1 medium carrot
- ½ large onion
- 2 large eggs
- 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8 ounces)
- ½ block firm tofu (about 8 ounces)
- 1 large handful bean sprouts (about 6 ounces)
- 2 scallions
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 large pinches katsuo bushi
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 Tablespoon mirin
- ½ teaspoon dashi powder
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
Prep the proteins:
- Drain and cut the tofu into small ½ inch slices. Set aside on a couple pieces of paper towels to drain.
- Cut the chicken in half lengthwise and then into thin slices and set aside.
Prep the veggies:
- Core the green cabbage and cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.
- Peel and trim the carrot and then slice thin. Cut across the slices to create matchsticks. Set aside.
- Trim the onion and then slice thin.
- Trim the scallions and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces. Set aside.
For the Stir Fry:
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and then whisk briefly.
- Heat a large pan over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. Add 2 Tablespoons of oil and then the tofu.
- Let the tofu crisp up untouched for a couple minutes and then flip the tofu over and continue to brown the tofu for a couple more minutes. Set aside.
- Raise the heat to high and add the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, chicken, and onions to the pan.
- Stir fry for a couple minutes and then add the cabbage and carrots. Continue to stir fry for several minutes, moving the ingredients around constantly.
- Add the sauce ingredients to the pan and stir.
- Lower the heat to medium and move the ingredients to the edge of the pan.
- Add the egg to the middle of the pan and let it cook undisturbed for a couple minutes until half set and then gently stir, breaking up the egg.
- add the beansprouts, scallions, and tofu and stir fry for another minute. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
- Transfer the stir fry to a plate and top with katsuo bushi. Serve immediately.
Keywords: stir fry, okinawan food, japan, chicken, tofu, eggs, quick, dinner ideas