Add a Rainbow of Vegetables to Your Weeknight Stir-Fry

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[Photographs: Emily and Matt Clifton]

Preparing a stir-fry for dinner gives us food that checks off two boxes: It's delicious, and it's fast. This pork lo mein delivers on both points, plus it's loaded with noodles, meat, and plenty of vegetables—a complete meal in one wok.

We like using inexpensive country-style boneless pork ribs for this, cutting them down into small strips. Cutting everything small is important in a stir-fry, because you want it all to cook through quickly. You can also use boneless loin chops here, although we recommend sticking with the rib cut if you can find it, since it's got more marbling and is therefore more flavorful.

To make sure the pork stays nice and tender, even when smacked with the high heat of a wok, we first soak it for 15 minutes in a baking soda solution. This is a trick we picked up from Cook's Illustrated, and, having tested it side by side with unsoaked pork, we can confirm it makes a huge difference. Thanks to the alkalizing effects of the baking soda, the pork retains more moisture and tenderness, even as it browns and crisps on its exterior—an important step for building flavor, but one that can toughen up the meat at the same time.

For the vegetables, we choose a colorful array of add-ins, including thinly shredded purple cabbage, bright green Chinese broccoli (though you can substitute Napa cabbage), and thin strips of julienned carrot. Garlic, ginger, and scallions, meanwhile, add aromatic depth, if not much color.

The challenge with stir-frying at home is that most home ranges don't have a powerful enough burner to stir-fry in big batches, like restaurants do. The solution is to break the stir-fry into stages, which avoids overcrowding the pan. We start by searing the vegetables in smoking-hot oil, then transfer them to a plate—they should be singed here and there, while still retaining a fresh bite.

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Next, we add the pork to the wok, browning it in a fresh dose of smoking oil. As soon as it's taken on a bit of color in spots and cooked through, we scrape it out of the wok, then repeat with the noodles (which we've boiled in advance). The noodles should get nice and hot as you toss and stir them, and should also take on a little color of their own. This all translates to deeper flavor.

To finish off the stir-fry, we add the vegetables and pork back to the wok along with the noodles, and toss it all together with a flavorful sauce made from soy and oyster sauces, rice wine, and Chinese black vinegar. There's just enough cornstarch in the sauce to help it thicken up and coat everything in a very light glaze.

We like serving this with some sambal oelek (chili garlic sauce) at the table. That way, anyone who wants a punch of heat can stir some in. All in all, this dish comes together in a little more than half an hour, making it perfect for that weeknight when you don't want to hang around in the kitchen more than you have to. Fresh, tasty, colorful, and balanced lo mein—no delivery required.