I must admit that when I first acquired a wok, I went overboard with the variety of ingredients I tossed into it. Corn and peas—two vegetables my kids willingly ate—were often stir-fried, and I sometimes added some leftover cooked macaroni or spaghetti, too, to round out the dish.
While my children were mostly happy with my wok creations, they were dismayed when they saw the dinner I concocted one particularly hectic night.
The stir-fry sauce in the recipe I was following called for brown sugar, among other ingredients, which I didn’t have. Instead, I added a generous dollop of honey to the mixture and turned up the heat to high as the recipe instructed. Moments later, the honey had coated everything else in the wok and turned an unappetizing dark brown. The aroma of burnt food hung over the kitchen. And while some family members valiantly sampled my effort, peanut-butter sandwiches were the main dish du jour for those who opted out.
If stir-fry is one of your go-to dinners, try this crisp and colorful dish next time you and your young chefs make dinner together. This version is extra quick because it uses shrimp (thus, no time-consuming dicing of meat is required) and snow peas (which kids can prep by pinching off the ends). Buy shelled, deveined frozen shrimp, and let them defrost in the fridge overnight.
Stir-fry offers lots of room for variation. Feel free to swap scallops for shrimp, or broccoli (or green beans) for snow peas. Canned baby corn is a nice add-in, too. Just open and drain a can and stir in the baby corn during the last few minutes of cooking. As for what to serve with stir-fry, my kids beg for white rice or rice noodles, while I prefer brown rice, whole-wheat linguine, or couscous. For dessert, serve any kind of cookies the kids like.
What Kids Learn
- Sometimes, substitute ingredients can wreck a dinner
- Woks cook food quickly
- Some shortcuts (like using frozen, deveined shrimp) cut down on prep time
- It’s fun—and easy—to pinch off the ends of snow peas
What You’ll Need
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 pound large shrimp (thawed if frozen; peeled and deveined)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
- 2 scallions
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 dozen snow peas
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, optional
What to Do
- The prep here is easy peasy: Show your child how to peel and chop the garlic. Have her combine shrimp, ½ the soy sauce, and the chopped garlic in a medium bowl, stir well, and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Together, prep the vegetables. Show her how to slice off the root end of each scallion. She can then slice the scallion into small slices. Show her how to core and seed the red bell pepper. She can then dice it into ½-inch pieces, or you can do this step. If your child is too young to handle a knife, you can prep the vegetables. Help her rinse the snow peas under cold water and show her how to snap or pinch off the ends.
Teachable Moment: 5 Fun Snow-Pea Facts
- The snow pea is a specially bred type of pea, created so that even the pod would be edible.
- The snow pea is considered a legume, but chefs worldwide use snow peas as a vegetable—often in stir-fry meals and salads.
- Snap, garden, and snow peas are all climbing plants, but they look and taste different.
- Garden (or sweet) peas have firm pods and edible round peas inside; their pods are not edible.
- Snap peas are a cross between snow and garden peas. You can eat their peas and pods—cooked or fresh out of the refrigerator.
- Put a wok on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the oil. Add the scallion and red pepper. Stir-fry for 3 minutes.
Teachable Moment: 4 Stirring Wok Facts
- Stir-fried foods look and taste great because they’re cooked really fast over a super-high heat so they don’t lose all their color, flavor, and texture.
- Because woks cook food so quickly, smart chefs prep all ingredients beforehand, often placing them in the small bowls you may have seen on TV cook-offs. (The ingredients are ready to go when needed.)
- The smaller the pieces of food you add to the pan, the more quickly they cook; bigger pieces may take longer.
- For the best results, don’t overcrowd the pan with ingredients. The bottom part of the wok, which sits right on top of your stove, is the part that gets the hottest. Experienced cooks can push different ingredients up into the sides of the pan to cool off while allowing others more TLC time in the center.
- Add the shrimp and the snow peas. Stir-fry for 4 to 6 minutes until the shrimp is pink and opaque and the snow peas are tender-crisp. Transfer this mixture to a serving dish.
- Let your child measure and stir in the remaining soy sauce, along with 1 tablespoon of water. He can then grind a little black pepper over the stir-fry. Let him stir the mixture gently.
- Serve the stir-fry with your choice of noodles, rice, or couscous.