Stir-fried garlic spinach

Fresh spinach stir fried with a few seasonings and garlic makes a tasty side dish in minutes.

Garden of Eating
A simple combination of sugar, salt, and rice wine adds flavor to stir fried spinach. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

This spinach has earned a permanent place in my kitchen repertoire. It's so tasty, so fast, and so easy that I just can't quit it. Not that I'd ever want to quit it!

It comes by way of Grace Young's lovely cookbook, "The Breath of a Wok," which my husband gave me as a gift after we returned from a trip to Southeast Asia what feels like a lifetime ago (we were so young).

I've been making Auntie Yi's stir-fried garlic spinach ever since. It's so easy that I always feel a little like I'm cheating somehow. The seasoning is incredibly simple – a tablespoon of rice mirin mixed with equal parts sugar and salt. There are just two things that you need to do to make this a truly stand-out dish:

1. Use really fresh, flavorful spinach – it makes a huge difference in the taste.

2. Get your wok (or wide, flat-bottomed pan if you don't have a wok) really, really hot and don't crowd the spinach. If you want to make more than one bunch of spinach, do it in two batches to ensure you can really stir-fry it effectively.

When I saw the first spinach of the season from Taliaferro Farms in the produce section of my health food store last week, looking all gorgeous and tender and a practically radioactive shade of green that only occurs in the spring, I knew this would be on the menu. A little washing and drying, chopping, mixing, and stir-frying and we were in business. As always, it was so good!

Stir-fried garlic spinach 
Minimally adapted from Grace Young's excellent book "The Breath of a Wok"
Serves 4 as a side

2 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 bunch fresh spinach (about 10 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cane sugar

1 tablespoon rice mirin or dry sherry

1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

1. Heat a 14-inch flat bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds.

2. Add all the spinach and stir-fry for 10 seconds.

3. Add the salt, sugar and rice wine and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach is just tender but still bright green. Garnish with the sesame seeds (if you like) and serve.

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