A Simple Stir-Fry with Big Bang

You’ve all probably had this experience: You spy a dress or jacket on a rack that doesn’t really look all that special. But you tote it to the dressing room, just for the heck of it, without any real expectations.

There, you slip it on, and it reveals itself to be not only flattering, but downright transformative.

This recipe for “Stir Fried Chicken with Tomatoes” is like that piece of clothing. It’s a simple stir-fry that doesn’t look like much on the page. In fact, it’s one of those recipes that you’re likely to just flip right over in a cookbook.

But what a mistake that would be.

This recipe comes from “Cooking from the Heart, the Hmong Kitchen in America” (University of Minnesota Press) by Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang. It’s filled with both traditional and more contemporary dishes made by the Hmong who settled in the United States after the Vietnam War from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Burma. Assembling the cookbook was no easy task. The Hmong typically don’t write down recipes. Indeed, their form of communication was primarily oral rather than written until as late as the end of the 19th century.

I’m not sure what first attracted me to this recipe, which is an example of the type of cooking younger Hmong do these days. Maybe it was because it was simple enough to do on a busy weeknight. Or that it didn’t call for any exotic ingredients. Whatever it was, I admit that I approached it with low expectations.

You take bite-sized pieces of skinless, boneless chicken (it calls for breasts, but I used thighs), and stir-fry with cherry tomatoes, green onions, garlic, salt, black pepper, cilantro and oyster sauce.  That’s it.

I spooned some over fluffy steamed rice, and took a taste.


The oyster sauce and fresh tomatoes had created a sea of umami goodness. The copious amount of chopped green onions added a zingy brightness to this intensely savory tasting dish that will have you smacking your lips. For so few ingredients, you’d never guess a dish would result with such deep, resonating flavors. But it sure does.

The only change I made was to reverse the order of cooking the ingredients. The recipe originally called for adding the tomatoes to the pan first, but I like to add them a little later in the cooking process so they don’t break down completely.

This is definitely a dish I’ll be making again and again. Thank goodness I took a chance to try it on for size.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Tomatoes

(Serves 4 as part of a family-style meal)

1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 gloves garlic, chopped

10 cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

Cilantro, chopped to equal 1/4 cup, loosely packed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Wash the chicken breast and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. In a medium-sized skillet, heat vegetable oil to medium-hot. Add chicken and cook until nearly cooked through. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Into the same pan, add garlic, tomatoes, and green onions and stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes, until they are aromatic but not brown. Add chicken back to the pan. Then, add cilantro, salt, pepper, and oyster sauce and stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes until flavors are combined and chicken is cooked through. Serve hot with rice.

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled for a larger crowd or to turn it into a main dish.

Adapted from a recipe from Cindy Vue, as published in “Cooking from the Heart”

More Asian Dishes with Tomatoes: My Mom’s Tomato Beef Chow Mein

More Easy Asian Dishes: Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce

An Easy Korean Meal: Tteokbokk and Joanne’s Mom’s Omelet

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  • That is an interesting recipe! This dish sure looks delicious and fragrant!



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  • My Mom’s advice was always, “Oh just try it on!” You are right sometimes that leads to the best finds! My jar of oyster sauce is very neglected so I will break it out and try this on.

  • I love the tomatoes in this stir fry!

  • Was going to do something with chicken tonight and have everything but the oyster sauce. Do you think I can substitute hoisin? How similar are the flavors?

  • This looks delicious. Great Photos!

  • How interesting! I’d never think to include tomatoes in a stir fry…but what not? It certainly looks more than edible–delicious I’d say!

  • An interesting & apart stir fry!

    This is the food I love!

  • Sophia: Hoisin would probably work, though it will make for a slightly sweeter tasting dish. If you try it, you’ll have to report back to us on how it came out. 😉

  • “The oyster sauce and fresh tomatoes had created a sea of umami goodness.” Sold! Looks delicious!!

  • This book is at the top of my list! There is a substantial Hmong community here in Minneapolis/St. Paul (they are, in fact, the largest Asian group in the area) and their contribution to the local food scene is characteristically low-key and yet tremendously valuable. They have become an integral part of the farmers’ market movement, growing the produce that is so key not only to Asian cuisine, but also to those of the Latin American and African communities here.

    Their food is truly home-cooking: I’ve heard of only one restaurant that serves Hmong dishes in the Twin Cities so any opportunity to try it will have to involve ingratiating myself with Hmong friends and hoping for an invitation! Until then, this cookbook would be a wonderful glimpse into the cuisine!

  • Exciting! I lived with a Hmong family for about 6 months in Thailand and tried to learn some cooking but most of what I really learned was just Thai food. Neat! 🙂

  • That does sound like a really simple dish. And I love tomatoes and oyster sauce, it reminds me of your beef tomato recipe! 🙂

  • Many times we are skeptical about recipes with the simplest ingredients list. I had that sentiment the first time I made Wethani Kyet (Burmese fried pork curry). It has become our family favorite.

    Thanks for sharing this easy recipe. I will definitely give this a try.

  • I love it when a recipe is a surprise like this. Sounds delicious, and sounds like a must try!

  • Perfect – I was wondering what to do with the leftover cilantro and green onions from Superbowl.

  • Yummie, from the ingredients in this dish I already know that I’d love it…great pictures!

  • I loved that way you started this post. Very creative, to compare it to a piece of clothing.
    I usually skip right over stir-fries, too. Glad you gave it another glance for us!

  • I love to use tomatoes in many dishes lately. Some say if tomatoes can be included in any one dish each day, it is good for us 😀

  • Beautiful dish! I love the recipe.

  • I fixed the stir fry last night after work. It was indeed sooooo easy, which is important for a non-foodie like me, and yummy. Next time I’ll work on my timing because the rice was done a few minutes after the stir fry.
    It was only the second time I’ve used oyster sauce (your mom’s easy noodle recipe was the first) – I cannot believe I’ve gone so long without it.
    Thanks for sharing – this recipe’s a keeper!

  • Oh, I just love simple stir fry recipes! I’m big on using simple fresh ingedients. I will definitely try this.

  • Wow, that stirfry chicken with tomatoes looks really good.

  • what a colorful dish! my attention is always quickly grabbed by anything made with cilantro, so you had me hooked just upon seeing the picture! great recipe, carolyn.
    incidentally, my dressing room experiences are just the opposite–i see something that’d be PERFECT for me, but when i get it on, it’s downright hideous. 🙂

  • wow this look absolutely delicious!

  • I’ve got all of these things in my fridge and I can definitely see making this for dinner tomorrow night.


  • I per-ordered this book when I saw it coming out. I have not tried this recipe yet, but am having so much fun digging through the book. Thanks for sharing your dish. I am definitely moving this one up on my list.

  • Always room on the shelf for one more cookbook, right?
    Thanks for sharing this umami inspired weeknight meal!

  • This looks soo yummy!! Can’t wait to try it. I love stir fry!

  • Everything looks so good. Don”t know where to start, be sure l will try them allhttp://digitalphotographytemplates.blogspot.com/

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