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Versatile Zucchini Stir-fry

Updated: May 30, 2022

This is one of a very few dishes that I never get tired of. Unlike Kimchi, a typical staple dish that never leaves the Korean dinner table, this zucchini stir-fry is so simple to make, yet so versatile that it goes with many main dishes irrespective of your culinary heritage. Perhaps the secret of this versatility resides in the fact that this recipe brings out the sweetness of zucchini and complements it with a subtle spicy kick.

This zucchini stir-fry is a traditional Korean side dish that accompanies cooked rice. In fact, I inherited this recipe from my mother and this dish always reminds me of my childhood in Korea. But I had success in pairing it with bagels, pasta, and soba noodles, to name a few. I hope that you will try my recipe and re-purpose it to your liking. Possibilities are endless.

Spicy zucchini stir-fry

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

Quarter a sweet onion (thinly sliced)

Three medium zucchinis (thinly sliced in half-moon shapes)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp of red pepper powder

1/2 tsp of freshly chopped garlic

1/2 tsp of freshly chopped ginger or ginger powder


The first thing to do is to prepare for zucchini. You will need to remove excess water from it by salting and draining it ahead of time. Without this step, you can easily end up with a soupy stir-fry. Who wants that? Cut a zucchini lengthwise first and slice each half piece thinly in half-moon shapes. Set up a colander over an empty bowl and put the half-moon zucchini in the colander. Add salt to the sliced zucchini and mix it well. Due to the osmosis, water will come out of the zucchini and be collected into the bowl below the colander. Leave the salted zucchini for at least half an hour before cooking. While waiting for the zucchini to become seasoned, you can prepare for onions and garlic.

When you notice some zucchini water collected in the bowl, you are ready to roll now. Heat up a stir-fry pan over a medium high heat with a teaspoon of canola oil on the pan.

Once the pan is hot enough, stir-fry the sliced onion first. When they become somewhat translucent, add the drained zucchinis to the pan. Stir-fry them for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle some red pepper powder on top of the zucchinis and continue to stir-fry them to create spicy oil. Once they become soft enough, taste some and season them further with salt to your taste if necessary.

When the cooked zucchinis are soft enough but not mushy, turn off the heat, add the chopped garlic and ginger to the pan, and mix everything well.

Now you can serve this dish with cooked rice or noodles. Any leftover can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. I usually cook this dish in a big batch and use its leftover to fix quick meals such as bagel sandwiches, soba noodles, and pasta. Let me know what other creative ways you have found to make the best use of this tasty dish.

Just to give you some idea about how this side dish can be served in a typical Korean meal, I took this picture of my dinner tonight. In the first row, multi-grain rice (left) and fermented soybean soup (a Korean version of miso soup; right) are shown. In the second row, Kimchi (right) and a plate of side dishes (roasted seaweed, zucchini, and mung bean sprouts in a clockwise rotation). They are the topics of my future posts. Stay tuned...

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