Here’s another of those nice-food-if-you-can-get-it recipes, the “it” in this case being the tricky to find main ingredient: garlic sprouts.
Though, on second thought, there’s really no good reason these should be so hard to find in the West. They’re just the young green plants you get from a garlic bulb when you plant it in the ground.
Garlic sprouts seem to be a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking, and we also eat them in Japan, usually with beef. The taste is garlicky, but milder than the bulb’s and they have a unique sweetness that’s not weighed down by a strong smell. Their crunchy texture survives a fair amount of cooking.
Here in Montreal you can find Garlic Sprouts at the big Chinese/Vietnamese/Cambodian grocery superstore: Kim Phat.
This bean-sprout stir fry is yet another one of those nothing-to-it dishes that Japanese moms can make pretty much with their eyes closed. As a side dish, it will round out any meal, adding crunchiness, vitamins and a delicious buttery taste to your dinner with a minimum of effort.
Bean sprouts are a staple throughout Asia, and as with any food that’s eaten so often over so many years, it’s sprouted (pun intended) its own little set of food traditions and rituals. One of them, which my husband finds totally crazy but everybody in Japan considers a settled fact, is that you really should trim the sprouts: snapping the stringy ends off with your fingers before you cook them.
This takes time, and it’s an easy corner to cut. In fact, I’m sure Japanese people often do skip this step, unless they are cooking for guests. But Japanese cooking is all about the details, and trimming the ends off of sprouts definitely makes a difference. Try it once, and see for yourself!
You should think of this recipe as a base. Sure, it’s delicious on its own, but if you just add some hot broth to it at the end, you have a delicious soup. And if you use it as a topping for ramen noodles, you easily upgrade a lowly junk food to Real Meal status with a minimum of effort.