Healthy eating doesn’t have to be a struggle. Yasai Itame is Japan’s favorite vegetable stir-fry recipe, and you can make it with your choice of veggies in less than 30 minutes.
Not only is it nutritious and light, but the meat and veggies are covered in a delicious soy and oyster sauce, which makes it such a delightful meal.
It’s easy to throw together all the leftover veggies you have, drizzle them in the sauce, add in some protein if you like, and then you have a flavorful dish you can serve hot.
This recipe is beginner-friendly too, so it might just end up as one of your go-to Japanese dishes.
In this post we'll cover:
How to make an easy Yasai Itame dish
I’m making Yasai Itame with chicken breast, carrots, snow peas, cabbage, green bell pepper, bean sprouts, onion, and a savory sauce. Sound delicious, right?
Yasai Itame with chicken recipe
- carbon steel wok
- 10 oz chicken breast cut into thin strips
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cooking sake
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1- inch fresh ginger minced
- ½ onion sliced
- ¼ cabbage sliced
- 1 oz snow peas
- 2 carrots sliced into thin strips
- 1 green bell pepper sliced
- 3.5 oz bean sprouts
- As you prep the tools and ingredients, grab a bowl and place your chicken pieces. Cover with sake and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Let the meat marinate for about 5 minutes.
- Heat the wok, add the oil and fry the minced garlic and ginger for approximately 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken and fry for about 3 minutes. The meat will lose the pink color and start to brown.
- Add the onion, carrot, cabbage, and stir fry for 5 minutes.
- Once the veggies have softened, add the snow peas, bean sprouts, and bell peppers. These don’t need more than a couple of minutes to cook.
- Drizzle the soy sauce and oyster sauce.
- Keep stir-frying for about 2 more minutes. Stirring is important because you don’t want the ingredients to stick to the bottom of the wok.
- Mix everything together and serve on a bed of hot rice (or a side dish of your choice).
Yasai Itame cooking tips
If you don’t own a wok, you can use a flat-bottomed non-stick frying pan which works almost as well.
Then, always make sure to heat the pan before adding the oil. The oil should be very hot when you add the meat or veggies, so you can hear them sizzling.
It’s important to respect the cooking order of vegetables. You must cook hard vegetables first, or else you risk undercooking them.
Soft veggies like thin carrot strips and bean sprout are ready quickly, so they go into the wok last.
Don’t forget to stir continuously to ensure all the ingredients are fried evenly. This also helps prevent them from sticking to the wok.
This is a great dish for meal prep because it stays fresh for up to 3 days in the fridge and 14 days in the freezer.
Considering it takes less than half an hour to make 4 servings, you make many portions for large family meals or meal prepping.
What is Yasai Itame?
Yasai Itame (野菜炒め) is a vegetable stir-fry. Yasai is the word for vegetables, and Itame is a noun form of the word stir-fry (itameru).
Although this dish is most commonly cooked at home, many restaurants serve it as Teishoku (part of a meal set) for lunch or dinner.
There’s no clear information on the origin of Yasai Itame, but it seems like it was borrowed and adapted a long time ago from Chinese stir-fries.
The veggie-only version of this dish is a popular side dish for rice. But, contrary to the name of the dish, it’s actually cooked with some meat, usually pork, sausage, chicken, and beef.
So, it’s not quite the vegan dish you’d expect, but you can always make the simple veggie-only version.
With a tasty protein source, this stir-fry is the perfect main course for busy weeknights.
The most common Yasai Itame vegetables include cabbage, carrots, snow peas, bean sprouts, onions, and peppers. The veggies are seasoned with a delicious soy sauce and oyster sauce mixture.
When meat is added, it is seasoned with some sake and soy to bring out that umami flavor. Then it’s all served hot with rice, noodles, or other side dishes.
Yasai Itame recipe variations
Since Yasai Itame is a healthy dish, it’s often paired with very healthy ingredients like zucchini noodles to make it completely diet and weight-loss-friendly.
Combine the zucchini noodles with garlic and chili to add more flavor, and you’ve got yourself a low-carb recipe.
This is the type of recipe where you can really use whatever veggies you’ve got. Mushrooms, broccoli, green beans, you name it, and you can add it to the wok.
Here’s another Healthy Vegan Stir Fry Sauce with No Sugar recipe
Vegan & vegetarian
Vegans will appreciate that this dish is customizable and meat is not necessary. In fact, it’s lower in calories and healthier without it.
A common vegan substitute for meat in Yasai Itame is tofu.
Cut the tofu into small 1 inch pieces and fry alongside the vegetables at the same time. Marinating the tofu in soy sauce and sake will make it juicier and more flavorful.
Substitute the oyster with a black bean sauce, mushroom sauce, hoisin, or vegan stir-fry sauce.
While Yasai Itame tastes great in the meat-free version, a form of protein makes it more satisfying and delicious.
Chicken, beef, pork, sausage, and turkey are all great options. You can add the meat as small pieces or use minced meat.
If you like seafood, prawns, and jumbo shrimp will be taste great with the oyster sauce. The seafood umami flavors are amazing, and there’s no doubt this kind of dish will satisfy the whole family.
If you want to make a plate of veggie stir-fry look even better, you can add all kinds of toppings and garnishes.
Scallions, chives, mitsuba (Japanese parsley), cilantro, sesame seeds, baby corn, and chili peppers are all tasty options.
How to serve Yasai Itame
A meaty Yasai Itame is a hearty main course, served with rice.
But, many restaurants serve this dish as part of their lunch or dinner Teishoku. This is a complete meal set that includes an appetizer or side dish, a soup, the main course, and some pickled foods (tsukemono).
When you make Yasai Itame at home, you can serve it alongside steamed rice, fried rice, or other grains like quinoa.
The most common topping for this stir fry is tsukemono (pickled salty vegetables), such as pickled zucchini, red onion slaw, pickled cabbage, and daikon radish.
It’s also a suitable side dish for bami goreng or other fried noodles.
In fact, many people like to combine some type of thick noodles with the stir-fry because it gives a more chewy texture as opposed to rice.
It’s a common custom in Japan to enjoy a cup of sake after a stir-fry.
Sake is the type of alcoholic beverage that complements and enhances the flavor of rice and chicken dishes; thus, it’s perfect for drinking with Yasai Itame.
Is Yasai Itame healthy?
Yasai Itame is one of the healthiest and most nutritious Japanese stir-fries because it’s not packed with salty sauces, and it’s made with lean chicken and veggies.
Plus, you’re getting a lot of vitamins and minerals from the fresh vegetables.
We all know vegetables are healthy, and they help reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The stir-fry is low in fat, low in calories, and a good fiber and protein source. Even if you use pork or beef, the dish is still healthy because it contains lots of fresh vegetables.
To reduce the sodium content, use low-sodium soy sauce.
There’s no reason not to try this tasty recipe, especially if you’re looking to add more servings of vegetables to your diet.
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