The Ultimate Vegetable Stir-Fry Tower, Three Vibrant Sauces

ultimate vegetable stir-fry, stir fry, vegetable tower

The Ultimate Vegetable Stir-Fry Tower
Pea Sprouts, Shiitake, Soybean Sprouts, Pickled Japanese Cucumber & Red Jalapeño
Chinese Chives, Tofu, Ginger, Cilantro
Over an Organic Short Grain Rice Timbale
With Three Vibrant Sauces: Cilantro Juice, Chile Oil, Miso Sauce

ultimate vegetable stir-fry, stir fry

Another Sublime Dish Inspired by Charlie Trotter

“The recipes… are only a guide. You can use any or all of a recipe, deviate wherever you like, or indeed substitute ingredients completely if it suits your desires. In fact, you may want to forget about the recipe specifics and use the photographs alone as your inspiration,” penned Charlie Trotter in 1994. Thank you, Chef! No wonder you are my hero. Your words written 17 years ago perfectly describe my cooking style and blog: where the image is meant to titillate and inspire the cook!

Cilantro Juice Recipe

cilantro, coriander, cilantro sprigs

Start with the equivalent of 2 c. packed fresh cilantro.

blanched cilantro

Blanch in salted boiling water for 15 seconds.
Place in an ice bath to cool.
Squeeze out excess water.

cilantro juice

Purée in a food processor for 3 to 4 minutes
with 3 T. water and 2 T. each grapeseed oil and olive oil.

cilantro paste

Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Save the paste for another use (we made green rice).
Season the cilantro juice with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

cilantro juice, coriander juice

Refrigerate the cilantro juice until ready to use.

Pickled Japanese Cucumber & Red Jalapeño

japanese cucumber

Japanese cucumbers can be identified by those distinctive bumps.
They do not need to be peeled or seeded. Slice on a bias about 1/4″ thick.
The pickled cucumbers and red jalapeño really add a refreshing zing to this stir-fry.

Charlie Trotter’s Pickling Juice Recipe:

  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/3 c. plus 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. kosher salt
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 t. mustard seed
  • 1 t. black peppercorns
  • 1 t. chopped ginger root
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer, allowing the salt and sugar to dissolve. Cool and use as needed.

pickled japanese cucumber, pickled cucumber

Place cucumber and jalapeño slices in a jar.
Add pickling juice and a little coarse sea salt.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Miso Sauce

miso sauce

Whisk 1 T. white miso with 3 T. pickling juice and 1/4 t. tamari. Set aside.

Marinated Tofu
marinated tofu, tofu & tamari, cubed tofu

Cube one small block of firm tofu. Save the liquid from the tofu, add 2 T. tamari.
Marinate tofu in liquid for one hour in refrigerator.


stir fry

Brown sliced shiitake in a small amount of sesame oil.
Add a bit more oil then add drained tofu, drained pickled cucumber & jalapeño, and 1 t. minced ginger.
Stir-fry for about 3 minutes.

soybean sprouts, chinese chives, peas sprouts

Rough chop the soybean sprouts. Cut Chinese chives to about 2″ long.


Add soybean sprouts, Chinese chives, pea sprouts and some chopped cilantro to the pan.
Stir-fry briefly, just until these vegetables begin to wilt. Season with sea salt and pepper.


Make a rice timbale by pressing hot cooked organic short grain rice into an oiled ramekin.
Invert the ramekin onto the serving platter.

Place a ring mold or open tube atop the rice. Using tongs, fill the mold with some of the stir-fry. Use the tongs to compress the stir-fry. Remarkably, with all the long shoots and stems, the stir-fry becomes a tangled mess and actually stays together pretty well! Remove the mold by lifting slowly.

Drizzle miso sauce over the stir-fry and around the plate.

ultimate vegetable stir fry

Ladle small puddles of cilantro juice around the timbale, then drizzle piquant chile oil.

vegetable stir fry
Knock over the tower with chopsticks and mix the vegetables and rice with all the sauces!

With deepest gratitude for the inspiration and guidance, thank you, Chef!

More cooking Charlie Trotter’s Vegetables on Taste With The Eyes:
Napoleon of Portobella & Turnip, Ginger-Soy-Mirin Sauce
Black-Eyed Peas with Haricots Verts, Baby Spinach, White Potatoes and Spicy Curry Emulsion
Grilled King Trumpets & Shishito Peppers, Spinach & Rosemary Roasted Soybeans, Tomato Water

30 thoughts on “The Ultimate Vegetable Stir-Fry Tower, Three Vibrant Sauces”

  1. I see that you must knock down the tower to mix the ingredients, but I am not sure I would have found the courage: it is so pretty to look at. I love the green of the cilantro paste and juice.

  2. Almost too beautiful to eat! 😉

    Love the idea of cilantro juice.

    Have you read the Charlie Trotter article in the New York Times?
    First I thought of you, then, reading it, I did not quite understand what the writer (who?) wanted to convey. They should have published this blogpost of yours instead!

    1. Hi Merisi – I saw it. A leader left behind?? He’s my hero, no matter what The New York Times says. One has only to cook from Charlie Trotter’s Vegetables to understand the genius of this chef.
      Thanks for your kind words, as always…

  3. I’m working on my substitutions as we “speak.” Too wonderful to not try. Can I say that I revel in a dish that has a flavor quotient as high as the healthy quotient?

  4. this kind of cooking is so far off my radar but I love the colors, the flavors, the healthy style. it looks like it came from an artist’s pallette. the cilantro juice is an idea I will use for sure – even with other herbs.

  5. Agree & agreed. This is an ultimate stir-fry. The flavors and colors work in perfect concert. The description of three sauces as “vibrant” is spot-on. The cilantro juice adds a bright punch.

    CT would be proud of this creation without a doubt.


  6. LL – You know I’m an admirer. Your work is always so beautiful and I’m loving these colorfully sauced plates. I especially like the cilantro juice, an herb you either love or hate, and I love it!

  7. Absolutely perfect blog title for today’s post! This really is something you taste with the eyes first.
    The recipe itself looks marvelous…so many fabulous flavors.

  8. I feel like I’m at a foodie art museum everytime I come here. Stunning as always LL!
    On a side note, my son and daughter in law are going to Charlie Trotter for dinner this Saturday, they’re super excited, first time.

  9. I wasn’t going to leave here without telling you how beautiful this is! I sure wish pea shoots were readily available here 🙁 —Our farmer’s markets have grown, but are nothing like the ones we left behind in CA.

  10. Was Charlie in the kitchen with you?
    I once had his unforgetable vegetable tasting menu in Chicago (I had drawn his portrait)
    What a treat!
    This is simply gorgeous Lori – a painting.

  11. Stunning! I want my stir fry to look like this! Just adore CT, too. We celebrated our anniversary last year at his restaurant in Las Vegas, it was sheer perfection. I have to cook heart healthy due to my husband’s heart disease, but he also has to watch his sodium intake and I’ve been stymied when it comes to Asian sauces. For him, the tamari and miso are out, but the cilantro oil and chili sauce would be fine, I think. Thanks LL

  12. I always taste with my eyes first. I love cookbooks but the ones that I always buy are the ones filled with photos. Your photos are amazing and I love this tower of yumminess. Looking forward to following you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.