Since I’ve been on about them so much…
We make almost everything in a single, giant frying pan, or sometimes a wok, which is basically a deep frying pan. You can make anything if your pan is big enough, even tomato sauce, though a pot is usually more convenient for preventing splashes.
The trick to cooking everything all in one is to think ahead. If you add the ingredients in the right order, everything will be cooked properly by the time you finish, and, if you’re quick, you can stagger chopping things up while the first ingredients are cooking. This is another one of those things that bends to personal preference. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to chop everything, and then add the ingredients one at a time, though since often there is only one cutting board this can get tricky. It also depends on how well you want things cooked and what you’re cooking them in. But this is a general rule of thumb:
1. Cook hard things first, ie potatoes of any kind, carrots, turnips, beets, cauliflower, or hard squashes. Most of these you can chop and cook in just enough water to cover them in the bottom of the pan. They only need to be cooked until you can get a fork into them, because they will cook the rest of the way during the actual stir frying. If you get the quantity of water right, most of it will burn off and you can set the veggies aside for when you are ready, otherwise, drain and set aside. You can also put them in a bowl covered with a little water and microwave very briefly. If you are using a lot of liquid in your cooking, you can sometimes cook most of these things through without precooking them, especially fingerling potatoes and carrots, but there is nothing so odd as a really good stir fry with weird bits of uncooked veggies in.
2. Once the pan is empty again, start with the garlic and onion, if you’re using one. Fry in a little oil until they become translucent. You can also add peppers at this point, which shouldn’t cook for longer than maybe three minutes. The idea here is to cook all the crispy things first so they retain their crisp.
3. If you’re adding tomatoes, those should go next, along with your spices. If not, add the spices and liquids with the rest of the veggies. If you are for some reason cooking tofu, it’s often best to add it before the main part of the veggies and definitely before the liquid (except soy sauce or teriyaki), so it has the opportunity to brown and soak up some spices. Often it’s easier to fry tofu separately and add it toward the end.
4. Next you can add any of the medium texture veggies- summer squash, eggplant, that sort of thing. You can also add the hard veggies back in at this point. Once these have cooked for a few minutes, you can add broccoli and some of the more tender things. Beans would also go in at this point, and any canned veggies which will be soft already.
5. Anything leafy goes in last. That includes bok choy, chard, kale, cabbage, anything of that nature, as well as what I think of as accessories, like water chestnuts or nuts. These hardly need to cook at all, since you are mostly just wilting them, and shouldn’t be added until the rest of the vegetables are cooked very nearly to completion.
6. At all stages, stir regularly, unless you are trying to caramelize or seriously brown something. If at any point things start sticking to the pan, add a little more liquid and turn the heat down. There’s seldom a reason to stir fry any higher than medium on most stove tops, unless you are really hungry and in a hurry, in which you really need to stir frequently to prevent burning. This is one of the most versatile and fast ways to cook large quantities of veggies, and once you get the method down, you can cook almost anything, with any combination of seasoning, to perfection.