Korean Stir-Fried Zucchini

You need to try this before you say you don’t like zucchini. Stir-fried zucchini is my favorite Korean vegetable side dish (banchan.) It goes wonderfully in bibimbap, but it’s delicious on its own too. I can eat a bowl of rice with just this side dish. I was happy to watch my youngest devour this dish after a dry spell with zucchini.

Traditionally, this dish is made with Korean squash, similar to zucchini. You’ll often find it tightly wrapped with plastic in Asian markets. Korean squash has a slightly sweeter flavor than zucchini, but it can be interchangeable in recipes.

Cut zucchini into 1/2″ matchsticks for the best texture and flavor. If you cut it too thin, it’ll get mushy and break apart while stir-frying. Some people slice zucchini into half rounds, but I think matchsticks absorb more flavor.

Salt zucchini to pull out water

Spread the zucchini sticks on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Salt will pull out the water from zucchini and prevent it from turning into mush when stir-frying. The slightly chewy texture is the highlight of this dish, so don’t skip this step. Place zucchinis in a colander or a wire mesh and rinse with cold water. We don’t want salty zucchini. Then pat dry with a paper towel.

Season with fish sauce

Korean stir-fried zucchini banchan is often seasoned with salted (tiny) shrimp. Since it’s not easy to find salted shrimp here, I used Thai fish sauce. Heat cooking oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add zucchinis and cook for a couple of minutes while stirring until zucchinis start to soften but are partially raw. Add garlic and fish sauce to taste and stir fry for another minute. Stop cooking when zucchinis still have some firmness. Removing from heat before zucchini softens completely is essential to get a chewy texture.

Transfer zucchinis to a bowl and mix in toasted sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Recently, I learned that sesame seeds and toasted sesame seeds are two different things. In Korean cuisine, we always use toasted sesame seeds. I used black sesame seeds to give a visual contrast, but you can use the white kind.

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Korean Stir-Fried Zucchini

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Korean
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 2
Author whiteblankspace

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil or other cooking oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1~2 tbsp fish sauce to taste
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Cut zucchini into matchsticks that are about 1/2″ thick.
  2. Spread the zucchini sticks on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Salt will pull out the water from zucchini and prevent it from turning into mush when stir-frying.
  3. Place zucchinis in a colander or a wire mesh and rinse with cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Heat cooking oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add zucchinis and cook for a couple of minutes while stirring until zucchinis start to soften but are partially raw.
  5. Add garlic and fish sauce to taste and stir fry for another minute. Stop cooking when zucchinis still have some firmness.
  6. Transfer zucchinis to a bowl and mix in sesame oil and sesame seeds.

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