I’m gonna come right out and say it: carrots are pretty boring, yes? I mean, I like them and all, and I get that a lot of you probably do, too. Understandable, because there’s a lot about carrots to like: they’re pretty, they’re sweet, and if you believe universal parent-imparted wisdom, they’ll make you see in the dark.
That’s pretty much where it ends, though. How many times have you ever heard someone say I LOVE carrots- they’re my favourite vegetable! I’m going to go out on a limb and guess never. I think it because the humble carrot is nearly always relegated to side dish territory, and rarely gets to take centre stage. A side of carrots was a prerequisite for any celebratory dinner when I was growing up. Come Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter they were there, but I never liked them as much as their neighbor’s broccoli, potatoes, and brussels sprouts.
So when I took a bunch of carrots home on Sunday, I had lofty ambitions to make them into something exciting that I’d actually look forward to eating. Because I sometimes find cooked carrots a bit too sweet, I figured the best way to counteract this was to pile on the salt and spice. Looking to my favourite Asian flavours for inspiration, I braised these with some garlic, ginger, chili and soy sauce, and garnished the resulting dish with fresh spring onions and coriander.
This dish far exceeded my (modest) expectations: it was vibrant and flavourful and damn near addictive. The “braising and glazing” technique I used comes via Mark Bittman and resulted in tender carrots coated in a thick, syrupy sauce. So make it, and throw the poor old carrot a bone for once. They’ve got as much right to stand in the spotlight as anyone else, after all.
Note: Contrary to my original intentions, I’ve categorized this as a side dish, both because I figured most people would use it as one, and because the Side category on my recipe tab was looking depressingly bare. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a side; this would make a great simple meal, served over rice or Asian noodles.
Soy Braised Carrots
serves 2 as a main with rice or noodles, 4 as a side
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1″ chunk of ginger, minced
- 2 cups of carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ chunks
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
- 1 Tbs. sesame oil
- 3 small spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs. chopped coriander
- Heat the oil in a heavy nonstick pan (one that has a lid) over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the chopped carrots, soy sauce, water and chili flakes. Give a quick stir, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 12-15 minutes until the carrots are tender, stirring once or twice. You may need to add some more water if the mixture becomes too dry.
- When the carrots are tender, take the lid off the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook until the moisture has mainly evaporated and the carrots are nicely browned.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve sprinkled with the spring onion and coriander.