Rice or noodles, onions, garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce are a pretty standard stir fry base.

How can I liven this up a little? I'm not looking for major additions, like chicken, eggs, etc. I'm looking for ways to make the base itself a bit more... vibrant and interesting: Herbs, spices, veggies, etc.

I've been experimenting with things like anise, fennel, peppercorns, clove, even MSG, but all of these things just seem to reinforce the same old taste I'm familiar with (sorry, I wish I knew taste words to describe it better), they all have similar "vibes" to me. I also tried experimenting with hoisin sauce but it just seems to muddle everything together. Green onions seem to help a little, when very coarsely chopped.

I'm looking for things that can add some new, compatible but contrasting flavors, rather than enhance or bring out the normal flavor, especially (but not necessarily) things that can make each bite slightly different rather than being uniformly blended in. The meat of this question is flavor pairings with onions/garlic/sesame/soy.

(I hope this question is OK here, the help center did suggest that recipe modification questions were OK, but I'm not sure.)

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    Hey Jason, sorry, this time your intuition was right. "Recipe modification" is for the cases where you have an objective goal in mind, such as "how do I stop my cookies from crumbling apart". "Get a more interesting taste" is not a question which does well with the Stack Exchange format. There are hundreds of answers (one for each possible spice you could add) and all of them are valid for some people in the world and invalid to others, making this a really bad big-list question. If you don't know what you like, you just have to cook yourself through a spice rack and see what works for you. – rumtscho Jan 18 '17 at 19:59
  • @rumtscho Makes sense, sorry about that! Wasn't sure how far you guys strayed from SE standard fare. On the bright side I got some good veggie inspiration! – Jason C Jan 18 '17 at 20:04
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    No problem, I know that the rules can be unclear at first. And I am sorry I had to close it, because you really put some effort into it. The problem is that we can do no better than to give you a random list of vegetables and spices. Maybe you could take a cooking book, not a simple recipe list, but one that includes some "common kitchen knowledge" and go through the vegetables and spices and herbs there and see if one strikes your imagination to try in your dish. Or do an ingredients search and see if somebody has a recipe with your ingredients and something more. – rumtscho Jan 18 '17 at 20:09

I notice you didn't mention fresh ginger. That's a very distinctive flavor addition that is commonly used in stir fries.

Also, don't know if this counts as a "major addition" [that you aren't asking for], but since you do mention veggies: bok choy, "baby" bok choy (which I think is a different plant from "adult" bok choy), or mustard greens seem like innocuous vegetables but really punch up the cruciferous flavor in a dramatic way. (especially the mustard greens)

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  • I need to play with ginger a bit more, I hardly ever use it. The mustard greens especially sound like a great idea. – Jason C Jan 18 '17 at 20:01

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