Spicy Asian Zucchini

10 Min Read

Here’s a unique zucchini recipe for you – Spicy Asian Zucchini! Meaty zucchini halves seared then smothered with a mild chilli-garlic sauce. Quick. Easy. Big flavours. Serve as a side or a meat-free main with Garlic Rice.

Spicy Asian Zucchini recipe

This is a zucchini recipe for everyone who:

finds themselves scrambling for a quick Asian vegetable sides for meaty/starchy Asian mains. Think: Char Siu BBQ pork, dumplings, veg-less stir fries like Mongolian Lamb, Honey Chicken, Peking Shredded Beef (there’s actually lots if you think about it!);

is looking for something different to make with zucchini. Because you have an abundance of home grown or couldn’t resist a bargain at the shops (the latter is me); or

just generally enjoy finding new, tasty ways to use vegetables that are quick and easy to make. As in – main meal worthy.

This Spicy Asian Zucchini ticks all those boxes. An invention that came about when I was staring at a pile of more zucchinis than any normal person should have (but nobody has called me “normal” in a while) at a time when my spicy edamame was on repeat. Very similar sauce. Different use!

What you need for Spicy Asian Zucchini

Here’s what you need for this Asian zucchini recipe. First up – the secret ingredient…..zucchinis! 😂


Called courgettes in the UK and some parts of Europe, the cucumber shaped vegetable is at its prime in summer. But here in Australia, it’s available year round for fairly good value.

Spicy Asian Zucchini ingredients

Size – It’s best to use small / medium zucchini around 15 – 18cm long (6 – 7″) so it’s easy to cook through on the stove. You’ll be surprised, it only takes around 3 to 4 minutes. But if you have gigantic ones (sometimes they can be!) you might want to cut them into quarters.


This sauce is good! Simple with big flavours. Actually not that spicy, it’s mild. I see myself using this in another recipe in the foreseeable future.

Spicy Asian Zucchini ingredients

Note: I put garlic in the photo below, I should have included it in the sauce photo because we sauté it. 🙂

Sambal Oelak – chilli paste which makes a nice sauce for smothering. Made with fresh chillis, found in large grocery stores and Asian stores. Pretty spicy eaten plain but combined with everything else in this sauce, the spiciness is dialled back quite a lot.

Substitute with sriracha (sauce not quite as glossy) or a not-too-spicy chilli crisp (taste and check) – sauce will have chilli crunch chunks and be oilier (yum!).

Sesame oil – Use toasted sesame oil which is brown and has better sesame flavour. Un-toasted is yellow and the sesame flavour isn’t as strong. Here in Australia, toasted sesame oil is standard. Un-toasted is harder to find.

Soy sauce – Don’t use soy sauce labelled “dark soy sauce”, way too intense and salty, will ruin the dish. Any general “soy sauce”, “all-purpose soy sauce” (like the Kikkoman pictured above) or “light soy sauce” can be used.

Mirin is a sweet Japanese cooking wine that is found in large grocery stores and Asian stores that is one of 3 core sauces in Japanese cooking (ie it’s good stuff!). It brings a depth of flavour and sweetness into the sauce in this recipe. Substitute with honey for a non alcoholic version – sauce still great (albeit sweeter) but not quite the same restaurant-y complexity of flavour. 🙂

Toppings (& garlic)

As mentioned above, the garlic should really be in the Sauce section. 🙂

Spicy Asian Zucchini ingredients

Crispy Fried Shallots – an Asian pantry essential! Salty, oily, crunchy, terrific garnish for all things Asian, from soups to salads. I use it liberally – it’s a frequent player in my recipes so I’ve got some basic information about it here, in case you are new to it.

Find it in the Asian section of supermarket but cheaper at Asian stores.

Substitute with anything crunchy you can find in your cupboard – croutons, packet crispy noodles), handful of crispy fried rice (I make loads and keep it in jars when I make this salad. I’d even use roughly chopped peanuts.

Green onion – For freshness. Substitute with finely sliced red onion or eschallots (US: shallots aka French onions, those small purple-ish onions). I’d toss them through the sauce briefly to make them floppy.

How to make Spicy Asian Zucchini

Have you ever cooked zucchini halves on the stove before? It’s much faster than the oven – 6 minutes vs 30 minutes. Plus lovely browning on the zucchini that you’ll never get in the oven no matter how high you crank it! The zucchini just goes soft and watery. 🙂

How to make Spicy Asian Zucchini

Oil & salt – Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt then briefly toss.

Cook – Using a large non-stick pan heated to medium high, put the zucchini in cut side down and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until it gets nice colour on it. Then turn and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Give the zucchini a poke – you want it to feel tender but not soft/mushy/totally floppy, and still a little firm in the middle. The residual heat will finish cooking it through.

Doneness – I like to cook the zucchini until it is barely cooked – very crisp tender – so then the residual heat finishes cooking it through as you’re making the sauce and plating up. “Just cooked” is my preference because the more you cook zucchini, the more watery/mushy it gets which dilutes flavour.

However, if you prefer your zucchini fully soft all the way through, that’s entirely up to you! In which case I’d recommend using the oven – it’s a little hard to cook zucchini halves until soft on the stove. Directions in the recipe notes.

How to make Spicy Asian Zucchini

Garlic – In the same pan, sauté the garlic until light golden.

Sauce – Then add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 30 seconds on low heat until syrupy. Don’t take it too far – I keep making that mistake when I’ve had multiple things on the go. If it reduces too much it gets too salty (though if this happens, just add a splash of water to the sauce to thin it).

How to make Spicy Asian Zucchini

Pour the sauce over the pile of zucchinis. I do it this way for simplicity – the sauce goes “everywhere” – and I think it looks nice. The other way of doing it is to put the zucchini in the pan and toss to coat evenly.

Garnish – Sprinkle with the crispy shallots (I am not shy about the amount I use) and the green onion. Then, serve!

How to serve Spicy Asian Zucchini

The obvious way to serve this is as a vegetable side. An excellent substantial (interesting!) one that can go alongside anything Asian, from stir fries to noodles to Char Sui Pork to gyoza or Chinese pan fried dumplings (potstickers).

Some suggested mains to serve with this Spicy Asian Zucchini

Having said that, I’ve been enjoying this as meal with a side of some kind of flavoured rice, such as:

Fried rice. My go-to: Chinese Fried Rice. Personal favourites: Nasi Goreng, Korean Kimchi Fried Rice.

Garlic rice – quick, easy, you can make it right now!

Baked fried rice – super handy when you don’t have day-old cooked rice on hand. (Also, it’s all baked in one pan. Yes, I said baked. It works. And I’m a rice snob).

Love to know what you think of today’s recipe! Certainly a little different from the usual zucchini recipes. 🙂

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