The quickest way to get a great meal on the table is to rely on high-impact ingredients. Two of our favorites are soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Both are fermented, which is why they lend instant depth to a dish. Combined, they can completely transform a stir-fry—even with ingredients as flavor-neutral as tofu—into a deeply savory main dish that comes together in minutes.

We let these powerhouse ingredients do most of the heavy lifting in a recipe inspired by Xinjiang cumin lamb, a stir-fry from northwestern China. We found that this dish is delicious when made with soy sauce and black vinegar, an inky-dark condiment made from glutinous rice and malt. It’s a wonderfully versatile ingredient. But in the U.S., it can be a challenge to source. In our testing, we found that balsamic vinegar makes an excellent stand-in: Though it’s derived from grapes rather than rice, balsamic’s long aging process allows it to develop a complexity similar to that of black vinegar.

Together, the one-two flavor punch of soy and vinegar works beautifully with tofu: While we’ve found that marinating meats can be relatively ineffective (as flavors don’t penetrate the muscle tissue), tofu readily soaks up the vinegar-soy marinade.

For a meatier mouthfeel, we coat the tofu in cornstarch before frying, yielding a crispy exterior that complements the pleasantly chewy interior. Meanwhile, liberal doses of cumin seeds and red pepper flakes add bursts of texture and flavor.