Monday, August 29, 2011

Fried Rice

Most people don't realize that fried rice is simply a really good Asian way of using up leftover rice. It was one of my favorite childhood foods and I still love it and make it often. The secret to good fried rice is that the rice must be really dry, so you only want to use rice that has been in the refrigerator overnight or even several days - the drier it is the better. Don't use just cooked rice as that is a recipe for a gummy and sticky fried rice. It just won't work and is the biggest cause of Fried Rice Failure!

Fried rice is so versatile that you can add any little bits of meat or vegetables that you want. The most classic form of fried rice usually involves green onions (although pieces of yellow onion are also delicious), bits of meat - most often Virginia Ham or Southern Country Ham (they are a lot like Chinese hams) or shrimp and scrambled eggs. You don't have to use a wok, although the flavor is slightly more authentic - a frying pan is just fine - nonstick is preferable as rice does stick. And, like many Chinese dishes, you have to cook it in stages: scrambling the eggs first, then taking them out; cooking the green onions (or yellow onions or garlic) and rice together; then adding in the veggies and right before serving, add in the eggs and seasonings.

Now seasonings vary by region. In Northern China, it is just salt and pepper, farther south like in Shanghai, you will see Soy Sauce. In the Canton region, some people use ketchup, which is similar to a Chinese sauce and tastes much better than it sounds. In Indonesia, they use Sweet Soy Sauce - or Kecap Manis and in Thailand, they use Fish Sauce. Some people I know use Hoisin Sauce, Oyster Sauce or even Sriracha Hot Sauce - all of which are good. I am currently fond of mixing a bit of soy sauce with a bit of fish sauce, as it makes such a wonderful Umami taste. But I still keep going back to salt and white pepper as that was my childhood memory taste of really good Fried Rice that my grandfather and mother made.

I'm partial to leftover Terriyaki Chicken in my fried rice and also Chinese Barbecued Pork - although it does tend to turn the rice lightly pink. Actually, any meat will do and sometimes I add in some leftover baked tofu (baked in soy sauce and other spices). Sometimes I even add bits of pineapple (if I have any left over), which really adds a Thai flavor or I will add cut up tomatoes and add them at the end (you don't want the rice to get too soft). It is also a good way to use any cut up leftover vegetables from Chinese takeout (but don't use the sauce) - carrots, bok choy, cabbage, green or red pepper, broccoli, corn, water chestnuts, etc. all work.

The actual amounts of the ingredients doesn't really matter and I am simply giving you proportions - just use whatever you have on hand. Fried Rice is so versatile and so good that I deliberately make lots of extra rice when I cook it or take home rice from Asian restaurants so I can always have rice on hand to make it. I hope you will try to make Fried Rice if you don't already know how. And if you are an old pro at making it, try some new ingredients or seasonings to make your Fried Rice different for a change.

P.S. - the photo will be posted when my computer allows me to add it in.

Fried Rice

3 - 4 cups leftover white rice
2 - 3 eggs in a bowl, whisked with a fork until yolk is incorporated
4 - 5 green onions (scallions - 2 Tbsps reserved) or 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion and/or one garlic clove minced
3/4 cup to 1 cup of cut up meat of your choice - you can also use pieces of baked tofu
1/2 cup frozen peas
Optional: 1/2 cup of any other cooked meat or vegetables, cut in small pieces
4 - 6 Tablespoons light tasting vegetable oil (I used safflower - do not use olive oil!)
1 - 2 teaspoons salt (use only 1/2 teaspoon if using any other salty sauces)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper - preferably white pepper

Optional: 1 - 2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce, Thai Fish Sauce, Kecap Manis, Oyster Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Ketchup, Sriracha, etc.

Heat wok and add 1 Tablespoon of oil (if using nonstick pan, do not preheat). When hot, add in the eggs and scramble lightly until just set, but still moist. Remove to a bowl until later.

Add in remaining oil and heat before adding green onions (or yellow onions or garlic) and cook until slightly softened. Add rice and stir fry until grains are separated - about 3 minutes. Add in meat and frozen peas and any other vegetables. Stir fry for an additional 3 - 5 minutes, then add in egg and break up into small pieces with the spatula. Season the rice with salt, pepper and soy sauce (and fish sauce or any other sauce you are using). Continue to toss and stir fry until seasoning is completely incorporated - 2 to 3 minutes. Put into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of remaining green onions.

Five Element Analysis

This dish looks like it is balanced because it is colorful, but a few elements are more represented than others. This gives you a chance to play with the ingredients to find a good balance or serve it with other stir fry dishes. In this dish: rice belongs to the Metal Element so that one is covered and the green onions and/or yellow onions and garlic all contribute too. The eggs make sure the Water Element is present and so do any of the salty sauces, such as soy sauce and fish sauce, and the peas bring in the Wood Element as do any other green vegetables. Pork or Shrimp would add more Water and chicken would contribute Wood whereas Beef would add the needed Earth Element as would cabbage, carrots or water chestnuts - so consider adding one of these. Fire is the only element missing except for a tiny bit of pepper unless you add ketchup or Sriracha or red peppers, so you can serve the fried rice with chili sauce on the side or drink tea as your beverage and you will have a balanced one dish meal.

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