Thursday, May 21, 2009

Afterschool special: Fried Rice, 100 ways

One of the very first things I learned to make for myself was fried rice. Growing up, there was almost always a container of leftover white rice in the fridge, just screaming with potential.

To that dried out rice, add some garlic and onion, eggs, random leftovers and a dash of soy sauce, and you had yourself a delicious (and sometimes nutritious) afterschool snack.

The amazing thing about fried rice is that you can put almost anything in it and it will be delicious. There are just a few rules:
  • Use old, cold rice -- Rice that's been sitting in the refrigerator for a day or more will be drier, and will separate into grains when cooked instead of clumping together. This is the texture you want in your fried rice, not mush. Save wet rice for delicious porridge!
  • Don't let it get too wet -- Same idea as above, but this time pertaining to your ingredients... if you add in too many wet ingredients (like old curry or extra sauce) you'll get soggy rice
  • Use a big pan or wok and make sure it's HOT -- You want to be able to stir without getting rice everywhere. You'll be adding ingredients as you go, so don't start out with a small pan and then try to cram in that last cup of rice on the very top (yes, i've done it). Help yourself out. Also, make sure your pan's smoking hot, this will help keep your ingredients from getting mushy too.
I had some leftover white rice staring me down in my fridge today along with some old frittata, carrots, and bunches of greens. So I decided to go for a twist on an old standby. The cheesy frittata with rosemary and thyme wasn't a traditional ingredient, but the flavors went together perfectly and I scarfed the whole plate in under 10 flat.

Now it's your turn. Here's a basic template to paint with your personal palette of leftovers (I'm so so sorry for the terrible metaphor)

Very Basic Fried Rice with Variations
serves 1-2

3 cups white rice, cooked and cold, even better if it's at least a day old
2 eggs, beaten
1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 onion, minced (or more, to taste)
2 tbsp light soy sauce (or more, to taste)
2 tbsp oil
black pepper, to taste

for my frittata rice, I also added:
1 cup shredded carrot
2 cups spinach
3 pieces of leftover frittata
1 tbsp rice vinegar
chives, as garnish

and for more exciting and delicious combinations, try:
  1. Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Style): omit garlic, substitute dark soy sauce for light, add 1 cup diced chicken, 1/4 cup diced pineapple, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 tbsp tomato paste, and one tsp curry powder
  2. Hawaiian Style: add 1/2 can spam cubed, 1/2 cup carrots cubed, 1/2 cup green peas
  3. Nuoc Cham rice: substitute 3 shallots for onions, reduce soy sauce by 1/2 tbsp, add extra clove garlic, 1 cup deveined shrimp, 1 cup long beans chopped, 2 tbsp Vietnamese sweet chili sauce (Nuoc Cham), and 1/4 cup mint leaves
  4. Yangchow (Traditional style): substitute white part of spring onions for onions, add 1 cup Chinese Sausage (Lap Cheung) or BBQ Pork (Char Siew), 1 cup Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan) stems chopped or peas, 1 tbsp minced ginger, sprinke of white pepper, green part of spring onions chopped for garnish
  5. Thai Basil rice: substitute fish sauce for soy sauce, add fried tofu, 1 Thai bird chili minced, 1 red capsicum minced, 2 tbsp crushed peanuts and 1/4 cup thai basil
  6. Cheeky Leeks: reduce frying oil, add 1 cup bacon diced and 1/2 lb washed and chopped leeks
  7. Spicy rice: add 1 cup beef strips, 1/4 lb, 1 green capsicum minced, 1 1/2 tbsp sriracha chili or chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
  8. Tex-mex: omit soy sauce and scrambled eggs, add 1 cup corn, 1 cup black beans, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds, 1 tsp chicken bouillon OR 2 tbsp chicken stock, serve topped with two eggs over-easy
  9. Moroccan: omit soy sauce and eggs, add 1 tbsp butter, 1 cup cubed carrots, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne or paprika, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/4 cup sliced almonds, sprinkle white pepper and salt to taste
  10. Kimchi rice: add 1/2 cup kimchi, 1/2 cup minced pork, serve topped with two fried eggs over-easy
So it's not quite 100, but you see how you could make up your own. Go forth, eat rice!

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