Monday, June 18, 2012

Fried Rice - In 30 Minutes, You'll Want It Again!

Big bowl of yum

One of our favorite ways to stretch leftovers is with fried rice. When I first made this several years ago, Randy was skeptical. Fried rice should be left to restaurants, he thought. I soon converted him, to the point that he now suggests I make it even when we have no leftovers to use in it.

Leftover BBQ works perfectly. 
I like cooking this because it is so versatile and uses a little bit of whatever I have on hand, rather than sticking to a strict recipe. I've made it with leftover teriyaki, barbecue, even meat cooked in mushroom soup. I usually include eggs, but it's good without. Fresh veggies and frozen both work well (and again, you can choose to include pretty much whatever vegetable you want). I also like it because I get to eat fried rice when I'm done!

While I don't stress about having the exact right ingredients to make fried rice, I have found some seasonings make a big difference. The main one? Fish sauce. It surprised me when I first discovered it – I don't even remember why I decided to put it in. Probably because I had a bottle of it in the cupboard forever and thought something along the lines of “Fish sauce and fried rice are both Chinese* Therefore, they should be good together.” And they were, therefore proving the infallibility of my logic.

If you are missing some of the seasonings, you can always just mess around with what you have on hand. At one point or another, I have made this successfully while missing one or more of the seasonings, and I change it slightly each time I make it – the different result each time is one of the joys of making fried rice. This works because with fried rice, the technique is as important as the ingredients. As with most recipes, patience is the key when making fried rice. If you rush it, you end up with a dish that tastes like fried rice, but has the wrong texture. Patience plays into texture in two ways.

See how the grains are separate? Hard to do with fresh, hot rice.
First, fried rice is best when made with leftover rice. Whenever we have rice for dinner, I make a full 6-cup rice-cooker full, even though we never eat that much. That way, we can have fried rice the next day. Day-old rice works better than freshly cooked because it dries out a little, and the grains separate more easily.

If, like me, you sometimes forget to make rice ahead of time (or forget to put the rice in the fridge overnight and end up tossing it) you can still achieve this effect to a lesser extent by cooking your rice a couple of hours ahead of time, then separating it as much as possible and putting it in the fridge. If you have room, spread it out on a cookie sheet; if not, use the widest dish you can – you want to increase the surface area as much as you can. This might seem like a petty step, but it really does make a difference.

Look at all that goodness!
The other time that patience comes into play is during the cooking. You want to be sure to let the rice cook long enough so the flavors blend and so the rice gets the right fried texture. I'm not a patient person by nature, so I have to distract myself with cleaning or something similar to prevent myself from messing with the rice too much or getting bored and deciding it's done prematurely.

Other than that, the main effort involved is in prep – chopping up the meat into small pieces, scrambling eggs, cutting veggies (if using fresh), etc. Once all the chopping is done, it's mostly a matter of waiting for the rice to fry up to the right consistency.

In the recipe below, all measurements are of the “ish” nature – I more or less just dump things in on top of the rice in the wok and then adjust if it tastes off. I did measure the oil the last time I made it because that's a delicate balance – you want enough to coat the rice and let it fry, but not so much that the end product is greasy.
Taking pictures prevents me from eating it too soon!

We make this as our full dinner, but it can easily be made as part of a Chinese food feast with some egg rolls and sweet and sour pork (recipe forthcoming!). It holds up well as leftovers, and I often will have it for lunch the following day.

*Wikipedia informs me that fish sauce is actually used more in Vietnamese and Thai cooking. It is used in some parts of China, though, so I wasn't totally ignorant and wrong. Just mostly.

2 cups leftover meat
4 eggs
1-2 cups vegetables
4-8 cups cooked white rice
4 T vegetable oil
2 t sesame oil
2 T fish sauce
2 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2 T teriyaki sauce
1 t 5-spice
1 t ground mustard
½ t ground ginger

*Dice meat into small (¼ – ½”) cubes
*Scramble eggs and set aside
*Dice up vegetables into small (¼ – ½”) cubes
*Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in wok or large frying pan over medium high heat until a piece of rice sizzles when it's dropped in
*Add rice to oil and stir well to coat with oil. Let fry, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes
*Add fish sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, 5-spice powder, mustard, and ginger. Mix well to evenly season the rice.
*Cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes.
*Add meat, vegetables, and eggs, and mix well.
*Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat and vegetable are hot (5-10 minutes)

Linked to This Week's Cravings at The Daily Dish


  1. Wow. I will have to try with your added seasonings. I've always just used soy sauce. And not cooked it as long. Your father will have to put up with experiments. I bet he's game!

    1. All of them were either trial and error or not having something. There was one disaster of a batch made with ALL sesame oil because we were out of everything was a bit overpowering, but made me try it in combo, which turned out deliciously well! Olive oil, on the other hand, works fine as the main oil.

      Like I said, there's no set ingredients you HAVE to use (other than rice, of course), but even though I couldn't pick out the fish sauce taste, it does make the final product taste a lot more like 'real' fried rice.

  2. I've been making a version of this I found on a differnt blog for the past couple of months. I was shocked at how easy it was!! If I don't have leftover rice I cook it in the rice cooker with less water than normal and it comes out fine for this.

    The "recipe" I was following called for rice, chicken, veggies, eggs, and soy sauce, so I'll be making this with some of your additions. Unfortunately one of them won't be fish sauce as we're a non seafood compound, much to my dismay.

    This looks yummy! I can't wait to try it!

    1. That's unfortunate! If it's just a flavor aversion (as opposed to moral or allergies) you can get away with sneaking it in - it doesn't leave any sort of fishy flavor at all.

      Just don't be dumb like I was a couple weeks ago and add it straight to the oil. I really shouldn't be allowed to cook with oil because I;m not smart enough...

  3. Haha!! It is just an aversion, but if it were found in the cupboard even I'd be brought up on charges.

    This is the closest I'll come to frying, I'm highly flamable.