Perhaps you’re thinking, a recipe for fried rice, really…? Granted, fried rice is usually something I make with what’s left in the fridge: fry some veggies, throw in the rice, add flavorings, crack in an egg and you’re done. While this method works and makes a nice last-minute snack, knowing the right steps to make fried rice will bring the dish from frumpy to outstanding.
First, you need to start with cold cooked rice, preferably jasmine or basmati. Leftover rice is best, but you can also cook some rice, spread it on a cookie sheet as soon as it’s done, and cool it completely in the freezer or the fridge before adding it to the recipe.
Second, you need to add veggies, lots of it. Fried rice doesn’t have the reputation to be a healthy dish, but it really depends of what you incorporate into it. I like to add half as much veggies as there is rice to make sure every bite is filled with color, flavor and goodness.
Third, you need to use the right flavorings. Onion, garlic and ginger is the classic line-up, but I also like to add chilies as well as fresh herbs as a finishing touch. As for the sauces, I used to flavor the rice with soy sauce, but I recently adopted the combination of fish sauce and rice wine vinegar, which add an intriguing depth to the rice without coloring it.
Finally, you need to add proteins. Eggs are a staple, of course, but the one ingredient that brings fried rice to the next level is Chinese sausage. If you’ve never tasted it, you’re missing out. It’s unlike any other kind of sausage and it’s completely addictive. It’s usually sold in Asian grocery stores, sometimes in the freezer section. If you can’t find Chinese sausage, you can also use diced bacon, of course, or omit the sausage altogether to make a vegetarian fried rice. In addition to the sausage, I like to add tofu to make the dish even more nutritious and filling.
Making fried rice takes 10-15 minutes tops, as long as your prep is done before you heat up the wok. It is one of our recent favorites and every time I make it, it feels like a different dish because I use different vegetable combinations, according to what’s on season. If you’ve dismissed fried rice, I challenge you to make you own and bet it’ll quickly become one of your go-to dishes too!
4 tbsp [60 ml] peanut or canola oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten
3 links Chinese Sausage (lap chang), cut in 1/4-in [0.5-cm] dice
1/2 cup [125 ml] firm or extra-firm tofu, diced
2 inches [5 cm] fresh ginger, finely grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 long red chilies, sliced (these chilies are fairly mild, but remove the seeds if you don’t like things spicy)
1/2 cup [125 ml] each, for a total of 2 cups [500 ml] vegetables *see note*:
- cauliflower, cut in small florets
- carrot, matchsticks
- corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- green peas (fresh or frozen)
4 cups [1 L] cooked rice, cold
1 tsp [5 ml] kosher salt, or to taste
1 tbsp [15 ml] fish sauce, or to taste
2 tbsp [30 ml] rice wine vinegar
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Fresh basil, to serve
Make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready before you start frying.
Cook the egg: Heat 1 tbsp [15 ml] oil in a wok or a large pan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, pour in the beaten eggs and stir constantly until puffed and cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside for later. Wipe out or clean the wok.
Cook the vegetables: Heat 1 tbsp [15 ml] oil the wok over high heat until it’s shimmering. Add the 2 cups vegetables (cauliflower to green peas) and season with a pinch of salt. Stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside with the eggs. Wipe the wok clean.
Cook the proteins: Chinese sausage and tofu are fully cooked, so you only need to heat them. Heat 1 tbsp [15 ml] oil to the wok over high heat and add the diced sausage and tofu and sauté until they’re golden and a little crisp. Careful not to overcook the sausage so it doesn’t get dry and tough. Remove the meat (set it aside with the eggs and veggies) and keep any rendered fat in the pan. Note: if you’re using bacon, sauté it for 2-3 minutes before adding the tofu to make sure it’s cooked.
Cook the aromatics: Add the remaining 1 tbsp [15 ml] to the hot wok. When it shimmers, add the onion and sauté until it starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and chilies and sauté for 2 minutes more.
Add the rice: When the ginger and garlic are starting to turn golden, add the rice all at once. Gently poke the rice to separate chunks, tossing it to make sure every grain touches the hot oil and the aromatics are well incorporated. Stir-fry until the rice is very hot and looks dry and separate. If you don’t have a really hot burner, it’s ok to let the rice sit for a few seconds at a time before stirring; less agitation is actually better than more as long as nothing is scorching. Season wtih a few pinches of salt, keeping in mind that the fish sauce in the next step will also add saltiness.
Mix in all the cooked ingredients and seasonings: Toss in the cooked egg, vegetables, sausage and tofu, and mix well over high heat. Clear a spot in the center of the wok for the wet seasonings. Pour the fish sauce and rice wine vinegar into the wok. Let them become hot and bubbly before stirring the rice into it. Keep cooking and tossing until the rice is dry again.
To serve: Add the sliced green onion. Mix well. Serve each portion very hot, topped with chopped fresh basil.
Notes: Use any kind of vegetable you have on hand: snow peas, green beans, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, edamame and cabbage all work wonderfully.
Fried rice keep pretty well for a day or two and — dare I say — it’s excellent cold, straight out from the fridge!
Recipe Credit: Adapted from a technique and recipe by Whitney Chen.