Fried Rice Revisited

Now that we’re finally getting settled in, it’s nice to find time to connect with folks again and to catch up with projects long on-hold. One of mine has been answer numerous requests for clarification about one of the first posts I wrote, the one about how to make fried rice. At that time I had grand ideas about distilling recipes to an essence — a formula or template that could serve as a springboard to allow others, especially novice cooks, to let their creative culinary juices flow. Three years on, and I haven’t really followed up on this idea. Needs more work, I think. In the meantime, let’s just talk about fried rice.

I received an email this week from friends abroad whose daughter has developed what for a non-Asian family is a strange habit: eating rice for breakfast. “Did I have any ideas for ways to eat rice at breakfast?” Is the Pope Catholic? So in addition to sending them recipes for Arroz Caldo and Okayu, rice porridges from both sides of my cultural heritage, and packets of Ochazuke and Furikake, I decided it was time to follow through on the fried rice update, too. As you can tell, these photos were taken last year, which is when I first meant to do this — then the holidays came, the house-hunting started, yada-yada-yada, and now it’s almost a year later…

Anna, this one’s for you. I hope you have fun exploring the many joys of eating rice with breakfast, starting with this one!

Serves 5-6 persons as a meal, 8-9 as a side dish

So, in that earlier post I used Omu-Rice** as the construct for walking the reader through how to make Fried Rice. Today we’re using a more familiar-looking fried rice with these basic Components:
Rice: medium-grain white Rice,
Aromatics: onions and garlic,
Seasoning: soy sauce and black pepper,
Meat: Chinese sausage, and
Veggies: edamame and peppers.
If you keep in mind that you can substitute similar proportions of other ingredients for each of the main Components — say, using SPAM, instead of Chinese sausage for the Meat — you will find that you can adapt this basic recipe to complement what you’re serving as an entree, or to whatever you have as leftovers

Rice: 5-6 cups (800-950g) cold Rice (refrigerator-cold works best — hot rice, especially medium or short grains, can become sticky and difficult to work with)
Oil: 2-3 TBL (20-30 ml) light olive oil, or peanut oil
Aromatics: 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
and 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
Seasoning: 2-3 tsp soy sauce,
black pepper and
sea salt, if necessary
Meat: 2 links of Chinese sausage, about 200g,
or equivalent amount of SPAM, hot dog, char siu pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, etc.
Vegetable: ½-1 cup(125-250g) mixed vegetables, peas, edamame, peppers
pineapple, bamboo, bean sprouts, raisins, etc.
Optional ingredients: egg (hard-boiled, fried, or scrambled in)
green onions or chives

The Meat: In a large skillet or wok, fry Chinese sausage in 1 TBL of oil. (Chinese sausage is normally quite fatty, so a smaller amount of oil is used here. If substituting another meat, or beginning with an uncooked meat, start with 3 TBL. oil) When meat is browned and cooked through, remove from wok and set aside.

The Aromatics: In the remaining oil in the pan, cook onions until they are translucent and softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 45 to 90 seconds.

The Vegetables: Add Vegetables of your choosing (edamame and red pepper shown here), 1 tsp of soy sauce and black pepper to taste. Mix well with the Aromatics, and saute together for 3-6 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through or heated through.

Return Meats to the pan, mix to combine. Now push the ingredients up the sides of the wok, or to the edges of the skillet, so that the center of the pan is clear.

Check your pan, and add a tsp or so of oil if necessary, then the remaining soy sauce, and finally the cold Rice.

Using a flat spatula, GENTLY press down on the rice in the center, pressing the filling ingredients further up the sides of the wok…

… then push the fillings onto the top of the rice. Repeat the motion of gently pressing in the ingredients, and pushing everything towards the sides of the wok. Again bring over the ingredients that have pushed up the sides of the wok. Work all the way around the wok this way (the motion is similar to folding in egg whites to a cake batter). Repeat until all ingredients are blended thoroughly and rice is completely heated through, about 7-10 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding soy sauce or salt as needed.

Garnish with green onions to serve.

In the Islands — both Guam and Hawaii — a fried egg (over-easy, as pictured, up or scrambled) on top of fried rice is a favorite breakfast item, with SPAM or ham for the Meat, and frozen mixed vegetables for the Vegetables in the rice.

(**Omu-rice, for the uninitiated, is the Japanese nursery favorite, but completely and totally unlike anything most people associate with Japanese food: a fried rice made with hot dogs and green peas, and seasoned with ketchup. Yes, I said ketchup. Clearly, a legacy of the post-war influence of the US military presence in the country. Everyone I’ve ever made omu-rice for will, at some later point, start to crave this dish and look for it again… You’ve been warned…)