Fried Rice has become a staple in our house. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – my husband is half Korean, born in Seoul, who grew up all over Europe then ended up in Watertown, NY. (wow) Anyways, he grew up with his mother’s cooking, which is amazing, so various Asian flavors; sesame, scallion, vinegar/heat of kimchi and winter kimchi, sweet soy sauce, Thai chili, cilantro, fish sauce and the like are all in his culinary happy place. He learned many, many dishes from his mother and has since passed them onto the family. Me!
That being said, fried rice is not one of those family dishes but more of a combo of four different thoughts: 1) “make husband happy with culinary wheelhouse flavors”, 2) “what to do with all that rice”, coupled with 3) how to make another “Miles friendly dish” sprinkled with 4) “I have only 20-30 minutes to make dinner!!” Fried rice is an easy way to use up leftover rice, meat and almost-compostable veggies. Miles LOVES this recipe. He (and his dad) would eat this everyday if I made it.
I did a little internet “research” and came up with a few interesting factoida that surprised me as I thought, naively, that fried rice was an American-Chinese food invention (don’t laugh, I don’t know where I got that belief) but it actually has a long and varied history depending on region of Asia. According to The Food Timeline, and the referenced books:
According to Chinese food experts, fried rice is a specialty of Yangzhou. They do not attempt to put an exact date on the origin of this recipe.
“Fried rice, which originated in Yanchow province, is a versatile dish which combines cooked rice, onions, soy sauce, sometimes eggs, and just about any other ingredient–leftover or fresh–that may be on hand. The ingredient that predominates gives the dish its name: chicken fried rice, roast pork fried rice, shrimp fried rice, etc. When any ingredients are included, the dish is called subgum–or “many varieties”–fried rice…The [American] restaurant convention of ordering a dish of fried rice with numerous other main courses, or ordering it place of white rice, is Western and not Chinese at all.”
—The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cook Book, Gloria Bley Miller [Grosset & Dunlap:New York] 1975 (p. 632-3)
“Fried rice…is a standard method of cooking leftovers, involving frying cold boiled rice with chopped-up meat and vegetables. In really superior restaurants, rice will be specially boiled and dried for this, but usually old, unused rice is served. The common (and favorite) recipe, however is not Cantonese, but eastern, deriving from Yonchou in the lower Yangtze country; it involved mixing chopped ham, beaten egg, green peas, green onions, and other ingredients to taste, and then rather slowly sauteing the rice. The rice is neither deep-fried nor stir-fried, but chin-left to cook slowly in a little oil, producing a fluffy product with a slight crust.”
—Food of China, E.N. Anderson [Yale University Press:New Haven CT] 1988 (p. 212)
“Fried rice with Choice of Flavors.
Chow Faan. There are more ways to make fried rice than I would care to count. Which is more authentically Chinese?…Fried rice, Chinese style, can be varied infinitely by following a basic recipe and just changing the main ingredients used in conjunction with the rice. Roast pork, ham, chicken, or any type of seafood or preserved meats may be used.”
—Jim Lee’s Chinese Cook Book, Jim Lee [Harper Row:New York] 1968 (p. 272-3)
Now that we’ve all had a bit of food history via the internet…lets cook! Fried rice is very versatile, and remember with my version we can’t use soy sauce due to Miles severe allergy. In a past post I gave my recipe for “soy sauce substitute“. I don’t use it here, allowing the sesame oil & fish sauce take center stage. I also use ANY veggies I have. Most likely I will add shredded cabbage, leeks and bok choi- all sliced with my handy mandolin and I will grate a carrot or two. I also add a touch/splash of apple cider vinegar or Umi Plum Vinegar to cut the sesame oil. I should also add that we eat this as a “one pot meal”. Just a big bowl of rice and veggies and egg – we’re good to go!
Please note, I don’t own a wok. I make fried rice in our cast iron skillet. In addition, fried rice doesn’t really have set proportions, but this is how I make it…except I forgot to measure the fish sauce, sorry!
Meals in Busytown Fried Rice
2 cups brown rice, COOKED
2 T sesame oil (if your leftover rice is very dry you might need another teaspoon or so)
1 T sesame seeds
LOTS of fish sauce (probably 1-2 tablespoons, I do NOT add salt, as this salty sauce takes its place)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or Umi Plum Vinegar)
2-4 eggs your preference. If I don’t add leftover roasted chicken, which I usually don’t I add 3-4 eggs.
chicken or pork, leftover, the amount you choose (optional, I usually never add)
1-2 cups of shredded or thinly sliced veggies (used here: Bok Choi, Carrots, Leeks, Chinese Cabbage)
2 scallions, green parts chopped for garnish
Directions: put the cooked rice in a wok/cast iron skillet/other stovetop apparatus over medium-high heat with the 2 tablespoon of sesame oil and sesame seeds. Cook for a few minutes and when it looks like the rice has absorbed some of the oil and the sesame seeds are sizzling add the fish sauce and veggies, about 10 minutes. Incorporate the veggies into the rice and then put a lid on it so that the veggies get soft, about 10 minutes. I then add the vinegar, mix, then add your eggs to the mixture. Mix the eggs (and meat if using) into the mix then put the lid back on. Let cook but make sure the bottom bits don’t burn, stir or flip until egg is cooked through. Put into bowls and garnish with scallions. Should take a total of 30 minutes max. Yum
There are endless possibilities; I also make it with kimchi. You could go Thai with it and make it with Thai chili some lime juice and garnish with cilantro. Check out Wikipedia for a really interesting list of variations (who knew?). I hope some of you will try fried rice during this busy holiday season! I swear its quick and easy!