Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from August 25, 2009

Stir Crazy

You'll never be able to make fried rice like me, but that doesn't mean I can't help you in your ultimately futile effort.

Yeah, I get cocky about it, because no American whips up fried rice like I can.

And you've probably been tossing out those cartons of uneaten white rice from the Chinese take-out joints all these years, oblivious to their culinary potential.

Tsk, tsk.

I first started frying rice and creating various concoctions with it about 20 years ago, when I purchased my first Chinese cookbook, having been on an Asian food jag. It was around the time that I discovered Thai food and its glorious heat and spice. Till then, I thought the only spicy Asian stuff was the Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine of China. Silly me.

Homemade fried rice, when done properly, is good on so many levels.

Number one, you're using up every bit of your Chinese take-out leftovers, so you can feel satisfied about that.

Number two, it's a terrific way to get rid of some other leftovers that may be in danger of going bad in the fridge.

Number three, you can have fun with it and experiment with different sauces and spices.

The key is preparation, as it is with any stir-fry dish. I've made the mistake of starting to stir-fry before all the ingredients were ready for the wok/skillet, and before you know it, you're Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in that famous chocolate-wrapping/conveyor belt scene from "I Love Lucy"---trying desperately to rinse and chop veggies while trying to keep the the stuff that's cooking from burning up.

So get everything prepped before you even turn the burner on.

I like to use a carbon steel wok (like THIS), but you can use a non-stick skillet, too. But it ought to be a big one. Stir-frying is fun, but only if you have enough room to stir and fry. If the skillet is too small, the food won't cook evenly and it's not stir-frying---it's more like flipping pancakes.

If you use a non-stick skillet, make sure to be armed with a wooden or plastic stir-fry utensil (spatula, etc) so as not to ruin the no-stick surface. I use a carbon steel wok mostly, which allows me to utilize my stainless steel spatula, which looks a lot like this.

The best fried rice NOT made by an Asian:

AT LEAST 4 cups of COLD, cooked white rice*
Two eggs
Soy sauce
Ground WHITE pepper
About 1 t fresh ginger, minced
Two cloves of garlic, minced (NEVER garlic powder!)
Salt (to taste)
MSG (if you wish)
Hot pepper flakes (to taste)
Frozen peas and/or corn
Assorted chopped veggies (celery, green pepper, green onion, carrots)
Tiny cooked, canned shrimp (optional; or leftover shrimp)
Any leftover, chopped, cooked meat (boneless chicken or pork, etc)
Sesame oil (about 2 t)
Cooking oil of choice

*Rice MUST be cold, and before cooking, wet hands and break up rice as much as you can, preferably into a separate bowl for easy access when it's time to add; try to avoid as many clumps of rice as possible

Ready? Here we go.

Make sure everything is chopped and ready to go. As for the amount of the above ingredients that show no amount, you'll have to use your own judgment. Generally I use about a cup of frozen peas or corn, two stalks of chopped celery, and about six chopped green onions.

1. Heat EMPTY wok/skillet on high heat for about two minutes
2. Pour 2 T cooking oil onto w/s and swirl to cover; add minced garlic and ginger (don't keep garlic in oil too long before next step, or else it will get brown and crusty)
3. Break the eggs into the w/s and, using spatula, quickly break yolks and fry until you have shards of "scrambled" eggs
4. Add chopped veggies, all at once (EXCEPT for the peas and/or corn!!) and stir-fry until opaque and medium crunchy; also sprinkle mixture with about a 1/4 t of white pepper while frying (MSG added here, if desired)
5. Empty cooked eggs and veggies into another dish and save for later use
6. Keep heat high and add 2 more T of cooking oil
7. Add separated rice and 2 t of sesame oil; stir fry about 5 minutes (while frying rice, add soy sauce to taste, and to give light brown color; also, this is where you'd add desired amount of red pepper flakes for some heat); stir rice VERY often (like, constantly)
8. Add frozen peas/corn, and any shrimp, meat, etc. that you chose to use
9. Stir fry mixture, which is now getting heavier, over high heat, while adding more soy sauce to taste; make sure frozen peas/corn and meat are heated through
10. Pour eggs/veggie mix into the fray
11. Keep stirring and frying over HIGH heat!!
12. Add more soy sauce to taste
13. Enjoy!!

Fried rice, as prepared above, can be a meal all by itself, or at the very least, a substantial side dish. Either way, it's yummy.

While you make this dish, it's nice to sip wine or drink beer while cooking.

It doesn't hurt to make sure that the folks you're cooking for also have plenty of wine and beer, as well! Just in case.


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