Fried Rice

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I grew up eating rice because, for whatever reason, my mother loved to make rice for my brother and I to eat for any meal. Of course the way she made it was more akin to having bread or potatoes to go with French style roast chicken and gravy. I didn’t start making rice to serve in Japanese or Chinese food until I had roommates in college who taught me so much where making rice is concerned.

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When you make fried rice you need old rice, maybe a week old rice is best. Usually you will also want to make it with jasmine or another fairly dry rice, but any white rice will do fine. I use Japanese short grain rice since I love the fresh result so much, and after a week in the refrigerator it is dry enough to make good fried rice. I’ll be sure to write up a post about cooking rice another time, so lets just talk about fried rice.

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Fried rice is great for whatever you have on hand. Leftovers, bits and pieces, all the stuff you like to eat can get thrown into this dish; of course this makes any recipe needlessly restricting. So I’m going to write out some suggestions first, followed with the cooking method.

My first suggestion is cook the ingredients mostly by themselves and combine at the end. The flavors will develop better this way. On this note a wok is nice, but not essential to making fried rice. Two factors matter for browning the rice, the temperature of the oil in the pan and the dryness of the rice. A wok can get hotter, and contains the rice better since you need to constantly be stirring while the rice is in there. Trust me when I say that rice likes to jump out of a normal pan.

Also a non-stick pan or wok makes cooking so much easier, you need to use less oil to cook and of course nothing sticks and burns. Now for some ingredients.

Dry (leftover) white rice (several cups per person, roughly)
Vegetable oil (less in non-stick pan, more in regular pan)
Ginger (minced)
Garlic (minced)
Ground pork (1/4lb per person, more or less to taste)
Carrots (1 per person, diced)
Celery (1 stalk person, diced)
Frozen peas (small hand full per person)
Green onion (sliced, amount varies to taste/appearance)
Egg (1 per person)

Chinese style:

Shaoxing Cooking Wine (a tablespoon or so)
Soy Sauce (roughly as much as shaoxing wine)
White Sugar (a tablespoon or so)
Black Vinegar (a few tsp.)
Ground Fresh Chili Paste (a few large spoonfuls)
Ground Szechuan Peppercorns (1/2 tsp whole, ground in Mortar and Pestle
Fish Sauce (small amount to enhance the flavor, tsp. or so)
Sesame oil (a few tsp.)

Thai style:

Dried Thai Chilis (5-10, 10 is very spicy)
Ground Fresh Chili Paste (a nice spoonful)
Soy Sauce (a tablespoon or two)
White Sugar (a tablespoon or so)
Fish Sauce (Large amount, especially compared to Chinese version, tablespoons not tsp.)
Fresh lime juice (one whole lime)
Sesame oil (a few tsp.)

Time to make: 15-20 minutes (depending on how fast you chop!)

You may be asking at this point about obtaining some of these ingredients. Szechuan peppercorns are hard to find outside of Asian markets and fish sauces brands are very different in strength. This is what I use:

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As for Szechuan peppercorns, search for them in Asian markets under “dried prickly ash”, a huge bag will be only a few dollars, unlike in your neighborhood grocer if they have them at all. Mine was “dired,” but was amazingly strong. These peppercorns add a wonderful numbing spicy to food, but their strength can vary a fair bit, so be sure to check their strength before pouring them in!

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No matter which style you chose, start by cooking up the more robust vegetables like carrot and celery. Save the peas and the green onions for the very end. Have a bowl ready to put each ingredient in after it is finished cooking. Make sure your pan is hot, very hot, using the highest setting is probably a good idea for making fried rice. If your fire alarm goes off, you might be doing something right! Brown the meat, remove it from pan, and add in the garlic and ginger with the Szechuan Peppercorns or the Thai chilis depending on which style you are doing. Cook until you can smell it nicely and add the rice. Stir constantly to prevent anything from burning as much as possible. Once the rice is brown to your satisfaction add the eggs and mix them up in the pan, blending with the rice.

Next add in all the previously cooked ingredients and start to add the “style” ingredients. Amounts will vary by various factors, so experiment until you find a happy place. Lastly you will add in the frozen peas and the green onion, stir together and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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