I was scrolling through this blog earlier and was astonished to discover I hadn’t yet made an entry addressing Fried Rice. We eat it, almost without fail, once a week, and it’s absolutely one of the cornerstones of what I consider Comfort Food, so I sort of just assumed I’d already ticked it off the list and moved on but, lo and behold, there it isn’t. So here it is.
As with lots of other recipes I’ve posted here, I set off down the river of writing it up by bargepoleing away the various conceptions people have of the two simple words above, in an attempt to make clear that this is simply the way we eat this at home, rather than being a version of a recipe that attempts to recreate any particular experience or culturally significant meal. That said, I think every grain consuming culture on earth probably has some kind of variation on it; you boil rice, there’s some left, so you reheat it the next day in the tastiest way available to you, and the most straightforward, universal way to heat something up is in a pan, over heat.
A lot of people seem to have a great fear of using leftover rice on the basis of the bacteria it collects. Yes, rice has a large, porous surface area that’s susceptible to going off quicker than say, a steak, but stick it in the fridge, in an airtight container as soon as it’s cool and, provided you’re certain to heat it all through properly (more of which later) you have absolutely nothing to fear. You have my word.
I have a general principle, where white rice is concerned, to try and match it with an equal quantity of fibrous vegetables, which seems a healthy way to approach things to me and this recipe, which is designed to be a fairly free standing main meal, is heavily loaded with stuff, but of course really the act of reheating rice in the pan can be as simple as you want it to be. I personally think there isn’t a lot of point without some spring onions. garlic and egg, but feel absolutely free to include whatever you have lying around. In an ideal world, this is a dinner that requires little or no shopping.
Also, consider some nice things to have on the side, if you have them. Here are some things I think fit the bill perfectly:
- pickled vegetables, especially those of the Japanese variety
- miso soup
- squares of Nori (roasted seaweed paper)
- a fried egg (in place of the egg in the recipe), or some ramen egg halves
- any piece of meat or fish
- any and all chilli sauces (I highly recommend the Way On infused chilli oils)
So, anyway, that’s a lot of words about reheating rice. Here’s how I do it.
To feed 2-4, depending on hungriness, you will need:
- 400-500g cold cooked rice (this is hard to preemptively measure, so use what you have)
- 2 spring onions, cut into 1/2cm lengths
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- A peeled carrot, cut into batons
- A carrot-sized length of daikon radish, peeled and cut into batons
- A handful of sugar snaps, thinly sliced
- A handful of frozen peas
- Some white cabbage thinly sliced (roughly equal to the mass of each other vegetable)
- 2 eggs, whisked, with a pinch of salt
- A handful of raw cashew nuts, about 80g (look at mine, they’re roasted! Needs must.)
By far the easiest and most economical way to go about this is to get everything prepared first. Slice the spring onions and garlic and put them together in a bowl. Take a separate bowl, prepare all the vegetables, and put them in it. Stick your cashews in your own little bowl, then put the eggs in their own little bowl and whisk them with the salt. By the time you’re done, 10-20 minutes later, it’ll look like you’re ready to do a demonstration recipe on Saturday Kitchen, but the cooking process is so fast that you really don’t want to be peeling or chopping anything as you go.
Find yourself a suitably sturdy spatula and a pair of chopsticks, and have them to hand.
Put a wok* on a high heat and, when it feels uncomfortably hot to hold your hand over, pour in a tablespoon or so of cooking oil (use something neutral and durable like groundnut, sunflower or rapeseed oil) and swoosh it around.
Tip your onions and garlic into the pan and stir around constantly for about a minute until they begin to take a little colour. The spring onions are liable to spit, so only cook this in front of someone who is comfortable hearing you swear.
Add the vegetables and toss them well in the oil until they’re glossy and well covered. Give them a minute or two, again moving them around more or less constantly until their colours glow and the sugar snaps and cabbage begin to blacken a little at the edges.
Add the cashews and toss for 30 seconds.
Add the rice and toss with the vegetables, diligently breaking up any large chunks, constantly pressing, pushing, tossing and generally agitating the contents of the pan. Do this for a good two minutes. The aim isn’t to colour the rice, but to heat it, all the way though. Really make sure you break up every clump of rice.
Push the lot to one side of the wok, exposing the bottom, and pour in your whisked eggs. Turn off the heat, and leave them be for twenty seconds or so, watching as the edges solidify and then, pick up your chopsticks and whisk away at the eggs like mad, scrambling them and separating them into little curds. Toss the lot together, add a pinch of salt, toss again, distribute evenly between plates or bowls and eat straight away, topped if you wish with some Japanese or light Chinese soy sauce.
And there it is. I’m sure you do yours differently, and so you should. Feel free to let me know. It’s really one of those dinners that I imagine is as unique as the people making it and, somehow, that feels rather fitting.
*If you have one, use a cast iron or steel wok, recently seasoned. I feel this is the best option, cause it allows you to use a metal spatula, and really dig in hard as you’re cooking (as well as create the wonderful ringing of the spatula hitting the pan, a sound which takes me straight to the streets of Bangkok. If I have a metaphorical Church Bell, the clanging of steel spatula on iron pan is it). Failing that, use a non stick with plastic, silicone or wooden tools (I have, with perfectly nice results) or any large, high sided pan that you have room to move things around in. Absolutely just use what you have. It’ll work.