Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Perfect Fried Rice - Leftovers are essential.

After a recent slow-roasted pork shoulder, I found myself with left over pork which looked ideal for fried rice.  As a homemade dish, fried rice typically is made with leftover ingredients.  My mother-law, who is Chinese, typically serves it as a breakfast item, although here in the United States fried rice is a popular dinner dish and sold as such in many Chinese restaurants.

Made from fresh rice. Not bad, but not as good as day-old.
Fried rice is also an important component of traditional Chinese food and was first noted in historical records in 4000 BC. Fried rice is also known as a typical Indonesian dish. In both cultures there are various types of fried rice recipes but the main element is rice, cooking oil, egg, soy and Hoisan sauce. In addition, many other extras can be included, including vegetables, meat and seafood of all types. Hence, an ideal dish to be made with leftovers in just about every combination.

Kevin's mother always says you have to use leftover rice, so I decided to test to see if this was really important. Turns out she is absolutely correct. The moisture in fresh rice will cause it to steam and become pasty. The cooking also should ideally occur in a thin wok or pan over very high heat.  High temperature imparts a flavor that no seasoning or sauce can provide. Rice left over from dinner the night before or takeout is ideal. The more dry the better. Do not add water. Simply break it up and use it dry. In the above photo, I used freshly made but cooled white rice. It was pasty and less flavorful than the use of day-old dry rice.

Most any leftover ingredients will do.
There is no need to chop all types of vegetables into tiny cubes (or use frozen ones), like they do in many Chinese restaurants. Although if you have the time and are so inclined, the uniform size is perhaps more visually appealing. Just insure that you provide bit sized pieces of vegetables and meats, and that all of the products you use are either pre-cooked (left over) or will cook during the short cooking time in the wok. For example, while eggs will cook very quickly, raw carrots take considerable time to cook so these must be pre-cooked. It is for this reason that left-overs are ideal.

The below recipe makes six good sized adult servings.

2 tablespoons oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup carrots, frozen or fresh, diced and pre-cooked if fresh
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup cold cooked pork, small dice (or other meat or seafood, precooked)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions with tops, sliced (green and white separated)
3 cups cold cooked rice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a wok or large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat eggs with 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce to combine. Add eggs to wok and cook until the eggs are firm on the bottom.  Stir and cut up the eggs until they are cooked through. Transfer cooked eggs to a bowl and set aside.  Use a paper towel to wipe out the wok/skillet.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to wok and swirl to coat. Add the celery, onions and mushrooms and cook until starting to soften, about 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the carrots and peas stirring into the mixture and cook until tender, another 3 minutes or so. Add the pork (or other meat/seafood), bean sprouts, ginger and garlic along with the white part of the green onions. Stir constantly until fragrant and warmed through, about 3 minutes more. Add the rice, soy and Hoisin sauce and pepper and stir in. Let cook for an additional minute or two without stirring.  Place in serving dishes and garnish with green onion tops.

Before the rice is added.

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