All cultures have their ‘home-cooking’ meals for putting together leftovers and making frugal but tasty dishes. One culture’s goulash is another’s special soup or stew, in another culture it might be Shepherd’s Pie, pasties, or turnovers.
Today we’ll look at fried rice, on Asian way to use up bits and pieces of a previous meal.
Since the goal is using up leftovers, you don’t look at the ingredients and decide you can’t make it. The only thing you *really* need for fried rice is—– rice and a bit of oil! you don’t even need soy sauce. (When we lived there, the Japanese always looked at Americans funny when we put soy sauce on rice dishes).
Meats: You don’t have to have any in your friend rice. It can be a fine vegan dish. You can add scrambled eggs for a cheaper protein. I’ve had delicious fried rice with tuna fish as the main ingredient. I’ve used just about every leftover cooked meat you can think of.
Spices and herbs: If you have salt, pepper, garlic, and onion that’s great. Cumin, chili powder, anise, curry, lemon grass (or a dash of lemon juice) are extras that also give food an ‘authentic’ asian flavor.
Veggies that make good stir fries: pretty much any root crops (except beets); celery; peas; cabbage; snowpeas; edamame (green soybeans); chopped green beans; sprouted mung beans or lentils;bits of fresh greens (dandelion, lambsquarters, diced day lilies even!); peppers; carrots; cabbage…. whatever.
If you have only canned veggies- just drain and add them at the end of the 20 minutes frying time, cooking just long enough to warm them.
Fats for frying: I can’t really think of one that doesn’t work. I like a tiny bit of sesame oil for flavor, but I’ve made fried rice without it more often than not. You can also save the fats from cooking meats (store it in the fridge or freezer) and use that.
This recipe serves about 15-20, depending on the size of your eaters’ appetites:
1/2 cup oil
9 medium onions — diced small
4 1/2 medium green peppers — diced
About a quart of other vegetables as desired (optional: see above)
2 1/4 quarts cooked leftover rice
1/2 to 1 quart cooked meat, cut up into bite sized pieces if necessary
Seasoning: to taste
Cut your vegetables ahead of time and set aside ready to use. Set out other ingredients, too- the cooking time should not take more than 20 minutes at the most, and you don’t your veggies to get soggy because you had to leave some in the hot pan while you cut up other ingredients. If you are using eggs, whisk them now with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside until ready.
Once you have everything set out and ready to go, basically you just want to add ingredients and stir frequently while cooking over moderate heat for 20 minutes.
Brown the onion in some of the heated oil in a very large pan.
When the onion is limp and golden, add any root vegetables, adding additional oil if needed. Stir and cook until the root vegetables are still crisp, but very bright in color. I like to add my seasonings with the onions. Other prefer to add the seasonings when they add the rice. You choose. Now is the time to add thicker above ground vegetables such as cabbage, peppers, edamame, fresh green beans, diced broccoli stalks, celery, etc. Cook and stir just until they are bright in color but still crisp, then add rice and meat, and additional oil if needed, stirring quickly just until the meat is reheated. The last few minutes of cooking is when you add more tender vegetables, such as sprouts, spinach, lambsquarters. any remaining ingredients. Taste and add seasoning as desired. If you are using eggs, either remove the rice mixture to another container or scoot it all over to one side, then quickly scramble the eggs in the open part of the pan, then stir them into the fried egg mixture.
Serve immediately. This is a one dish meal, but you might like fruit on the side, or peanut butter celery sticks.