I don’t remember when exactly I started making fried rice, but I think it was just after one of my cheap attacks occurred and I realized that I didn’t have to pay $8 at an Asian restaurant for something that I could quite easily do at home for half the price.
Here it is. Served with some dumplings and dipping sauce. And this is so easy, it’s almost embarrassing. First of all, fried rice is just an Asian casserole in a way. You can put anything you want into it. There are no rules. But I do have a few guidelines. First off, if you haven’t tried microwave frozen rice, do yourself a favor. It’s kind of like Sister Schubert’s yeast rolls. I can’t make rice any better. I use the jasmine rice from Trader Joe’s.
Next, there are a few essentials in my book that just take fried rice over the top. And here they are. The big four: soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and fish sauce. I always have them in the fridge. You can make fried rice without all of them except the soy sauce (ever wonder what makes fried rice brown – it’s the soy sauce). But a little mirin (sweetened sake), sesame oil and fish sauce just takes fried rice over the top. I’m not going to baby you with how much of each. As a general rule a dash of fish sauce, about a tablespoon of mirin and another tablespoon of sesame oil for a 10-ounce bag of rice. Then at the end, more soy sauce than you think. Because of that, don’t salt anything in the skillet.
Now then. I have a trick that I think is pretty nifty. When I trim a pork tenderloin there’s always that nobby part at the end that is just not going to slice pretty. Whack it off and freeze it to use in fried rice.
So here’s how the “recipe” goes for me. Start with the leftover frozen tenderloin. Partially thaw it and slice it thinly. Throw it in the skillet with a little vegetable oil and brown it over high heat. Use a little mirin in the pan to just give that pork a flavor boost. You want it to almost caramelize. There’s nothing more pitiful than gray meat. When the pork is done, set it aside.
Then you take whatever vegetables you have on hand or like and throw them in the same skillet with a little more oil. Brown them, too. I used mushrooms, but this also works with onions and peppers. It does not work with peas. Use some common sense here. Right as the mushrooms are about to be done, I add some fresh minced ginger and garlic. You only want to cook them for about 30 seconds.
From here on, it’s really easy peasy. Microwave the rice and add it to the skillet. Add back in the meat, the vegetables and your seasonings of sesame oil, mirin and fish sauce. Then add the soy sauce until the mixture looks like the fried rice you see in a restaurant.
As much as I am trying to eat local and non-processed, there are some things that I just can’t leave behind. Which is why I always serve fried rice with potstickers from your neighborhood grocer and the dipping sauce from Trader Joe’s.
But here’s the thing to remember. You can use anything in fried rice. Chicken or beef? Sure. Shrimp would be good. Peas are always a hit. Just add frozen ones at the last minute to warm them up. Quick scramble an egg and drop it in.
And do not think you need a wok to do this. It actually works better in a skillet.