Diana’s Fried Rice 1-2-3: Fast Food, Fast Feast

Guest post by Diana Chan.

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Fried rice is a joyful food! A one-dish meal of rice, colourful bits of meat and vegetables, it is basically cold rice quickly reheated in a frying pan, to which you add tasty ingredients to make a fast and enjoyable hot meal.

Fried rice is my favourite food for lunch at home on the weekends, or on weeknights when I am eating dinner by myself and have some cold rice in the fridge. It is the perfect food to eat alone – there is nothing in it that requires cutting so you can eat it with a spoon or fork, leaving one hand free to swipe a tablet or turn a page. While a salad or sandwich has similar virtues, there is something much more comforting for me in a hot meal, especially in the evenings.

One thing I like about making fried rice is the process of assembling contrasting textures, colour and flavour from whatever suitable that happens to be around. To make fried rice attractive, think confetti. Yang Chow Fried Rice, a classic Cantonese dish served in many Chinese restaurants, is a tri-colour affair made with red-tinted diced barbequed pork, yellow egg, and green peas or spring onions.

Fried rice in restaurants is often very greasy because a lot of oil is needed to stop rice from sticking to the iron woks. You don’t have this problem when you make fried rice at home. Making a delicious fried rice is quicker than boiling an egg, and requires not much more effort.

There are 3 easy steps: soften, cook and mix.

First step – soften the rice

  • Put a little oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add the quantity of leftover rice you would like to eat. Cold rice will be in clumps. Let the rice heat while you prepare anything else that will go in later. When you start to hear a sizzle and pop from the pan, after about a minute or so, sprinkle a teaspoon of water over the clumps; it will generate enough steam to soften the rice. Do not use more water as it can turn the rice soggy. After about another minute when the steam has done its work, press on the clumps with a spatula to break them apart.

Set 1, 1 Soften

Second step – cook what needs cooking

  • When all the lumps have been dealt with, make a clearing in the middle of the pan, add a few drops of oil and fry anything that needs cooking, such as an egg. Break and mix up the yolk and white, and sprinkle some salt all over the egg and rice. Use the spatula to break the cooked egg into rough pieces.

Set 1, 2 Make a Clearing Set 1, 3 Cook

Third step – mix in anything else

  • Lastly, add anything you are using that is already cooked or is fragile or heat sensitive. While the rice (below) was heating I opened up a tub of pulled ham hock to toss in, and then snipped some spring onions with kitchen scissors right into the pan. Mix everything together, taste and adjust seasoning. The rice is now done: an attractive, tasty, piping hot meal that takes no more than 10 minutes to cook from start to finish.

Set 1, 4 Mix Set 1, 5 Done!

I often make minimalist fried rice with just egg and some fresh herbs. I then over-season the egg to get a flavour contrast.

Fried rice can be made with many colourful and tasty ingredients, as long as they do not ooze moisture and make the rice soggy; I would not recommend raw meat or tomatoes for this reason. Things which disintegrate easily are not a good idea either, unless they just need warming up and can be stirred in last. The added items are preferably in small bits, so that there is some of everything in every mouthful. There are exceptions, of course – I will make an exception any time for chunks of lobster meat, for example.

You can add as many things to the fried rice as you want, but bear in mind that the more things you add, the longer it will take to prepare. Also, the more ingredients you add, the less quantity of each you should need – fried rice should be predominantly rice, in my opinion.

The sequence in which you add the ingredients within the basic three steps of soften, cook and mix depends on how much time an item needs to be cooked or warmed up. Depending on what you use, you may also want to switch or combine the first two steps of soften and cook. For example, you could sauté a chopped onion first, before you add the rice to the pan to soften.

The less effort required to make something delicious, the more enjoyment I get from eating it. That’s why, to me, fried rice is a fast feast.

When I like some cooked vegetables on the side, I cook them first in the pan before making the rice, to avoid having one more item to wash. Usually I will start by choosing something tasty, then something aromatic and, if needed, something else to add texture and colour to the fried rice.

Set 2, Crab

Crab, Ginger, egg white, chilli flakes

  • Sizzle the chopped ginger in a bit of oil before adding the rice; the oil will help carry the fragrance of the ginger throughout. Fry a leftover egg white if you happen to have one. While I would not encourage dumping any old leftovers into your fried rice, it is an opportunity to make good use of some odds and ends. Stir in a tub of white crab meat to heat through, and sprinkle over chilli flakes.

 Set 2, roast beef

Rare roast beef, garlic, leek

  • Sauté the garlic and sliced leek before adding the rice. While the leek is cooking, chop up some leftover rare roast beef. Stir the beef in at the end so it warms up but doesn’t really cook further, to preserve its colour. Scatter with some chilli flakes, or give it a few grinds of black pepper.

 Set 2, chorizo

Chorizo, fresh thyme, onion, egg

  • Sauté the onion before adding the rice. Meanwhile, cut the chorizo into small pieces. When the rice has been heated, mix in chorizo and thyme and stir until the juices from the chorizo gives the rice a lovely colour.

Set 2, ham

Pulled ham hock, onion, sugar snap peas

  • Sauté the onion before adding the rice. While the rice is heating, snip sugar snap peas straight into the pan with kitchen scissors (if you likewise prefer to avoid washing a chopping board). Let the rice cook a little longer than usual so the sugar snap peas have time to become crisp tender. You can sprinkle an extra teaspoon of water over the rice to create some more steam. Stir in ham last, just to warm up.

Set 3, palette Set 3, roast chicken

Roast chicken, roughly chopped ginger, fresh chilli, coriander, sultanas

  • Sometimes I like to assemble a palette of colours before starting to cook. Start with sautéing the ginger. Add the sultanas to the rice at the beginning so they benefit from the steam and get plump. The sultanas give a burst of sweetness somewhere in every bite, and makes this fried rice especially delicious.

Set 4, onion Set 4, egg
Set 4,peas Set 4, Done!

Shrimp, ginger, onion, egg, peas and soy sauce

  • If you like the taste of soy sauce, you can always add a teaspoon or two of it to the rice instead of water at the beginning of the process. This fried rice is comparatively complicated as it has many ingredients, including frozen ones straight from the freezer. Cook the ginger and onions first, then park frozen shrimp on the rice to defrost while the egg cooks, and finally add frozen peas to the mix and stir the mixture around until everything is piping hot. If you used only one teaspoon of soy sauce, you would probably still need to season the rice with some salt.

The next time you have some rice left over, freeze it in individual portions. When you want to make fried rice, blitz it in the microwave for a minute or so and you are ready to go.

 

Huge thanks to Diana for her wonderful post on making quick and delicious fried rice.

Do let us know your favourite combinations to add to fried rice and if you follow Diana’s instructions, let us know how you get on.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
24 Comments to "Diana’s Fried Rice 1-2-3: Fast Food, Fast Feast"

  1. Jack Knight

    Wonderfully written post.

    The ideas for fried rice sound marvellous, in fact I might make one of them next week, when I know I’ll have a mount of rice to use up.

    I also think Diana herself should write her own blog. I would sign on to that immediately.

    Reply
    Diana

    Jack, thank you for the encouragement. I enjoy good food but, at the moment I don’t have much time to write about it. Very happy to have the opportunity to contribute to Kavey Eats.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Jack, yes the original chat Diana and I had was about writing her own blog but given her existing commitments, she wasn’t ready to do that so I asked her if she’d be interested in contributing to my blog instead as a guest writer. I’m thrilled to have her posts to share here!

    Reply
  2. Cheng Tu

    It is a very good idea. They are easy to make yet look so wonderful and tasty. Would love to try them soon.

    Reply
  3. Hani

    So pleased that Diana has figured iout how to use Thermomix to fry rice. Will definitely try it out. Diana has inspired me to use Thermomix for cooking conveniently and without much effort. Diana has great talent in creative cooking.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I love the Thermomix, but not sure it would suit fried rice very well. I have a few Thermomix recipes here on Kavey Eats including one for Guacamole and one for Ragu with basil pasta.

    Reply
  4. Hani

    Sorry mistaken that the fried rice was done by using Thermomix. I have been relying her advice on Thermomix ,

    Reply
    Diana

    Hani, fried rice is best made in a non-stick frying pan, in order to use as little oil as possible. It is also easier to break up all the clumps in the rice by pressing on them with a spatula, once the steam has done its job.

    Reply
  5. Joe Wheaton

    I agree completely with the amount of preparation time being directly related to enjoyment of the dish. There is nothing more wonderful than a simple dish that is really tasty. I only wish I wasn’t going out for dinner as I would love to plunge right in. I use a jasmine rice a lot of the time. Would it work for fried rice? I would never think to use thyme in chinese cooking, what are the other spices that I might try?

    Reply
    Diana

    Jasmine rice works well. The best variety for fried rice is basmati, because the grains do not stick together.
    Ginger, spring onion, coriander, garlic and onion are the usual aromatics in Cantonese food. Chilli flakes, chopped fresh chilli, minced anchovies all add a pleasant kick.
    I have made fried rice with smoked salmon and dill, prosciutto and basil, chicken and oil cured black olives….if the combination works in another cuisine, it should work in fried rice.
    Glad you liked the post and I hope you will experiment with many flavour combinations.

    Reply
  6. Antonia Bean

    I prefer to use my left over rice from a meal that it was made for the night before, so I will typically cook a little extra to use for the next day. “Day Old” rice is perfect for making any type of fried rice recipe.

    Reply
  7. Dale Reed

    i followed your recipie precisely, it worked fantastically, i then tried to clone one of our favourite dishes from the sushi bar, we mixed the rice with fresh crab meat, coriander and chilli, rolled the balls in breadcrumbs and deep fried, they seemed to fall apart slightly until they were almost cool, yet at the restaurant they are served warm. Any suggestions to stop them falling apart. I have to say, fantastically clear and concise directions and so glad i fully read about buying the correct rice and how to prepare it.

    Reply
  8. Lorraine Manners

    So many different ideas to make fried rice – I can’t wait to try them all! I love that Diana uses chilli flakes in some of the recipes ‘cos I love everything spicy. I’ve always used jasmine rice and have never thought of using basmati rice, which I normally associate with Indian food and particularly love the fragrance – I will try that too. Also like the idea of using kitchen scissors to avoid having to wash the chopping board!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I’m not a fan of chilli heat but love the combinations Diane has suggested. And I agree that shortcuts such as kitchen scissors are always welcome! Jasmine and basmati are both long-grained aromatic rices, so I can imagine they can be interchanged for many recipes.

    Reply
  9. Mooi Yap

    Diana,

    Many thanks for making cooking fried rice so simple and easy – 123 and the star of fried rice is RICE! I labor over my fried rice – dicing and chopping french or long beans or stems of Chinese broccoli; char siew; shrimp; Chinese sausage; carrots; shallots and garlic. Rice is not the star but the other ingredients competing with it to win the Oscar! So fried rice is a treat because of the work involved, not something that I could cook everyday. My late mom taught me to use freshly cooked rice or steamed old rice before frying to avoid clumps but this did not work all the time. I experienced with parboiled rice and this works wonderfully – grain by grain all time. Your method of adding just enough water to the rice clump to steam in the pan is so clever. Thank you for reminding that fried rice with just 3 ingredients is just as delicious! I support the call that you should start your own blog!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    That’s what I tried to suggest to her, Mooi, but she said she didn’t have time. I am so delighted to share her wisdom here on Kavey Eats, in the meantime! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Mamta Gupta

    This is a lovely post. I make fried rice often, and had been frying/scrambling my eggs separately first, until I saw my Chinese friend John doing exactly what Diana has shown here. It is such a brilliant idea, just make a little space in the middle of the rice. For me, fried rice from left-overs is a fridge/freezer/cupboard raiding exercise, it is different every time I make it.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    We made this on the weekend, and it worked really well. I have never watched John making egg fried rice. I would love to learn more cooking from him!

    Reply

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