The Fried Rice Equation

It has recently come to my attention that most of my friends feel like they can't cook...  I recently cooked pasta for one of my homies and he was in shock and awe at every step. I was like "Dude, I'm literally adding garlic to a can of tomatoes." TBH, I am mad about it because I want people to be awed by me but only when I really deserve it and making pasta with tomato sauce is definitely not one of those times.

I'm into fried rice right now because you can make an almost endless number of variations of it and you don't need to use a recipe.  It is also a perfectly reheatable dish.  Cooking without recipes is a new/old food trend.  Bon Appetit and Food52 both have great non-recipe recipe sections of their websites, but I wanted to give you my equation for great fried rice.

How to Use This Guide

Read through this guide slowly once, then go set up all your ingredients.  Look in your freezer to see what you have, go to the grocery store, do what you need to do.  Cook the rice and chop everything and have it sitting next to your stove when you start cooking.

 This is what should be sitting next to your stove.  Plus ground pork (gross), soy sauce, fish sauce, chili sauce and sesame oil.

This is what should be sitting next to your stove.  Plus ground pork (gross), soy sauce, fish sauce, chili sauce and sesame oil.

Rice

I actually like to use a mixture of brown rice and farro for my rice, because it has a nice chew and better fiber content.  When you can, cook the rice a day ahead of time.  This helps the texture situation, which is important for fried rice.  If you can't, that's fine.  Don't make this a production.

Meat

For about 3 cups of rice/farro, I like to use about 8 oz of ground meat.   Pork is a good go-to but don't be afraid to mess around with beef, lamb or even something more complex like chorizo.  8 ounces is about enough to give you fat and flavor, but doesn't make it the centerpiece of the dish.  Cook the meat with a generous amount of finely chopped garlic and ginger over medium high heat until it is good and crispy.

There will be a point in the cooking of almost any ground meat where it will look gray - around that stage, add a small spoonful of sambal oelek (or other chili sauce like Sriracha), a dash of fish sauce and a splash of soy sauce and keep cooking.

Taste as you go (once it isn't pink).  You want all the individual elements to taste good before they get combined.  That's called building flavor and it is arguably one of the most important elements of  good food!

Use soy sauce as salt, fish sauce as a sweeter element and the sambal for spice.  Try to balance all these flavors so nothing is overwhelming but everything comes out.

Vegetables

I am loving chopped carrots and frozen edamame right now.  You could also add a couple of handfuls of frozen vegetable medley (corn/peas/carrots) for a very budget friendly option.  Asparagus would be great chopped into 1-inch long pieces.  If you're trying to add more greens to your life, slice 2 handfuls of kale and throw that into the mix.  I like my fried rice to be about 1/3 rice, 2/3 everything else - mostly vegetables because that way it feels reasonably healthy.

I typically throw my vegetables in with the meat as it finishes cooking and lower the heat to medium.  Think about what you're cooking - how would you normally cook it?  

For kale, I would mix it around in that pan with the meat (now over medium heat) and then add a splash of chicken or beef stock and cover the pan for 2-3 minutes to wilt.  That's called braising and it is the best way (in my opinion) to cook kale.  Makes it nice and tender.

For smaller vegetables, just mixing them around in the pan with the meat for 3-4 minutes will cook them enough.  Make sure they're no longer frozen and they're tender.  As the vegetables cook, add a spoonful of sambal oelek (or other chili sauce), a dash of fish sauce and a small splash of soy sauce.  Mix well.

 this is where we're headed, folks.

this is where we're headed, folks.

Combine

Remove the meat + veggie mixture from the pan and set aside.  Add the rice mixture to the pan, breaking up any sticky clumps.  Stir to coat with residual oil from the pan.  Add about a tablespoon of oil - I like sesame but anything will work - plus soy, fish sauce and chili.  Stir again.  Press rice into a flat layer across the bottom of the pan and let sizzle for 2-3 minutes.  This is going to get us some dank crunchy texture.  Do this a couple of times until you have some crunchy bits. Taste, taste, taste.

Add the veg + meat back into the pan and stir to mix.  Taste.  It may need more soy, more chili, or more fish sauce. If it seems dry, add stock or sesame oil and cook a bit more.  Trust your instincts and your tastebuds.  My perfect fried rice is not the same as yours.

To Finish

Sometimes I like to top this with a fried egg.  Sometimes I don't.  I don't love an egg scrambled into my fried rice because I don't like what it does to the texture, but feel free to mess around with mixing in an egg at the combining stage.  I like chopped peanuts on top for crunch.  If you have cilantro or green onions, those make great garnishes.  I also love a squeeze of lime across the top or some thinly sliced purple cabbage and/or Thai basil.

Does this make you nervous?  It shouldn't.  Breathe deeply.  You know what you like to eat and how you like to eat it.  Enjoy the process.  If you're worried you can't keep up, just turn down the heat and everything will move slower.  You're doing great.  Call me.

 Great job we did it!!  Do you like my tea towel?  It's from Pinyin Press in Hong Kong.  Stay tuned for another cool tea towel.

Great job we did it!!  Do you like my tea towel?  It's from Pinyin Press in Hong Kong.  Stay tuned for another cool tea towel.