Chinese Fried Rice

Years ago, I tried making fried rice – and it turned out terribly. The oil wasn’t hot enough, and I didn’t have all of the vegetables chopped before I started cooking it. I ended up with soggy, oily rice topped with too-crisp vegetables. Oh yeah: I thought throwing in extra soy sauce would somehow make it all better. Not so.

I crossed fried rice off my list of dishes to make at home and decided instead it was one of those tricky recipes that should be reserved for ordering out (and take out!). Then my 10 year-old decided that fried rice was her favorite meal.

Every time we ordered Chinese food, she’d ask – beg, really – for fried rice. That’s all she’d eat. I figured if she likes it that much, it’s worth trying again at home.

I asked around for tips, checked out a few cookbooks and discovered there are a few tricks for making decent fried rice. First, about the rice: It should be dry. This is a great way to use up leftover rice – and I would suggest that you use rice you’ve made at least a day before instead of making it fresh (it just doesn’t react to the oil as well if it’s not a bit dry). Next, have all your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Fried rice, like a stir-fry, comes together quickly.

Now about those vegetables … most of the cookbooks mentioned peas, sure. But I like to load up my fried rice with even more veggies. Choose quick-cooking veggies, like green onions, bok choy or even carrots – all sliced thin. (Again, feel free to toss in leftover veggies you may have in the fridge.)

You’ll notice plenty of “optional” ingredients in this recipe. I don’t mention it, but you can also add thin strips of meat (I added pork), when you heat your garlic. Just cook the meat through before adding the eggs. One ingredient that isn’t optional, however, is the fish sauce. I know, I know: You might not have it on hand – and you could just use the soy sauce – but for a better flavor, the fish sauce really adds the zing you can’t get with anything else.

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