Heidi Swanson, of 101 Cookbooks http://www.101cookbooks.com/ and author of the book Super Natural Cooking, inspired my variation on traditional fried rice with her fried wild rice recipe. Fried rice is something that is easy, fast, and for me, addictive. I can’t stop eating it. One caveat: I am referring to good fried rice. The fried rice I’ve encountered in most Chinese take-out places is boring and not all that appetizing to me. But making it at home? I could eat bowlfuls. Best of all? It’s adaptive. It’s creative. You take a bit of leftover rice, and basically, you throw in whatever is around. Leftovers repurposed! That’s a cheap meal I can cozy up to.
One “rule” to follow: use leftover rice. If you try to steam some rice right away to make fried rice, no matter what kind of rice it is, you will end up with a goopy, mushy mess. When rice sits overnight in the refrigerator, it sort of “dries out”, making it perfect to fry up. So next time you’re making rice, just make a point to make extra so you can have fried rice the next day.
Otherwise, the ingredients are up to you. I used a wild rice and brown rice blend instead of my usual jasmine rice. Figured I could benefit from the added nutrition, and I love the textural (and visual!) variety that wild rice provides. You can use just about any type of rice you have. Next time, I think I might seek out a bit of asparagus instead of peas and carrots for some variety. You could reduce the chicken to 1/2 pound rather than the full pound. Or substitute shrimp, or tofu, it’s really all about preferences and what’s available. If you have leftover cooked chicken, that could be easy and would make the recipe go even faster, as you could eliminate the marinade steps entirely.
Last but not least, I have mentioned Sambal Oelek several times in various recipes. As this is a new ingredient to some, I attempted to take a picture of my bottle in an effort to help you all locate it in the store. (The label is shiny gold, so it doesn’t photograph all that well.) You can find it in the Asian section of many grocery stores. Huy Fong seems to be one of the common brands. They also show that you can order it on their website. http://www.huyfong.com/no_frames/oelek.htm This stuff is amazing though, if you like spicy foods. I love it. I had to put a little spoonful in my own bowl of fried rice, just to personalize it a bit.
And now, for the fried rice recipe. This serves about 4. (note: can be gluten-free, if you use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce)
For the chicken:
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 t sambal oelek (chili paste)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t ginger, minced
1 T tamari or soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
For the rice:
2 T sesame oil
4 eggs, scrambled
1 small shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ginger, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
½ c frozen peas, thawed
2 T chopped red cabbage
2-3 c cooked wild rice mix (preferably refrigerated overnight)
1 t fish sauce
1 t tamari or soy sauce
Small handful of torn cilantro leaves
Place the chicken with the sambal oelek, garlic, ginger, tamari/soy sauce and sesame oil in a Ziploc bag and seal. Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove from marinade, pat dry with paper towels.
Heat a wok or large, deep skillet to medium-high heat. Add ½ t sesame oil, swirl to coat pan. Add eggs, and scramble in pan, cooking for about 30 seconds or just until the eggs set. (they will still be just a bit runny) Remove from pan and set aside.
Add an additional ½ t sesame oil if necessary. Add chicken to pan, spreading out into the thinnest layer possible. Leave chicken untouched for 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken browns. Turn chicken over to brown all over, and cook until no longer pink, 4-5 minutes total. Remove chicken and set aside.
Lower heat to medium. Wipe pan clean, and add remaining sesame oil. Swirl to coat pan. Add shallot, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add rice, and turn heat up to high. Spread rice out in pan, and let sit, untouched, for 1 minute. Add chicken, eggs, carrots, peas, and cabbage. Stir again, and let sit untouched for another minute. Add fish sauce and tamari/soy sauce, and stir to incorporate. Taste. Does it need more salt? Add more tamari/soy sauce. Does it need more sesame oil? Then add another ½ teaspoon or so. Stir one last time, and leave it untouched for another minute or so, until the rice is really toasting on the bottom of the pan! Then remove from heat, sprinkle torn cilantro leaves over, and serve.