Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wok Out

There's nothing more affordable and more rewarding than putting leftover food to use. It just so happens that fried rice is the ultimate leftover/Affordable Foodie dish because it involves combining leftover rice with whatever else you happen to have in your fridge or freezer to make a quick one-dish meal.

Although making fried rice is super easy, it is possible to ruin it. Here are a few basic things you'll need if you want your fried rice to turn out perfectly every time:

Dry Rice: You need to start with steamed rice, but you can't make fried rice with freshly cooked rice. If you don't believe me, you can try it, but you'll end up with a mushy, sticky dish due to the high moisture content of the freshly cooked rice. The best rice to use is leftover rice that's been in your fridge for at least one day. Now you know what to do with all that leftover steamed rice from Chinese or Thai takeout.

A Screaming Hot Pan: Don't be shy about turning up the heat when you're making this dish. If your frying pan or wok isn't hot enough, the rice will stick to it - and good luck scraping it off! Let the oil heat up in the pan for a couple of minutes before you add your ingredients, making sure to avoid burning the delicate garlic and ginger. I recommend starting at medium-high heat to cook the aromatics and turning it up for about a minute before you add the rice. Once you spread out all of the ingredients in bottom of the pan, let them sit a minute or two. Then flip them, spread them out again and let them sit a few minutes more. This is a foolproof way to avoid mushy rice.

An Adventurous Spirit: Remember when I said this dish was literally made for leftovers? Well, I meant it. Fried rice tastes great no matter what you put in it (with a few exceptions of course). So when you make it, get creative and give yourself permission to clean out the fridge.

Below is a basic recipe for fried rice. I made it recently when I was staying at my friend Mandy's house. She was recovering from oral surgery, and I came to her house straight from work and completely famished. Luckily, she had a ton of leftover white rice waiting for me.

Basic Fried Rice


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, greens included, rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
4 cups leftover cooked white or brown rice
1 red pepper, diced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables with edamame, corn, peas, carrots, etc.
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok (a non-stick skillet works well) until very hot. Add garlic, scallions and ginger and cook, stirring, until softened and aromatic, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice, red peppers and mixed vegetables and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Make a well in the center of the rice mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of canola oil, then add the eggs and cook until nearly fully scrambled. Stir the eggs into the rice mixture, then add soy sauce and incorporate thoroughly. Taste the rice and add more soy sauce to taste. Serve hot.


  1. I was so bummed my mouth hurt too much to eat it. It looked scrumptious!

  2. Made this for dinner tonight! Only had to buy a bell pepper and scallions. Was out of eggs, so picked up a dozen of those, too, but doesn't really count :)
    Added from the fridge and freezer: green peas, bok choy, red onion, chili peppers, carrots. R also added some leftover chicken to his.
    Tasty tasty tasty!