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 of 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 have it below, 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.

Ready to get frying? It’s rice time.

Recipe

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups cooked rice

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 clove garlic minced

2 eggs (whisked)

1 Tablespoon fish sauce

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons fresh or frozen peas

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (optional)

½ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

1 bunch green onions, sliced (optional)

2 Tablespoons cilantro or Thai basil, minced (optional)

½ cup chopped bok choy (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a wok to medium-high.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger (if using) and stir-fry just until fragrant (a few seconds will do anymore and it can burn).
  3. Turn the heat to medium and add the eggs. Don’t stir–cook just until heated through.
  4. Break the eggs apart and push to the side of the pan.
  5. Add the rice and let it cook for about 2 minutes before stirring (I like getting a few crispy pieces).
  6. Add the sauces to the pan and stir the ingredients together as you might flip an omelet (in a shoveling motion versus stirring a batter).
  7. Add the peas and other vegetables you are using. Stir-fry for 2 more minutes and adjust seasoning, adding more soy or fish sauce to taste.
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