Weeknight Fried Rice

Weeknight Fried Rice

Rice was one of very few grains to grace our dinner table when I was a kid. We didn’t eat wheat berries or bulgur, farro or freekah. When it came to starch at supper, it was bread, potatoes, or rice (with an occasional barley soup in the mix). Rice and rice alone was what my mother ritually fed us on Wednesdays during Lent as a way to remember the poor and suffering. The fact that Rice-A-Roni was the “San Francisco Treat” was a particular thrill for me and my siblings since we lived in the shadow of that fine city.

This month, I’m naming rice our “Miss August” as part of my Year of Whole Grains series. I figure we’re overdue for a dose of the familiar after I hoisted those somewhat obsure Sorghum Burrito Bowls on you in July.

Rice is the opposite of obscure. In fact, it’s a staple food for half the world’s population. The white rice you’ll find inside a box of Chinese takeout is but a fraction of the variety that fills the bellies of rice lovers from Bali to Barcelona. Indeed, the planet plays host to approximately 40,000 varieties of rice, a grain that is cultivated on every continent of the globe except Antarctica.

Most of us in the U.S. were raised on white rice, but I suggest shifting on over to whole grain rice, if you haven’t done so already. It’s got more texture and flavor than white rice (in my humble opinion) and is superior from a nutrition standpoint. Whole grain rice hasn’t been stripped of its bran and germ, which means more fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals. All good things.

When it comes to whole grain rice, there’s a wide world of choices beyond garden variety brown.  Chinese black rice, Himalayan red rice, and purple Thai rice are among the richly-hued whole grain rice options you’ll find in the marketplace these days.

Now for the downside. Arsenic. What!!! Over the past couple of years, researchers have found troubling levels of arsenic in rice, likely originating from the soil in which it’s grown. Has this knowledge put the brakes on my rice intake? No. But it is one more argument for why the healthiest diet is a varied one. I continue to include rice on the family table (probably every week or so), but in balance with loads of other whole grains.

To minimize arsenic levels, be sure to rinse your rice thoroughly before cooking. Also, consider cooking it as you would pasta, in a generous amount of water. According to the FDA, simmering the grain in a ratio of six parts water to one part rice can cut the arsenic by more than 50 percent. Here’s a little “how to” on the method from the folks over at The Kitchn.

Now that we have that unsavory business out of the way, let’s move onto something entirely savory (and delicious): Fried rice. The recipe comes from the mega-charming cookbook, KEEPERS by Caroline Campion and Kathy Brennan.

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The book is a collection of fabulous family recipes that is, in itself, a keeper. Expat Fried Rice caught my eye because it makes great use of leftovers, can be pulled together in minutes, and is a healthy fried rice. Plus, unlike the name “fried rice” implies, it’s actually quite nourishing, particularly if you lean on whole grain rice and up the amount of vegetables  (I used 2 cups each of greens and broccoli and it worked beautifully).

Expat Fried Rice

When Kathy told her friend Ginny about this cookbook and the kind of dishes we planned to include, she immediately offered up her fried rice recipe. A single mom and news editor who worked and traveled in Asia for more than 20 years, she knows a thing or two about getting a fast, fuss-free meal on the table. She uses leftover meat or fish (salmon is a favorite)—but you can also start with raw and cook it in the pan before you add the rice. The thyme is an unusual addition that Ginny calls a delicious accidental discovery. What’s more, she felt compelled to clarify two things: It’s oyster sauce, not soy sauce, that belongs in fried rice (otherwise, it’s like a “salt lick”), and don’t just serve it for dinner; it makes a great weekend breakfast.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author katiemorford

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cups cooked and cooled rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups bite-size pieces cooked meat or fish
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, 1 cup cooked small broccoli florets, or ½ cup frozen peas, thawed (see notes)
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce, plus extra, if needed

Instructions

  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they start to brown but are still crisp, about 1 minute. Add the rice and heat through, breaking up any chunks and mixing the grains with the oil and onions, about 2 minutes.
  2. Crack the eggs onto the rice and cook until almost set, stirring to break up the yolks and coat the rice, about 1 minute. Add the meat or fish and vegetables and heat through, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add the thyme and oyster sauce and cook for about 1 minute more, stirring often. Check the seasonings, adding salt or more oyster sauce if needed, then serve hot.

Recipe Notes

You can use different vegetables and/or scale up the amount used. For example, I made this with 2 cups of broccoli and 2 cups of baby kale.

Recipe and photo  used with permission from KEEPERS (Rodale, 2013) by Caroline Campion and Kathy Brennan. Photo credit: Christopher Testani.

 

 

Comments

08.26.2014 at 3:20 AM #

Maryea {happy healthy mama}

I didn’t know cooking rice in more liquid helped reduce the arsenic. Good to know! This recipe looks great. I’ve gotten myself in the habit of always cooking an extra amount of whatever grain I’m cooking so this is perfect for my extra rice. 🙂

08.26.2014 at 3:20 AM #

katiemorford

That sounds like a very smart habit. Great for lunches or even scrambled into eggs at breakfast. Thanks for sharing.

08.26.2014 at 3:41 PM #

Monica

Fried rice was the first thing I learned to cook as a kid! Yours looks gorgeous, but for 4 cups of rice you need a really big pan, otherwise it will also steam and get mushy? I don’t think I’ve ever had 4 cups of leftover rice. I do use soy sauce, but only a little, and if you don’t have oyster sauce, hoisin sauce works great too.

08.26.2014 at 3:41 PM #

katiemorford

Yes, a wok or big pan is a smart move here. This is also a recipe that is easily scaled down. Good tips on the sauce.

08.26.2014 at 6:20 PM #

Paul

my favorite additions

chunky cut walla walla onions
bean sprouts (lots)
butter + oil

with fresh rice, i make all of the veggies first, then get the wok HOT and sear the rice in butter/oil so that it’s almost crunchy, then stir the veggie back in. thanks for reminding me of this!

08.26.2014 at 6:20 PM #

katiemorford

Can I come over next time you fire up that wok? Sounds delish.

08.26.2014 at 7:44 PM #

Pam R

Perfect timing for my weekend leftovers! Made this tonight with assorted veggies, chicken and white rice. Delicious!

08.26.2014 at 7:44 PM #

katiemorford

Yay! It’s a perfect leftovers sort of meal.

09.04.2014 at 7:54 AM #

Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Yum! But whoa, I didn’t know about the arsenic thing. We eat a TON of rice, like 2-3 times a week, so that makes me a little nervous. Guess we need to switch it up a little. Thanks for the tip!

09.04.2014 at 7:54 AM #

katiemorford

I would imagine rice would play a role in your cooking. Rinse it well and try cooking in ample water…boiling instead of steaming and yes, other grains, too!

09.09.2014 at 12:52 PM #

Nicole Sommerfeld

Great recipe! I cut the rice quantity in 1/2 for the 3 of us and we still had leftovers. Used a leftover BBQ’d pork chop, thinly sliced and it was great. Thanks!!

09.09.2014 at 12:52 PM #

katiemorford

So glad to hear you liked this one. It’s just such an easy, weeknight staple.

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