TIP OF THE DAY: Americanize Fried Rice - THE NIBBLE Blog
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TIP OF THE DAY: Americanize Fried Rice

To celebrate the 2016 Chinese New Year, a holiday that runs through February 13th, here’s a fusion idea: a fried rice fusion of Chinese and American ingredients.

For the home cook, the beauty of fried rice is that it is very adaptable. Like chow mein, it’s perfect for those nights when you’re cleaning out the refrigerator and want to get rid of leftover meat and vegetables.

As a side dish, fried rice is an alternative to steamed rice. The most basic dish consists of rice, chopped green onions and eggs, stir-fried in a wok with some oil, and optionally seasoned with soy sauce or sauce.

Fried Rice becomes a main meal by adding meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables. At Chinese banquets, fried rice is often the last dish of the main meal, served right before the dessert course.
The oil may be seasoned with aromatics such as garlic before the rice and other ingredients are stir-fried together in a wok. Other

  • Meats often include beef, chicken, or pork; and lobster and shrimp on the seafood side.
  • Popular vegetables include bean sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, corn, mushrooms and green peas.
  • Seasonings include chiles, spices and soy sauce or oyster sauce, plus aromatics such as onions or green onions and garlic.
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    HOW DO YOU “AMERICANIZE” FRIED RICE?

    You forge a path by combining anything that appeals to you—not just traditional Chinese ingredients, but your favorites from any of the world’s cuisines.

  • What’s in your fridge or pantry is unique to you. We found black beans, chicken sausage with apples, ham, hard-boiled eggs, pickled vegetables (including sweet gherkins), prosciutto and turkey. We even added orzo, tiny pasta shaped like grains of rice.
  • Add nuts and dried fruits. Almonds or cashews, dried apricots or prunes are a nice touch. Cashews pair well with canned pineapple chunks. “Trail Mix Fried Rice” works, as does this recipe for Pork Fried Rice with Dried Apricots & Pistachios.
  • Veggies can be the biggest “Americanization”: In addition to the popular Chinese ingredients), look at American produce. Cauliflower and roasted root vegetables go nicely. We added uncooked grape tomatoes at the very end of a recipe, and liked the freshness. Fennel and radicchio add a gourmet touch. Don’t rule anything out—with the possibility of beets, which can “bleed.” Kale fried rice, anyone?
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    Chicken Fried Rice

    Shimp Fried Rice With Brown Rice

    Top: Chicken Fried Rice with diced chicken and proscuitto and chiles from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook. Second: Shrimp Fried Rice made with brown rice and dried apricots, from CalRice.org.

  • Use your favorite source of heat, from chopped jalapeños to sriracha sauce. Anchos and chipotles (smoked jalapeños) add smoky flavors. Default to fresh-ground black pepper or cayenne from your spice rack.
  • Instead of using leftover white or brown rice, try saffron rice or a more exotic rice, such as black or red rice (here are the different types of rice). You can try any leftover cooked grain, from couscous to quinoa. It won’t be fried rice, per se; but it will be good!
  • Consider a sauce or gravy. Fujian rice, a popular dish in China, is served with a brown sauce.
  • Pick an interesting garnish. In China, popular garnishes include fried shallots, cilantro, parsley, sliced chiles, or carrots carved into flowers or other shapes. We especially like cilantro and parsley, as well as fresh basil. Fresh herbs bring brightness to the dish. But you can forge that path with other garnishes. We’ve used strips of pimento as well as citrus zest (any citrus works) and sliced black olives.
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    Ginger Fried Rice With Fried Egg

    Pineapple Fried Rice With Edamame

    Top: A twist from Spice Market in New York City. Leaving out soy sauce keeps the rice white. It’s topped with a fusion concept: a fried egg and crushed panko bread crumbs. Bottom: Pineapple Ginger Fried Rice from Whole Foods Market incorporates Japanese edamame, miso, brown rice and cilantro.

       
    FRIED RICE HISTORY

    While the exact origins of fried rice are lost to history, it’s believed that it was invented sometime during China’s Sui dynasty (589-618 C.E.) in Yangzhou (Yangchow), an eastern coastal province. Yangchow Fried Rice is still the standard by which all other Chinese fried rice dishes are judged, the rice tossed with roast pork, prawns, scallions and peas.

    Thanks to Rhonda Parkinson of ChineseFood.About.com for these tips on cooking fried rice.
     
    THE SCOOP ON FRIED RICE

    The key to making good fried rice is to use rice that has been previously cooked. Day-old rice is fine, but rice that is two or three days old is even better. Older rice is dryer, ensuring that the dish will be neither wet nor mushy. Long grain rice, which is fluffier and less sticky than other types of rice, is ideal.
     
    Cooking the Eggs

    There are two main techniques, and either is fine:

  • Scramble the egg and mix it in with the rice during the final stage of cooking.
  • Fry the beaten egg and cut it into strips to use as a garnish. We’ve happily substituted tamago, Japanese egg custard, for this.
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    Cook The Ingredients Separately

    Each of the ingredients in fried rice is cooked separately and combined in the final stages of cooking. This is to maintain the distinct flavors of each. Simply remove each ingredient from the pan after you cook or heat it and set it aside while you cook the others.
     
    Choosing The Seasoning

    Some cooks use only a pinch of salt, believing that the flavor should come from the stir-fried ingredients. Others season the dish with soy sauce or oyster sauce. Thick soy sauce gives the rice a dark color. It’s really a matter of personal preference.

     
    You Can Freeze Fried Rice!

    Just reheat the frozen rice in a frying pan, or microwave it with a bit of broth (whatever you have—beef, chicken or vegetable).

     
    No Wok Required!

    Finally, you don’t need a wok! A deep skillet will do. We use this teflon-coated “wok pan” with a handle. We vastly prefer it to a conventional wok.

      




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