This is my version of the Chinese-style fried rice. Though it is not authentic or real Chinese fried-rice, it “identifies as” Chinese.
I love the common flavors in Chinese food such as soy sauce, chili bean sauce, ginger, garlic, and Hoisin sauce. I used to visit a Chinese market with a close friend (and bridesmaid in my wedding) who is from China and she introduced me to chili bean sauce and fermented black bean sauce. She also made the best Chinese tofu stir-fry that I’ve ever tasted with delicious baby bok-choy, both of which I became hooked on.
When I can’t eat at my friend’s table, I try to re-create Chinese-flavored dishes in my own kitchen without resorting to the greasy take-out that usually gives me a stomach ache immediately after I am done enjoying it.
One of my favorite Chinese-inspired dishes is simple and quick fried rice. It was one of my favorite things to eat as a child when I went out for Chinese food at my family’s favorite Chinese restaurant. This restaurant has been around for probably over thirty years. I have a lot of memories of this place. When I was very young, I’d go with my dad to pick up our take-out order and we’d have to wait in the lobby for a few minutes while it was being prepared. There were two decorative Chinese marble foo dogs in the waiting room, and I (being the little show-off that I was) decided to pose next to them and mimic their open-mouth expression. People coming into the restaurant would see me imitating the dogs and laugh. I remember feeling quite proud that I could open my mouth as wide as the dogs. I was a strange child.
On another occasion, my grandfather took us to eat there when he came to visit for the weekend. We were all sitting at the table, waiting for our food, when the owner stopped by our table to say hello (he knew us, as we ordered from this restaurant for years). My grandfather’s girlfriend was describing the premise of a book she was reading to my sister and me and she mentioned that it was about an FBI agent. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the owner appeared (I think from behind a tall plant) and shouted, “I’m an FBI agent, hahahaha!” We all smiled and laughed, a little taken aback by his enthusiasm for the topic. Maybe he was serious. Guess I’ll never know.
Okay, enough, I digress. In this version of fried rice, I use carrots, celery, green onions, green pepper, and leeks for the veggies. I also add four eggs for scrambling. For the sauce, I add garlic powder, diced green chilies, ginger powder, fresh minced ginger, soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, and rice vinegar. Hoisin sauce isn’t usually in fried rice but I like the subtle kick of extra flavor it gives the rice. I also add chili bean sauce, which has a rich spicy flavor and reminds me of the yummy tofu stir-fry my friend made.
All in all, this dish is quick and easy to prepare, satisfying, and reminiscent to Chinese take-out without the added cost and often too-much oil used.
Self-Identified Chinese Fried Rice
Serves 4 as main dish
• 1.5 cups of uncooked brown rice (or white if you prefer)
• 2 green onions, sliced lengthwise into small pieces
• 2 medium leeks, sliced lengthwise and crosswise
• 2 small carrots, thinly sliced
• 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
• ½ green bell pepper, chopped into pieces
• 1 tsp. diced green chili
• 2 tsp. minced ginger
• 3 tbsp. soy sauce
• 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
• 1.5 tbsp. sesame oil
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• ½ tsp. ginger powder
• 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 2 tsp. red chili bean sauce
• 1 tbsp. vegetarian Hoisin sauce
• 4 eggs, scrambled
• 2-3 tbsp. water (add more if needed)
1. Cook the rice on the stove with salted water or in rice cooker. Drain any excess water and set aside in large pot.
2. Meanwhile, chop the green onions, leeks, carrots, celery, ½ bell pepper, diced green chili, and minced ginger and mix in a large bowl. Heat a large sauté pan or wok with sesame oil. Add the vegetables and stir to cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften and change color.
3. Mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic powder, ginger powder, cayenne pepper, chili bean sauce, and Hoisin sauce in a bowl. Slowly add to the vegetables while they are cooking in the sauté pan and toss to cook. If the sauce isn’t enough to coat the veggies, add water to the pan, 1 tbsp. at at time.
4. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. In a separate bowl, scramble four eggs and season with some black ground pepper.
5. Move the vegetables to one side of the sauté pan to make room for the eggs. Add the eggs to the sauté pan and let cook for a couple of minutes, breaking up and scrambling into chunks as they cook. As eggs finish cooking, mix with vegetables so the scrambled egg pieces are evenly dispersed throughout the vegetables.
6. Now add the cooked rice and stir-fry with veggies and scrambled cooked eggs. If you do not have any more room in your sauté pan for the rice, you can transfer the mixture to a the pot containing the cooked and drained rice and mix thoroughly to coat the rice with the sauce and veggies. Then cover pot with a lid and let mixture steam in pot for 5-10 minutes. This is technically “cheating” as it doesn’t actually fry the rice, but it was the only way that I could fit all of those delicious veggies into my sauté pan. It’s also slightly healthier to cook it this way, as you won’t require any additional oil to fry the rice. I was able to get by using only about 1.5 tbsp. of sesame oil in this whole recipe!