Who doesn’t love fried rice? Spicy, sweet, full of flavor, textures, and lovely little surprises that keep the dish interesting. There are so many versions that it’s impossible to say there is one ‘correct’ version, but I love the southeast Asian/Thai style. That means spicy, a little salty and usually has some sort of pork. Do not be confused: pork fried rice is different. I use a little bacon for flavor only.
Fried rice is not complicated, but can be tricky to get right. There are a couple of tricks and a couple of keys to success. First and foremost, steam the rice well ahead of time! You do not want the rice to be wet! Frying wet items usually ends up in disaster. You want the rice to be cooked through, but cooled and somewhat dried out. Second, make sure all your prep is done before you start cooking. Fried rice is a quick cook, and you cannot be chopping and mincing and cooking at the same time. Everything needs to be ready before cooking. And last, think big flavors! Wok cooking is fast, and by default, any fast cooking does not impart a lot of flavor into the food. So you need to compensate by being a little more aggressive with seasoning. Sesame oil, soy sauce and spicy Asian hot sauces add not only great flavor, but the necessary ‘pop’ the dish will need.
I am choosing shrimp fried rice for a couple reasons. Shrimp is naturally sweet and will contrast the savory and spicy rice. Second, shrimp has incredible natural flavor. As mentioned, fried rice needs big flavor, or it’s perfect. And last, shrimp cooks fast. A good quality for a fast dish. On a side note, pork fried rice or chicken fried rice is tough to produce because you need to find a way to make the chicken or pork tender, flavorful and succulent without over or under cooking. Many times, the pork or chicken is cooked separate (slow grilled, roasted, etc) shredded and added a la minute. Or sliced very thin ahead of time.
Shrimp Fried Rice
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: Enough for 4 portions
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small knob ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp sambal olek
1 slice bacon, fine chop
2 cups steamed jasmine rice (start with 1 cup uncooked rice)
1/2 cup uncooked, peeled and deveined rock shrimp, or any other small shrimp (41/50)
3 scallions, thin slice on a bias
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 organic eggs
1 carrot, small dice
1/2 cup bean sprouts
peanut or vegetable oil
toasted and crushed peanuts
In a wok, or large saute pan, begin heating about 1 tbsp peanut oil. Have a strainer or several paper towels at hand. Begin cooking the bacon. When it begins rendering, add the shallot, ginger, sambal olek and garlic. When fragrant, add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the shrimp is just beginning to turn pink. Remove everything from the pan, and let drain in the strainer or on paper towels. Refresh the oil in the pan. Add the eggs and a dash of soy sauce. Scramble in the pan, over very high heat. When cooked, remove the eggs from the pan and let drain. Add a little more peanut oil and begin toasting the rice with the carrot. Cook until slightly colored, but not burning. Add the sesame oil and the remainder of the soy sauce. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add a small amount of siracha, 3/4 of the bean sprouts and half the scallions. Keep stirring. Return the shrimp and eggs to the pan. Taste and add salt, spice or soy sauce if necessary. When you’re happy with the flavor, and it shouldn’t require much, transfer the rice to a serving bowl. Garnish with the remainder of the bean sprouts, scallions and crushed peanuts. Serve right away.
Feel free to add peas, tofu, snap peas, or anything else you love in fried rice.