Asian fried rice

Katie Chin, author of Everyday Thai Cooking, showed us how to prepare fried rice the Thai way.

Chef Katie Chin sprinkles fresh herbs for a finishing touch on pineapple fried rice. (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Chef Katie Chin sprinkles fresh herbs for a finishing touch on pineapple fried rice.
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Recently we watched a cooking demonstration of a popular Asian preparation – fried rice, at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles. Katie Chin, author of Everyday Thai Cooking, showed how to prepare this dish the Thai way.
In Thailand, as in China, fried rice is a time-honored dish. “Many Thai people eat fried rice for breakfast as well as throughout the day,” wrote Chin.
Around East Asia home cooks make fried rice to use up extra bits of cooked chicken, meat and vegetables, as well as leftover rice.
Most cooks stir in eggs – either cooked as an omelet and cut in strips or scrambled in oil; or they fry eggs and serve them on top.
Chin, whose heritage is Chinese, explained that Thai cooks, in contrast to the Chinese, saute the aromatics such as garlic and shallots before adding the rice to the pan. Traditional Chinese recipes for fried rice call for first sautéing the rice in oil, flavoring it with soy sauce, and finishing the dish with bits of scrambled egg and green onion.
For her demonstration, Chin prepared pineapple fried rice, a Thai favorite. First she scrambled beaten eggs in hot oil in a wok, and transferred them to a plate. Next she heated more oil in the wok and stir-fried garlic, shallots and minced fresh hot peppers before adding the cooked rice. After stir-frying the rice, Chin added fish sauce, soy sauce, cooked chicken, cooked shrimp, peas and salt. When the mixture was hot, she returned the scrambled eggs to the pan and mixed in pineapple cubes and liberal amounts of chopped fresh coriander and fresh mint.
I asked Chin for suggestions for adapting Thai dishes for kosher cooking. She mentioned that her husband is Jewish, and said that it’s easy to make Thai recipes kosher – you just substitute chicken or tofu for shrimp, and use kosher meats.
“Fried rice is a staple in all Asian countries where rice is eaten daily,” wrote Miki Garcia in The Filipino Cookbook. She noted that Filipino fried rice is garlicky, and is often accompanied by Filipino sausages. To make it, she lightly browns a generous amount of garlic, adds minced onion and sautés it until it is translucent; then she adds the cooked rice and stir-fries it. Instead of scrambling eggs separately, she adds beaten eggs to the hot rice and stir-fries the mixture with soy sauce, salt and pepper until the rice is browned. Filipinos like their fried rice garnished with crispy fried garlic or chopped green onion.
Among modern cooks, the main differences between styles of fried rice appear to lie in the seasonings. Nina Simonds, author of Simple Asian Meals, flavors her vegetarian fried rice with green onions and finishes it with a Chinese sauce of rice wine, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper. Vietnamese cooks might flavor their fried rice with shallots, garlic, green onions or all three, and might add soy sauce and sugar as well as salt. In Indonesia, cooks might fry hot peppers and garlic crushed to a paste before adding the rice, and might finish the dish with sweet soy sauce, salt and green onions. Thai fried rice has a slightly pungent flavor from hot peppers and is fragrant with fresh herbs such as coriander, mint and basil.
Asian cooks agree on this point: To prevent the rice from sticking together during frying, it is best to use rice that was cooked in advance and thoroughly chilled.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning cookbook Classic Cooking Techniques.
Best-ever vegetarian fried rice
This recipe is from Simple Asian Meals. This enticing dish is excellent as a light meal by itself, wrote author Nina Simonds, or served with stir-fried, steamed or grilled meat or fish. For additional flavor, Simonds recommends adding ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander or parsley to the rice just before serving it.
You can use any flavored tofu in this recipe, or bake teriyaki tofu according to the directions in the note following the recipe. For non-vegetarian fried rice, Simonds suggests substituting 450 grams (1 pound) diced cooked chicken or beef for the tofu.
Makes 6 servings
❖ 225 gr. (8 ounces) teriyaki-flavored baked tofu (see note below)
❖ 5 green onions, ends trimmed
❖ 3 Tbsp. olive oil or canola oil
❖ 1 cup grated or shredded carrots
❖ 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
❖ 225 gr (½ pound) frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans), thawed to room temperature
❖ 4 cups cooked long-grain white or brown rice, chilled and fluffed with a fork
Sauce: combine in a small bowl
❖ 3 Tbsp. rice wine or sake
❖ 2½ Tbsp. soy sauce
❖ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
❖ ½ tsp. salt
❖ ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Cut the tofu into 6-mm. (¼-inch) dice. Mince the white sections of the green onions and cut the greens into 1.25-cm. (½-inch) sections.
Heat the oil in a wok or heavy skillet over high heat until very hot, about 20 seconds. Add the green onions (both white and green) and carrots and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the eggs and stir-fry to scramble, turning up the heat to high. Push the food over to the side of the pan or remove to allow the pan to get really hot.
Once the eggs are cooked and the pan is really hot, add the diced tofu and edamame and toss lightly to heat through, about 2 minutes. Add the rice, using a spatula to mash and separate the grains. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until heated through and until some of the ingredients are lightly golden. If you have removed the scrambled egg mixture, return it to the pan. Add the sauce mixture and toss lightly to coat. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Spoon the fried rice into a serving dish and serve.
Note: Baked teriyaki tofu
Make ginger teriyaki marinade: In a heavy medium saucepan mix 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup rice wine or sake, 7 tablespoons sugar, 1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes and 1½ tablespoons cornstarch and heat until thickened, stirring constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps. Remove from heat and let cool.
To bake the tofu, drain 700 gr. (1½ pounds) firm tofu, cut it in half through the thickness and place it in a bowl. Pour the marinade over it and carefully toss to coat. Let sit for an hour at room temperature. Arrange the tofu on a cookie sheet liked with foil. Pour the marinade on top and bake in a preheated 190°C (375°F) oven for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool before cutting it in pieces.
This recipe will make extra baked tofu that can be used in stir-fried dishes, stews and soups.
Pineapple fried rice
This recipe is from Everyday Thai Cooking. Author Katie Chin makes this dish with equal amounts of shrimp and chicken. To make it kosher, I omitted the shrimp and doubled the amount of chicken. Along with the pineapple, you can add cooked vegetables such as peas, asparagus or green beans. If you don’t have fish sauce, Chin suggests substituting soy sauce. She uses a Thai hot pepper for this dish but you can use any other small, slim hot pepper.
For a striking presentation, Chin serves the rice in a hollowed out pineapple shell. “For best results,” she wrote, “the rice should be chilled in a refrigerator overnight before cooking this dish.”
Makes 4 to 6 servings as part of a multi-course meal
❖ 1 whole pineapple
❖ 2 large eggs
❖ 1 tsp. salt, divided
❖ Pinch of ground white pepper
❖ 2 Tbsp. high-heat cooking oil such as canola oil, divided
❖ 1 garlic clove, minced
❖ 1 small shallot, finely sliced
❖ 1 fresh hot red or green pepper (de-seeded if you prefer less heat), finely sliced
❖ 3 cups (450 gr. or 1 pound) cooked and chilled rice, preferably Thai jasmine rice
❖ 2 Tbsp. fish sauce (nam pla)
❖ 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
❖ 2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
❖ ½ cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
❖ 4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh coriander leaves, plus more for garnish
❖ 4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise and cut the fruit from the middle, leaving shell halves intact. Cut out the eyes and core. Set the shell halves aside. Dice the fruit. Dry the diced pineapple with paper towels and set aside. (See note below.) In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pinch of pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggs and cook, stirring, until set but still moist. Transfer eggs to a plate. Wash and thoroughly dry the wok or skillet.
Heat the remaining oil in the pan over medium- high heat. Add the garlic, shallots and hot pepper and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the rice and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, chicken, peas and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved eggs, pineapple, fresh coriander leaves and mint; stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Scoop the fried rice into the pineapple shells and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve immediately.
Note: If you dice the pineapple ahead of time, rinse the pineapple shells with boiling water and dry with paper towels before serving.