Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vegetable Fried Rice - quick and easy homemade chinese

The fried rice is the most ubiquitous thing on any chinese menu, whether it be a chinese takeout in the USA, or any Indo chinese menu in the smallest desi town. Whatever we order, the fried rice is generally a part of it. A special note, as most vegetarians and vegans know - the fried rice is offered as part of the entree in almost any chinese takeout place, but this has pork, so we almost always (have to) go with steamed rice, and then the 'vegetable fried rice - NO EGG' is a seperate order.

I think this may have been the first 'chinese' recipe I may have tried out, several years ago. There have been some changes in the way I make this, over the years. The Indian style 'chilli' sauce has given way to Sriracha or red pepper flakes, the soy sauce has become low sodium or Liquid Aminos(not low sodium), and the MSG or ajinomoto has been abandoned. I also tend to add more vegetables, and more variety of vegetables. I now have access to the exotic genre of vegetables - mushrooms, coloured peppers, coloured cabbage, baby corn etc. etc. Also, my favoured method for making any pulao, pilaf, fried rice etc. is to start out with loads of raw vegetables so that the finished product has at least 50% vegetables even after the veggies cook down, and you get several veggies in each bite, without having to 'search' for them. Each restaurant or takeout joint has their own thing, of course, and my latest favourite as far as fried rice goes has been the newly opened or relatively newly opened Rainbow buffet in the Short Pump Walmart complex. For less than 6 bucks, you get a relatively bottomless paper carton that is stashed with the ultimate fried rice. Slight snag - the oil and salt are on the high side, of course.

So back to our recipe, you start out with several vegetables, anything you have on hand and chop away merrily while your rice cooks. I have used white rice, and always just wanted to try brown rice. But you can use it by all means. There are also other vegetables I did not have such as baby corn, green beans, mushrooms, tofu etc. etc. that can be added to the pot. The detailed description follows -

Ingredients -
1.5 cups dry white long grain rice/jasmine rice
1 cup thinly cut cabbage
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped green peppers
1 cup chopped red peppers
2 cups thick sliced onions
1 cup chopped scallions or green onions
1 cup defrosted green peas or sweet peas
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp sriracha sauce/sambal olek
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp white or black pepper
salt optional
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Optional vegetables

1 cup each of
baby corn
green beans
chopped tofu
Method -

1) Chop all the vegetables in a similar size. You can either make long thin slivers/juliennes as is common in Indo-chinese food, or fine dice everything. The onion should be thick, so that it retains a slight crunch.

2) Boil or cook rice according to package instructions. As I mentioned before, the water to be added to rice depends on what kind it is. Generally, you can go with 1.5 to 2 cups for Indian Basmati rice, or upto 3 cups for Sona Massorie, Kolamb etc. The older the rice, the more water it absorbs. If you cook rice everyday, you will have guaged how much water your current batch needs to give a dry grainy cooked product. We do not want moist and mushy rice for this fried rice.
3) Empty the rice on a flat colander or a platter and spread out and let it cool some. This seperates the grains and keeps the rice dry, as you are getting rid of any residual steam.
4) Heat a skillet, preferably with a thick bottom and a wide base and add oil. I am using my Calphalon tri ply saute pan, which I have found to be perfect for these kind of dishes such as noodles, pasta, fried rice etc., where I want a wider surface area.
5) Add the vegetables such that the longest to cook goes in first. Saute each vegetable for a minute and add the next. I have come up with my own order depending on how much bite I like in a particular vegetable. Add carrots, peppers, cabbage, scallions and onions.
6) Add the soy sauce, hot sauce, pepper, vinegar and honey. Add salt at the end only if needed. I used Kikkoman soy sauce this time, and it is salty enough that you do not need excess salt. The same thing applies to Braggs Aminos.
7) Stir the veggie mixture around. We want this bite tender since it will cook a bit again with the rice.
8) Add all the cooked rice and mix well. All the rice should be coated with the sauce. You may need to sprinkle some water at this point, or add some more diluted soy sauce if the rice looks too dry.
9) Add the peas at this time. We are adding the peas last so that they retain their fresh green colour.
10) Cover and simmer for some time. This will allow everything to steam together and the flavours to mingle.
11) Serve hot along with any chinese style stir fry, or just on its own.

This is a healthier alternative to the restaurant bought chinese fried rice, and is ready in a jiffy. What is your favourite kind of fried rice? Do you have any particular takeout style recipe? I am all eager to hear your own experiences and comments.

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