What to do with leftover steamed rice
So many Chinese take-out restaurants now litter the Triangle you'd think that it's easy to find one that's: reasonably priced, understands my leaner ways and produces better-than-average dishes. I finally found one, but keep it's location to myself for fear that it'll be overwhelmed and begin a downward slide from which it'll never recover.
My take-out always seems to pack too much steamed rice with my meals. At one time, I threw it out since it became hard and inedible once refrigerated. I did try making a dessert from it by adding skim milk, some brown sugar and raisins. But, no matter how long it soaked, leftover rice adamantly refused to return to its former soft state.
Unsuccessful attempts at getting my take-out to stop giving me so much rice and even trying to give a container or two back when I picked up my order, led me to throw away what remained at dinners end. Until I came across an article in "Cook's Illustrated" magazine: "Really Good Fried Rice." This sentence: "Fried rice was created as a way to turn leftover rice into a delicious dish." Caught my eye and got me thinking: "Could this be my way to stop throwing out my leftover rice?"
My answer: a definite "yes."
Hot, freshly cooked white rice actually sticks together in clumps and makes lousy fried rice. Enter leftover, refrigerated rice, the ideal fried rice base.
That article revealed a flavor secret I'd also come across in some Chinese cookbooks: oyster or oyster-flavored sauce. If you haven't used oyster sauce, don't turn up your nose, since it's a flavor commonly found in many Chinese restaurant dishes that you'll recognize immediately after becoming familiar with it.
If you shop at any East Asian market, you'll find several brands of oyster sauce and, just like American ketchup and mustard, they aren't alike. My favorite brand, Maekrua, can only be found in one of those markets and isn't made in China, but Thailand. Look for a brown bottle with an Asian woman pouring some sauce into a ladle over a wok on the label.
Since fried rice uses soy sauce as a common seasoning, your results will also be affected by which one you use. Do not use the "soy sauce" from those clear plastic packets that come with take-out meals. I have two favorite soy sauces; one usually found in Asian markets, the other in natural food stores. I've used Koon Chun brand thin soy sauce to cook with for over three decades. Eden brand Selected Shoyu Soy Sauce works best as a table condiment for seasoning at the last minute.
If your diet requires no gluten, try SanJ’s Organic Tamari Gluten-Free Soy sauce. Why? If you read the ingredient list of many soy sauces, you’ll see that wheat is frequently on that list.
You won't need special skills or expensive equipment to produce homemade fried rice. If you can scramble eggs you can make traditional fried rice. Whether you have a gas or electric cook top, use a 12-inch heavy-bottomed, well-seasoned iron or nonstick skillet for the best results. This works better than a wok, since a wok's high sides tend to make added oil puddle in the bottom where rice sucks it up like a sponge.
To avoid soggy results, no matter what kind of fried rice you make, sauté vegetables like peas, asparagus, green beans or mushrooms first and then make the fried rice.
From the first time you make it, you'll be surprised that your fried rice is as good as, or perhaps even better than, any you've gotten from your favorite take-out.
Don Won's Homemade Chicken Fried Rice
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon peanut oil*
1/4 cup sliced scallions, white part only
1 cup frozen baby green peas, thawed
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
6 cups cold cooked white rice (cold cooked brown rice works, too)
1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, washed well under cold water and drained
In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce and soy sauce; set aside.
In another small bowl, use a fork to combine the egg and egg white; set aside.
Heat a 12-inch well-seasoned iron skillet or heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot, add 1 teaspoon of the oil and swirl around to coat the skillet. Add the eggs and scramble, breaking up with the edge of a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a small bowl and set aside.
Increase the heat under the skillet to medium-high, heat the skillet until hot and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the scallions and sauté for 30 seconds, add the peas and sauté for 30 seconds, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice, oyster sauce mixture and chicken and cook for 3 minutes or until heated through, stirring constantly, and breaking up any rice clumps. Add the bean sprouts and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Nutrition values per serving: 468 calories(14.1 percent from fat), 7.3 g fat(1.7 g saturated fat), 78.3 g carbohydrates, 3.3 g fiber, 19.8 g protein, 75 mg cholesterol, 1123 mg sodium.
*If you have a peanut sensitivity, substitute a neutral flavored oil, such as canola. There will be no difference in fat content or calories.
SaltSense: 90 percent of the sodium comes from the oyster sauce and soy sauce. Using reduced-sodium soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce reduces the sodium to 508 milligrams per serving.
Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.