Notes on fried rice, and Bob’s curry scented fried rice
Fried rice is what leftover rice from the night before is perfect for. In fact, most of the time you won’t want to use freshly cooked rice to make fried rice (but the reasons why are solely the domain of my mother). What’s more, fried rice is so easy and versatile, you should very rarely pay for it at a restaurant/takeaway once you’ve got the method down pat.
Most of the time, fried rice should take you the same, if not less, amount of time to whip up than running down to your local takeaway, waiting around, then getting back. It’s cheaper, more varied, and less effort making it at home, trust me. Don’t know how to cook rice? About.com has plenty of helpful guides, including one for long grain rice.
The basic gist of fried rice:
Fry up some chopped onions, leek, garlic, shallots, chives or spring onions in plenty of oil, and cook for a minute or two (onions and leek will need about 4-5 mins on a medium heat, the rest will only need a few seconds). Throw in any uncooked veges and cook until partially cooked (about two minutes). Add rice, any cooked leftover veges, and any leftover meat, tofu, or some scrambled eggs (which you want to cook beforehand and set aside), then add any seasonings (salt and pepper always, then maybe a splash of soy sauce, or some curry powder, gravy, or herbs, or spices…), and mix through (still with heat on medium) until everything is uniform (about a minute or two). This may require breaking apart some of the large lumps of rice. You can use pretty much any amount of anything, but you do want at least half of the fried rice to be, well, rice. Turn off heat and serve.
Too dry: Add a splash of water, and possibly turn down the heat a little. It may benefit from a bit of extra oil too.
Too wet: Let cook a little longer to cook off the steam, and mix while doing so
Lacks flavour: Usually a matter of not enough salt (which brings out flavour), or you may need to just add some more seasoning
Stuck to the bottom of the pan: Make a well with the fried rice, add a splash of water on the stuck bits, and let cook for a few seconds before using a scraper to remove the stuck on bits. Add more oil.
Rice is hard: Add your rice a step earlier and add a few Tablespoons of water, then cover and let the rice steam a little for a minute or two. You may have to do this a few times (depending on how uncooked it was), so if it’s severely hard, then you want to cook it again in its original pan before adding it to your onion mix.
Rice is very moist: Add your rice a step earlier and don’t add any water at all. Lower the heat a notch to ensure your veges don’t overcook and just cook a little longer, stirring lots to let the rice let off steam and moisture.
Tips for the perfect bowl:
+ Use a wok, or if you have an electric cooker, a frypan with high sides, and ideally, a non stick one.
+ Be generous with the oil
+ Keep in mind how much you’ll be adding to the pan and choose the appropriately sized pan! Ideally there shouldn’t be more than about a 3cm (an inch) thick layer of fried rice in the pan at any one time.
+ Don’t be afraid to add a teaspoon or tablespoon of water if it’s looking a bit dry.
+ Make sure you use rice that at least had a good bite (but wasn’t undercooked) the night before. However, check the troubleshooting section for tricks on how to remedy this problem.
+ Don’t use short grain rice for fried rice (long grain, basmati or jasmine all work fine)
+ On soy sauce: Dark soy sauce will add colour but is generally low in salt. Only add a little, and dilute with water before adding. Light soy sauce won’t add much colour but is generally saltier and less caramel/bitter and more salty/meaty. You can use a combination of the two easily.
+ If using a curry paste (hey, why not), dilute it with water or coconut milk before adding to the pan, especially if it’s a hard paste. This will make it easier to distribute evenly.
+ Remember, some veges take longer to cook than others! Add them in the right order (big things first, little things later). Frozen peas, corn, and chopped carrot count as cooked veges (in terms of when to add) because they’re small and you don’t want to overcook them
+ Got leftovers? Just put them straight away into a microwave-friendly container or in covered bowls, let cool on the bench, and then put in the fridge. It’ll last another day; just microwave or toss back into the pan with a splash of water for heating and eating later.
Bob’s curry-scented fried rice (pictured above)
Cook a chopped onion and a tablespoon of curry powder (Bob also added some mixed herbs) in a generous splash of oil over medium heat until translucent and softened. Add garlic, and cook another minute until fragrant. Add a can of tuna or leftover meat or tofu, frozen peas, and any leftover veges (Bob even included chopped roasted potatoes), then add rice, mix until uniform, continuing to cook until the peas are done (about two minutes) and serve.