Go ahead – wok up those leftovers

When I wrote about Hoisin sauce, I promised to share a recipe for making fried rice.

Fried rice is exactly as named. The rice, whether cooked or raw, is “toasted” or fried in oil before mixing in additional ingredients. The rich brown color comes from the addition of soy sauce which flavors as well.

The origin of this dish dates back to the Sui dynasty (589-618 CE) and was cooked in a traditional Chinese cooking pot, or a wok.

There are many advantages of cooking with a wok, and the primary ones are: 1) it’s quick and 2) it’s easy.

The wok is a deep pan with a rounded bottom and slanted sides and is usually made of stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron.

The metal, while hot, is continuously rolled and pounded out to the desired depth, width and shape. The shape of this pan allows one to cook food at high, evenly-distributed heat with very little oil.

Besides traditional stir fry, woks can be used to stew, braise, steam, or deep fry. Depending on the dishes you create, a meal can be prepped and cooked in about 30 minutes when using a wok.

The origin of fried rice is the answer to a simple question: “What do we do with leftovers?”

Leftover rice, meat, and vegetables from a day before are still edible. Although they may lose some flavor, they are too good to throw away or feed to animals.

Wok-ing them up and adding soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and scallions reawakens those flavors and creates an entirely new meal to enjoy.

Do you need to purchase a wok to create Asian cuisine? Of course not. A standard skillet and everyday kitchen utensils work just as well.

However, if you are feeling the creativity bug bite, scratch the itch and get yourself a complete wok set.

When I said Asian cuisine, I meant it! Woks can be used to create Japanese dishes such as tempura, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, and even Indian recipes such as curry. It is not just for Chinese recipes.

Fried Rice

Ingredients: 2 Tbsp. canola oil if using Wok or 4 Tbsp. for skillet; 3 cups uncooked long grain rice; ¼ cups each diced onion, bell peppers (red, green, yellow combined); 1 (12 oz.) package frozen peas and carrots, thawed; 1 cup soy sauce; 5 cups water; ½ tsp ground black pepper; 1 tsp ground ginger

Preparation: Heat oil on high heat in wok or skillet. Add rice, onion, and bell peppers and “toast” the rice for five minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, uncover, and rest for five minutes before fluffing up with a fork.

If adding any cooked chopped protein (2 lbs.), carefully add to not make clumps, or serve rice as a side. Want a complete vegetarian meal? Add grilled vegetables or tofu.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Note: Two scambled eggs can be mixed in after rice is completely cooked. This is a simplified recipe and can be adjusted to include other seasonings such as chili flakes or garlic.

If adding a protein, season the pieces that are being precooked, and their flavoring will meld with and enhance the fried rice.

For example, when I use chicken, I season the chicken with a little sea salt, ground black pepper, and paprika. It turns the chicken from bland to wow, and the paprika adds a little smokiness to the flavor – like hoisin sauce.

If using precooked rice, skip the water plus half the soy sauce. Instead of letting the rice cook for 20 minutes, first add the rice (6 cups cooked), onion, and bell peppers to the oil and keep it moving around the wok or skillet.

The rice and vegetables will begin to fry up, but you do not want to burn it. Five to seven minutes before the oil is absorbed, the rice looks like it will begin to dry out. Add peas and carrots, ½ cup soy sauce, black pepper and ginger, and keep it moving for another five to seven minutes, or until the rice and vegetables are uniformly hot.

If you want darker rice, add more soy sauce one tablespoon at a time until it is the color you desire. But keep it moving, as burnt rice is bitter!

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