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Five secrets to fabulous fried rice

Fried rice is a favorite Asian staple, but did you know it works best with cold leftover rice? Here are some helpful hints for making this crowd-pleasing meal at home.

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5. Don’t overdo the saucy seasonings like soy sauce or oyster sauce. I add just a few tablespoons of my chosen sauce for flavor and then add salt for saltiness and savor. Too much sauce will make your rice mushy.

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Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Patricia Tanumihardja writes about food, travel, and lifestyle through a multicultural lens and has been published in numerous national and regional publications. Pat is also the creator of the “Asian Ingredients 101” iPhone and Android app, a glossary on-the-go that’s the perfect companion on a trip to the Asian market. Her first book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens, will be available in paperback in September 2012.

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It’s a lot to remember but keep your mind set on one goal: non-mushy fried rice and everything will fall into place.

Fried rice any way you like it

Cooking fried rice isn’t a science; you don’t need exact ingredients or measurements. And just about anything belongs in fried rice: leftover roast chicken, fried tofu, ham, frozen veggies. Just don’t use super “wet” leftovers like a curry or chap chye, or your fried rice will most likely turn to mush. As for seasonings, experiment with ginger, sesame oil, kecap manis, chili paste, etc. or add herbs like Thai basil or cilantro.

Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 3 to 4 servings

4 cups cooked long or medium grain rice, leftover from the day before or refrigerated for at least 2 hours
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup carrots chopped into small pieces (about 2 medium)
3 eggs
1 cup chopped leftover meat or tofu
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)
salt
white pepper powder

1. Break up large clumps of rice and separate the grains with wet fingers.

2. Preheat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat for about 1 minute. Swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and onion and stir until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds. Add the carrots and cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Move all the ingredients to one side of the wok. Break the eggs into the wok, and stir to scramble until they are almost cooked through but still a little soggy, about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.

5. Add the meat and the peas, followed by the rice, stirring and tossing between each addition. Use your spatula to break up any clumps.

6. Add the sauces, and salt and white pepper to taste. Stir everything swiftly around the wok until the rice is well-coated and -colored (little bits of white here and there is OK) and heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add more oil if the rice begins to stick to the wok; reduce the heat if it starts to scorch. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Divide the rice among dinner plates. Serve immediately.

Related post from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: A new take on a Dim Sum favorite: Chinese-style savory pumpkin cake

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