For busy-day cooking, or spur-of-the-moment simple satisfying suppers, fried rice is my go-to good-food-fast solution. For me, fried rice is as easy as making a sandwich!
You may or may not get to that point in your kitchen journey, but even if you cook fried rice as an occasional item, you’ll find it’s a fantastic template to enjoy and vary to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.
There isn’t a secret, because every cook who’s tried making fried rice knows it, but there is a ticket, a key to success: Leftover rice!
Just as French toast needs stale or at least dried-out bread for best soft absorbing-the-egg texture, great fried rice needs cooked, cold and ideally cold, crumbled up rice.
With a rice-cooker (and instant pot!) in my kitchen and a routine of cooking rice-centered meals often, it’s easy for me to cook more than we need for a given meal and have extra cooked rice on-hand.
So cook up some rice and keep it in the fridge or freezer. Or buy an extra container of rice the next time you’re ordering take out or enjoying Chinese or other Asian cuisines out. It’s inexpensive and easy to keep in the fridge for a day or freezer for weeks, so that great fried rice is just minutes away.
Here’s your set-up, AKA your mise-en-place : things in their places, so that you, the cook, are ready to roll.From top center, it’s oil, garlic and onions, rice, shrimp, egg, and green onions.
Here’s my garlic and onions tossed till fragrant, with shrimp scattered on top but not yet cooked.I love small shrimp for fried rice: They cook quickly, brim with flavor, and tend to be less expensive than big beautiful ones, which can star in special dishes when you’re looking for some dazzle.
Fried rice is a stir-fry, which means that the cook’s work happens before, not during and throughout the cooking process. Prep first, and then cook fast! You can prep and then set your mise aside if you’re not quite ready to serve (cover and refrigerate eggs and protein of course). It’s a little time-shift, but worth it when you see how quickly the cooking happens once you start.
Now the shrimp have gotten a first round of cooking and quick toss. They’re pinker, though the color-transformation with these small, tender shrimp is less dramatic than we see with larger crustaceans.
Here I’ve added egg and then rice, and given it a good start on the tossing process. Tossing and then letting things cook undisturbed is the stir-fry rhythm; toss; wait; toss; wait, is key to heating up the rice and flavoring all the ingredients evenly and well.
Now it’s serving time, with super-hot, flavorful and colorful fried rice all ready to enjoy. Eat it from a bowl with chopsticks, or from a big plate with fork or spoon.
We love it with a side of bright, cool salad, or stir-fried spinach, or a bowl of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, tossed with lime juice or a simple vinaigrette. Add in frozen peas, chopped zucchini or yellow squash, strips of sweet red pepper, carrots, or snow peas. Ready, set, Fried Rice!
MORE DELICIOUS FRIED RICE RECIPES:
If you, too, are a fan of fried rice, here are three fine recipes from around the web:
- 4 cups cooked long-grain rice, preferably chilled
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 egg. beaten well
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- Prepare your ingredients, measuring and chopping so that once you begin cooking, you can go straight through.
- Crumble up the rice, breaking up lumps so it's mostly individual grains.
- Heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over high heat until very hot.
- Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan; then scatter in onion, garlic, and salt, and toss until shiny and fragrant, up to 1 minute.
- Scatter in the shrimp, spreading them out into a single layer; let them cook undisturbed until most have turned pink around the edges, about 1 minute.
- Toss well, let cook a few seconds more; then push shrimp to the sides and add egg to the center. Tilt to spread egg into a sheet and let cook until mostly set.
- Add the rice and then cook, tossing often, to heat the rice, break up the egg, and mix in the shrimp, about 2 minutes more.
- When rice is tender and hot, add green onions and cilantro if using, and toss well.
- Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and serve hot or warm.
- Notes: I love to add frozen peas (petite peas or standard ones, all good); edamame beans, chopped zucchini, or strips of sweet bell pepper, tossing them in after the shrimp and egg but before the rice. Think of this as a sandwich "recipe": Once you know the basics, your mind will say "What about x? Could I add that?" and I think the answer will be YES!