Chinese* fried rice has got to be one of the greatest dishes on the planet.
*I’ve watched Search for General Tso, and I’m familiar with the fact that most of the Chinese food as we know it in America does not actually have roots in the cuisine of China. However I don’t know specifically about fried rice, and in any case Chinese-American has certainly become its own distinct & valuable culture by now.
Like many Americans, Chinese take-out was a regular treat for my household growing up. My whole family jumped for joy when the decision was made to order from our favorite spot: Liu’s Garden in Branchburg, NJ. My mom because she got the night off from cooking, my dad because he only had to drive about 5 minutes away to pick it up, and all of us (including my parents) because we just love (American) Chinese food. Everyone had their own requests, but the one that was unanimous was chicken fried rice.
Now I don’t know if everyone feels this way, but we thought ‘our’ Chinese restaurant’s food was THE best. And like I said, the chicken fried rice was the best OF the best.
This is, until I settled into my ‘foodie’ days in my early 20s and learned how to make this dish. Now I won’t go as far as to say that mine was as good as Liu’s – the living legend that he or she is (not sure if there actually is A ‘Liu’) – but I was very surprised that I could make a pretty darn good rendition. Even my family, the epically discerning critics that they are, could rally behind my interpretation of the dish (as long as I didn’t leave something out or try to ‘healthify’ it too much). Trust me, it’s saying something.
There is a bit of a science to it, or should I say tricks, but it’s far from complicated…
Even though quinoa has gone through its phases of being a rare grain, to the new ‘it’ health food, to now being pretty well integrated into the culinary repertoire, it wasn’t until recently that it occurred to me to try frying it like fried rice. And guess what? Yea, it works. For sure.
Below I’ll walk you through making a pretty spartan plant-based version. I’m gonna try something new, and include some notes about ways to make it more like its traditional predecessor that includes eggs and sometimes chicken and/or pork.
I’ve actually never included the pork in my versions even when I ate a more omnivorous diet, so I don’t know about that aspect besides it being in good ol’ Liu’s. But I did use to cook it with chicken, and in the recipe below that aspect is pretty much replaced with our marinated tofu (shared in yesterday’s post).
And to be honest, the egg is a pretty key ingredient in traditional fried rice, but I don’t really eat eggs at this phase, and I didn’t feel like going to the lengths of mimicking them here. From what I hear, there are some pretty good egg replacers out there though such as yuba and Vegan Egg that can be fried, but I haven’t tried, so the jury’s out. It’s still great without, and I kinda feel like tofu is – culinarily-speaking – somewhere between egg and chicken in its presence, so we’ll say that fills in for both. :P
This was quite ‘thrown together’ so you’ll see the ingredients aren’t super-strategized to make it as authentic as possible. It’s definitely a re-interpretation but definitely as enough elements to be familiar.
But ANYWAY, without further ado…
Add oil to pan and set on medium.
Add minced ‘aromatics’ – jalapeño, ginger, onion. [Garlic would be used here too, if you want.]
Add chopped tofu [or protein of choice] and fry for a minute or so, with lid on but ajar with room to vent.
Add chopped carrot and cabbage and cook for about 2 minutes, again with lid on ajar so it steams a little.
Add mushroom and cook for about 2 more minute with lid ajar.
When veggies are just about done, add the quinoa and a couple tablespoons of tamari, and turn to high heat. [if using egg, add that too] Stir and get it browned a bit.
Finally, add peas until full defrosted and warmed.
Serve and finish with furikake or toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
**Furikake is similar to gomasio or dukkah, consisting of a blend of various seeds/nuts/herbs/spices/seaweed. We buy it pre-made, though it’s not complex to mix yourself.
Pre-prep: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: also 5-10 minutes
Total: Can easily get it done in 20-30 minutes, and probably less if you’re speedy.
So, our main theme for this recipe series is really ‘crowd-pleaser’ dishes, and this one definitely hits that place.
It’s tasty, nutritious, fast, affordable, makes use of leftovers, uses very little dishes, and represents diversity of cultures and flavor profiles. AND, it’s a unique or creative interpretation.
This is exactly what we’re going for and want to provide for you guys in our content here, especially in the 31 New Year Recipes series.
If you have any comments or questions pertaining to this dish, please leave them below.
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And definitely, if you make this dish, please let us know about it! Tag us @spacenlight on Instagram or Facebook or holler at us direct. We’d love to see what you’re doing.
PLEASE feel free to reinterpret what we’re putting out here and try your own things. If you want to bounce any ideas off of us, you know where to reach us.^^
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