Fried rice is great for recipe development because it’s so versatile. As long as you have the rice and the sauce, you can add whatever meat, vegetables, and/or eggs to it and it will probably taste like fried rice (and taste good). This also means it’s great for the budget, because it helps use up odds and ends left over from other meals. In this case, I used up some ham left over from Easter, which is a classic addition to fried rice.
Although fried rice is very versatile, it’s not necessarily easy. In the past, I had a very hard time with my fried rice because it always came out pretty sticky, when what I wanted was the nice separated, almost hard, grains that you get with Chinese take out. To try to do a better job this time, I found this Serious Eats article about the methodology behind fried rice. Apparently, the most important thing is to wash away all the starch and get the rice very dry before cooking, and then cooking it in small enough batches that all the grains have space to separate and any remaining water evaporates.
For the sauce, I went with soy sauce for salt, fish sauce for umami, and sugar for balance. You could try a lot of different asian sauce ingredients and they probably would turn out well. The sriracha is not authentic, but I like it.
Below, the recipe:
Ham Fried Rice
Method based off Serious Eats
- 3 cups white rice
- 1/2 medium green cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 pound precooked ham slices, small dice
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 5 eggs, scrambled slightly
- 1/4 cup + vegetable oil, divided
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
- The day before, cook the rice according to the package directions and spread out onto a baking pan to cool completely. Store in the fridge overnight in an open container to dry out. This creates dry rice, which is ideal for fried rice. Break apart the rice with your hands before cooking.
- The day of, whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and brown sugar for the sauce and set aside
- Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add cabbage and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until wilted but still retain some crunch. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add another 1 Tbsp oil to the pan and reheat the ham until caramelized. Transfer to the bowl with the cabbage.
- Add another 1 Tbsp oil to the pan and cook the rice in 1 cup batches, tossing the rice to coat in oil and stirring until rice is golden brown. Transfer the rice to another bowl. Add more oil as necessary to keep remaining batches from burning.
- When all the rice is cooked, add 1 Tbsp oil to the pan and scramble the eggs until just cooked.
- Pour everything back into the pan, add the peppers and tomatoes and stir all to reheat. Add the sauce at the end and stir to distribute.
- Serve topped with scallions and sriracha.
This tasted good, but I still have not gotten the fried rice method right. I think I have two fundamental problems. 1) I struggle with high heat cooking. Everything always seems to get really smoky and then my pan gets burned and things become a mess. Maybe this is because I don’t have a wok? I’m not sure, but I will keep trying. 2) I tried to cook wayyyy too much fried rice. It was pretty comical. I think fried rice is meant to use up odds and ends from the fridge, but I usually cook meals to make leftovers for the rest of the week, so I tried to make a lot. This resulted in rice that was not very dry and a volume that was too much for my pan to handle. Next time, I will try to constrain myself to just one serving and see how that goes. 3) This is a bonus, but this particular time I made my leftover rice before reading Serious Eats’ method, so I failed to wash my rice before cooking. This may be a big improvement in the future.