Healthier fried rice worthy of take-out

Matthew Mead/Associated Press

This recipe for fried rice calls for shrimp, but you can substitute any protein you choose, or use mushrooms for a vegetarian version.

By SARA MOULTON
Associated Press

Starchy, crunchy and flavorful, fried rice is a deeply satisfying dish no matter what you add to it. And you can add just about any vegetable or protein you care to name, fresh or left over.

I love fried rice not only for its taste and versatility, but also because it’s so easy to make at the last minute. I almost always have most of the core ingredients stocked in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. If a carton of leftover take-out restaurant rice suddenly appears on a shelf next to the milk, I’m good to go.

I’ve never been all that great at cooking rice. I can’t seem to get the ratio and timing right, and I always forget when you’re supposed to leave it alone and when you’re supposed to stir it. I finesse this handicap by leaning on a little trick I learned during my restaurant days: boiling the rice in a big pot of salted water as if it was pasta. That way there’s no rice-to-water ratio to worry about. For brown rice, 45 minutes does the trick.

And if you’re in a particular rush, you can swap in instant brown rice, which is almost as nutritious as regular brown rice and cooks up quicker, as advertised.

This being spring, I made sure that the stars of the recipe were seasonal ingredients, starting with peas. Fresh peas are heavenly, of course, but they start turning to starch as soon as they’re harvested, so be sure to cook them right away. I also incorporated two other spring vegetables – sugar snap peas and radishes, though I left the radishes raw. Saute a radish and this spicy, crispy root vegetable becomes sweet and tender.

But I like the kick of a raw radish, so I simply shredded them, then tossed them with a little seasoned rice vinegar. Sprinkled on top of the finished dish, these raw radishes are similar to a pickle.

As is typical in Chinese cuisine, this dish requires little cooking time. But you must have all the ingredients measured and chopped before you toss them in the pan. If you want to streamline the process even further, you can leave out the sauce, simply serving the finished dish with soy sauce and hot sauce on the side. For that matter, you could lose the radish garnish, though even suggesting such a thing makes me sad.

In the end, I can pretty much guarantee that if you try this recipe even once, you’ll be inspired to make it again and again, changing it slightly every time to make room for whichever delicious seasonal ingredients happen to be at hand or whichever leftovers are crying out to be used up.

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