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Family Central: Weeknight Fast Fried Rice

One of the first things I learned how to cook growing up was Chinese Fried Rice. My mother seemed to always have leftover rice and eggs in the refrigerator, and with six of us to feed, this was an easy dish to prepare quickly on our hectic weeknights. Watching her, I learned early on how to prepare this recipe as a stand-by in college when time was short and money was tight.

What I love about fried rice is it’s so easy to make it your own. Most any protein works well, from chicken, beef and pork to shrimp, edamame and even tofu. Traditional recipes such as the one here usually include eggs, green peas and onions, but it’s just as delicious with diced zucchini, water chestnuts and broccoli florets. Whatever you have in your produce drawer probably would work great!

A few tips on making sure your fried rice turns out the way you expect:

  1. Day-old, leftover rice works the best, and even better if you use chilled rice. The day-old rice has had time to dry out some, making it easier to stir-fry and much less likely to end up in a goopy mess.
  2. Use high heat throughout the entire recipe.
  3. Always stir-fry your meat/protein first before continuing. And if you have time, try to stir-fry each of your ingredients separately before returning them all to the work for the final flash heating.
  4. The amount of oil is really important for the final dish to not be too greasy or too dry. My rule of thumb is to use 2 tablespoons of oil for every 2-2 ½ cups of rice I am going to prepare.
  5. Marinating your protein before stir-frying adds tremendous flavor and is worth the time.

Shrimp Fried Rice
Serves 4

1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup rice cooking wine (on the Asian aisle)
1 tsp plus 1 Tbs soy sauce
Pinch of white pepper
1 cup medium-sized shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup frozen or fresh green peas
1/4 cup frozen or fresh carrots, diced
2 1/2 cups cold, day-old rice
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped

In a bowl large enough to hold shrimp, mix together the cornstarch, cooking wine, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and white pepper. Gently add shrimp and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 1/2 cup of oil in wok at high heat. Quickly add marinated shrimp and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring to make sure shrimp cooks evenly. Turn off heat and allow shrimp to cook for one more minute. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon.

Turn heat in wok back up to high, and add 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok. Add eggs and scramble, breaking apart as they cook. Remove from wok and set aside to keep warm.

Sauté onions, green peas and carrots in the wok for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to wok and add the rice. Stir occasionally to combine all ingredients. Add the reserved 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and mix thoroughly. Add the shrimp, chicken bouillon and salt and white pepper to taste, stirring to combine. When ready to serve, sprinkle with the finely chopped scallions.