Leftovers don’t have to be a miserable affair. Not a recipe-recipe, but a simple formula that will make you kind of wish for that last minute ‘sorry something came up!’ dinner plans cancelled text.
Listen. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the leftover rice in your fridge calling you. It’s the sound of your stomach telling you, “ME HUNGRY NOW!” But wait! You’ve ran out of meal prep? No energy to cook a huge meal? Only got $13.29 in your bank and need to stretch it out til pay day? Fear not, friend. Fried rice is here to save the day.
I talked a bit about fried rice basics in my early Smoked Meat Fried Rice post. But I thought I’d break it down even further. See, fried rice requires no specific recipe, don’t listen to anyone telling you to absolutely use x amount of salt or y amount of soy sauce in a basic fried rice recipe. Myself included! I cook fried rice on a whim; if I’m lazy, to clean up my fridge/pantry, or if I just want something really comforting. It’s quick, it’s easy, and chances are you have most of the ingredients in your home already. Unless you don’t even have rice and eggs, then all I can say is…go grocery shopping man.
First things first: loosen up. If you don’t cook regularly in the kitchen, you need to develop an intuition. Cooking is fun! And it’s meant to be suited to YOUR tastes, since you’re the one eating it! So if a recipe calls for a clove of garlic and you want to put five, who tf is going to judge? Less salt/more salt, coriander/no coriander, eggs vs. tofu vs. chicken, soy sauce or tamari or coconut aminos or salt or–you get the point. You’re supposed to taste a dish throughout cooking it, so put those taste buds to good work.
Now, let’s go through the basics:
Gimme some PROTEIN
Very very standard. Cook the protein first, and set aside. This will prevent from overcooking. Unless you have a huge ass gas stove and wok and can cook really fast, any recipe that has you cooking the egg by making a well in the middle of the wok at the end will set you up for disaster.
I always keep a carton of eggs in my fridge, and I like to keep some hotpot beef/pork (the thinly sliced meats in the Asian grocery store freezer) on hand. Sometimes I buy smoked meats and other deli cuts if I think that my meal prep won’t last me the week. The recipe down below was inspired from leftover pancetta when making carbonara one day. Edamame and tempeh keep well frozen, firm tofu lasts for awhile. Always try to keep some source of protein in your fridge/freezer if you know you’ll be needing it.
Possibilities: Eggs, meat (chicken, pork, beef, bacon, smoked meat, spam), tofu, tempe, edamame, fish, etc.
“What are you cooking? That smells soooo good!”
I can’t count the amount of time I’ve gotten my roommates to say this. And 90% of the time it’s just because I’m cooking onions and garlic. AROMATICS people! If it smells good it tastes good.
Possibilities: Onion, garlic, green onion (cook the whites first and leave the green as a garnish), shallot, ginger, chili peppers, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, coriander stems (save the leaves as garnish)
Spice it up!!
Technically spices are also aromatics but I wanted to make a separate category for them. Spices are the key to transforming a bland ass dish into something that makes you question the existence of heaven on Earth. They’re also a great way to soak up excess moisture; if I add too much sauce in fried rice I always add some spices to even things out. You have to experiment though to see what spices go well with the type of sauce you are using.
Possibilities: ground coriander, ground onion, ground ginger, ground garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cumin, sumac, turmeric, garam masala (spice blend)), curry powder
Get yo greens!!
Take the opportunity to use up those sad veggies wilting away in your fridge. They deserve some love too.
Jokes aside, I always keep frozen veggies in my freezer for a quick meal. It’s great, try it! I keep frozen green beans, peas, corn etc. A great way to reduce food waste it to just freeze everything you couldn’t use in time. Also, if you use fresh veggies, a way to reduce cook time is to blanch them first. I’m too lazy to get a whole pot boiling so I put the kettle on and then pour boiling water over the veg in a bowl and let it sit for awhile.
Pro-tip: If you want something that lasts forever in the fridge, kimchi is the way.
Possibilities: green beans, peas, snap peas, corn, baby corn, carrots, bok choy, spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, chard, brussel sprouts (loose), garlic chives, cherry tomatoes, kimchi
Some saucy sauce
Probably the most important thing. Always keep your favorite sauces stocked up. Traditional sauces include soy sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce, one of the main ingredients in nasi goreng), etc. If you have nothing else, ketchup is acceptable (ngl ketchup fried rice is bomb). Not a sauce but you can also add a little cooking alcohol (sake, shaoxing wine) to your fried rice as it helps carry flavor.
My go-to fried rice sauce combos:
- Soy sauce + Maggi sauce + kecap manis
- Oyster sauce + soy sauce
- Gochuajng + rice vinegar + soy sauce + tomato paste
- Miso paste + gochujang + soy sauce
- Soy sauce + fish sauce + doubanjiang + maple syrup (to sweeten a bit)
Careful not to add too much sauce though, you don’t want to drown your rice. Especially with soy sauce, the reason why take-out fried rice is so dark is because they add a bit of dark soy sauce (thicker and sweeter). The type we normally use for flavoring is light soy sauce (or Japanese soy sauce which has no distinction). Don’t pour a cup in and wonder why it’s not turning dark, you only need a few tbsp.
A trick to nail the perfect sauce-to-rice ratio: I add the sauce in before the rice and then add the rice in bit by bit. This helps evenly coat the rice and you can just stop adding rice once you’ve found the perfect ratio. If you don’t have a lot of rice though it’s best to do the opposite add the sauce bit by bit.
Possibilities: soy sauce (light for flavor, dark for color), hoisin sauce, fish sauce, kecap manis, Maggi sauce, mirin, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, gochujang, doubanjiang (chili bean paste), miso paste, tomato paste
Leave no leftovers
Oh hey that’s the name of the blog series! The most important thing about fried rice is you HAVE to use day-after rice that’s been cooled. If you use just cooked rice it’s going to be mushy and probably burn your pan. Too much moisture is a no-no. Make sure also to declump the rice when you take it out of the fridge (press on the rice clumps with the flat of a spoon/rice spatula to loosen them).
If you really want fried rice but only have freshly cooked, spread the cooked rice over a baking tray to let it cool faster (& stick it in the fridge/freezer if you have no time).
And last but not least….
The finishing touches! A sprinkle of chopped green onion, a drizzle of sesame oil, a swirl of chili crisp…..drool worthy.
Possibilities: green onion, coriander leaves, sesame oil, chili crisp (Laoganma is the best), sambal, chopped chilis, furikake (rice seasoning), sesame seeds, nori, pickled ginger, fried shallots, lime wedge, chopped peanuts, fried garlic
So, in sum, what’s our formula? In order of cooking (more or less) it is:
Protein + Aromatics + Spices + Veggies + Sauce + Leftover Rice + Garnish = HALLELUJAH.
Now, go forth. With this knowledge you shall know the comfort of fried rice. Also keep in mind this is not a strict order, if you forget to add something you can always add it later on!
If all these ingredients are leaving your head spinning, just know that you can literally make fried rice like this:
Oil + Eggs + Frozen veggies + Ketchup + Salt + Pepper + Rice
Like. That’s fried rice dude. It’s not gonna be the best god damn fried rice you’ve ever had but it’ll be better than shitty Mr. Noodles (That being said stay tuned for a post on how to make instant noodles not suck – short answer: don’t buy Mr. Fucking Noodles).
Now I know I said in the first part that Leave No Leftovers is a no-recipe series. Buuut I am posting a recipe down below as an example. It’s not a part of the series, just an add on since I’ve been babbling on so much about technical shit and I know all you people just wanna see the damn recipe anyway. In which case you shouldn’t have read this far lol.
Feel free to message me if you have any fried rice related questions! Happy cooking!
Kimchi & Pancetta Fried Rice
- 2~3 cups cooled leftover rice
- 4 large eggs
- 60 g pancetta (or any leftover meat)
- 5 tbsp kimchi chopped
- 2 large shallots chopped
- 1/2 a red bell pepper chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp kimchi juice
- 3 tsp white pepper
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp kecap manis or maple syrup/sugar/sweetener
- 1 tsp maggi sauce optional
- Pinch of salt
- Few springs of coriander or any leftover herbs
- 1 spur chili optional
- 2 tbsp oil for cooking
- 1 tsp sesame oil for drizzling
- 1 tbsp Laoganma chili crisp (optional but highly recommended)
- Heat oil in a pan on medium low and whisk the eggs. Add a bit of the maggi sauce & white pepper in the egg as you whisk it.
- Pour the egg in the pan and scramble to your liking. If you like it on the drier side, let it sit on one side until halfway cooked and then scramble. Set aside.
- Add the leftover pancetta into the pan and let it sear a bit. Turn the heat up to medium high, add the bell peppers, garlic, chilies, and shallot. Mix well. Let cook for 2~3 min.
- Add the kimchi and let it cook for another minute. Then add kimchi juice, soy sauce, white pepper, kecap manis. and maggi sauce. Mix well.
- Add the rice and stir evenly to coat with the sauce.
- Garnish with coriander, sesame oil, and chili crisp. Enjoy!