I grew up in a family that loves to serve fried rice cooked with lots of minced garlic (and a dash of salt) for breakfast. As a child, I remember waking up to the whiff of hot chocolate drink, brewed coffee, and the heady scent of garlic fried rice wafting from the kitchen. These are often followed by the aroma of either local sausages, bacon, or dried/salted fish being pan-fried. Fried eggs are a regular fixture too.
Lunch and dinner are a different matter. If there are lots of leftover cooked rice in the fridge, my Dad often whips up his favorite fried rice recipe, which he refers to as ‘chow rice’ (probably inspired by a fast food restaurant fare made of fried rice, green peas, carrots and ham). Of course, these ‘chow rice’ concoctions are never the same. Everything depends on the available ingredients.
When I get homesick (which happens very rarely) and start craving for my parents’ home-cooked fare, I often try to replicate whatever I ate growing up. Needless to say, the recipe today is inspired by my Dad’s ‘chow rice’. However, I don’t think it’s as good as my Dad’s but, hey, it’s comfort food still.
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup broccoli stems or long beans, sliced (you can add more if you prefer)
1/4 cup bacon or ham, cubed
1/4 cup Chinese sausage, diced
1 medium-sized red onion, sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
Spring onion, chopped (as much as you like)
1 egg, beaten
2-3 T light soy sauce (some prefer more; it depends on your taste)
1-2 T cooking oil
Leftover roast chicken, cubed
1-2 T lemon juice or black rice vinegar
1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
2. Saute onions until they become transparent.
3. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute.
4. Add the meat ingredients, followed by the broccoli stem and/or long beans. (If you have carrots, this is the right time to add them in as well.)
5. Lower the heat a bit, cover and allow the ingredients to cook for a couple of minutes.
6. Add the beaten egg and be sure to break it down into pieces (or else you’d end up with an omelette). Mix well for about a minute.
7. Add the rice and mix well. Keep stirring as you pour in the soy sauce. Cover and let it dry out a bit. You don’t want a soggy fried rice mix. I personally prefer something with a bit of crust so I let the mixture cook for a few minutes in the covered pan and the heat set to the lowest.
8. Turn off the heat and add the black pepper and spring onions. Mix well.
This is best served hot. It goes well with fresh vegetable salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, or a salad of tomatoes, onions, and salted eggs, or just with a plain sunny side-up (with runny yolk). For the latter, I usually put it on top of the rice. I break the yolk and let it ooze down to the sides, coating the top layer of the rice.
Since I like everything spicy, I dribble some hot sauce on the piping hot dish. That perks up my taste buds in no time!
You can also eat it cold. In that case, I would often wrap it in lettuce leaves.
Note: If I feel like adding the optional acidic ingredients, I usually mix the black rice vinegar immediately after adding the soy sauce. If I’m using lemon juice, I add it just when I’m about to eat it. It somehow lifts up the flavors.
Fried rice is one of those dishes that has countless variations. It really all boils down to personal preference. There were times in the past when it took on a ‘dirty rice’ Cajun influence when I added mashed chicken liver to it, and there were other instances when I added crab meat, mussels, and squid.
You can also experiment and instead of soy sauce, you can use fish sauce instead. Lastly, for some reason, I’ve paired this fried rice with slices of mangoes. The sweet and the salty flavors really taking it up to a whole new level. Weird? Maybe. Comfort food? You bet!