I grew up eating fried rice the “Americanized” way, with peas, egg, sometimes carrot, and some sort of meat (usually ham or Chinese sausage). She cooked it with these ingredients for our family so that we would have more variety and that it could be more of a complete meal. Imagine my shock when my mom told me that real fried rice was just rice, egg, and green onions! She recounted the times she watched her grandpa cook fried rice, complete with the scattering of green onions right as the rice came off the stove.
All in all, fried rice is not meant to be all fancy! If you think about it, many Chinese dishes have humble origins, as most Chinese people did not have access to huge cuts of meat and lots of animal products to work with. It makes sense that fried rice was simple. Rice. egg. green onions.
Before leaving for any trip, I try to empty out the fridge so that I don’t come home to moldy produce or leftovers. I guess, I did a pretty good job of it, because this is what our fridge looks like right now:
|containers of salami, doenjang (soybean paste), marmalade, Thai chili peppers, cornmeal, dates, tonight’s leftovers…|
|Don’t be fooled; there’s only one egg left in that carton. Cat, tahini, passion fruit sauce, meager amount of hazelnut chocolate spread bacon, butter, and more salami…|
In our pantry, we had one 6-oz can of salmon “for emergencies only”. We also are running really low on rice, but luckily we have enough to hold us over until Saturday!
I thought of the salmon, saw the cabbage, and remembered the time my mom made fried rice with shredded cabbage. I didn’t even have green onions to make “real” fried rice! And when I say real, I mean authentic. Beggars cannot be choosers, so I made fried rice anyway. It’s super notChinese, unless you count the Taiwanese cabbage I used..BUT, I enjoyed eating it, and maybe you will want to make it too, if you find yourself with a depleted fridge.
Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice 麻辣炒飯 （ma2la4chao3fan4)
2 eggs, cracked in a bowl and whisked in preparation for scrambling
6 oz canned salmon, tuna, or chicken (Or you can use ham, Chinese sausage, or whatever leftover cooked meat you may have)
3 fresh chili peppers, sliced lengthwise- add more if you wish! I used Thai chilies.
3/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee bean grinder
3.5 cups thinly sliced Taiwanese cabbage*
2 cups cooked rice, brown or white
3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond brand)
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (optional)
1. Heat a wok over medium-high heat Add oil to coat a thin, thin layer on the bottom of the wok, and add eggs. Scramble in big chunks until they are 50% cooked. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add a little more oil, ~1 tsp, to the wok, and add chili peppers and cook until you can smell the spiciness. Add 1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, then immediately add your salmon and its juices. Break up into about 1 inch, coarse chunks. This step is just for the purpose of heating the salmon through, so don’t make too many chunks otherwise it will disintegrate in your rice! Add salmon to the bowl with your par-scrambled eggs.
3. Heat the wok until it’s smoking, then add 2 tsp oil. Immediately add the cabbage. Stir fry on high heat. Move the cabbage around constantly! Hopefully you have a non weak-sauce burner that will be good enough to produce some dark brown semi-charred spots on the cabbage. After a minute or so of stir frying like this, add 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for a few more minutes until the cabbage is cooked (try one). If your wok is small like mine, cook the cabbage in two batches, making sure to let the wok heat up between batches.
4. When the cabbage is done, turn the heat to medium and add the rice and break up the clumps. Add the eggs and salmon and 1/4 tsp salt. Break up the chunks of eggs, salmon and add 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns.
5. Mix everything thoroughly. Adjust for salt. Scatter green onions if you have them over the top of the rice, and serve!
*I find Taiwanese cabbage to be more tender than regular cabbage. It is also much crispier and crunchier than regular cabbage when cooked. Find Taiwanese cabbage in the Asian grocery store- it is flat, oval, and much less dense; its weight will surprise you!
***Update (3/28/14)- It occurred to me that maybe not everyone has Sichuan peppercorns and peppers in their fridge+pantry? If so, semi-okay substitutes would be white pepper powder for the Sichuan peppercorns, and dried chili flakes for the fresh pepper. But, then you will just be making Spicy-
Numbing Fried Rice, and it will taste very different! Let me know if you try this.