No one really knows where fried rice originated, but one thing is for sure: Many countries have adopted it as their own dish with variations like Indonesian Nasi Goreng, Thai Fried rice, Sambal Fried Rice or Hawaiian Fried rice, just to name a few. It's easy to understand why fried rice is such a universal dish. Rice is the common thread, an extremely inexpensive ingredient, along with ingredients indigenous to each country.
I was first introduced to this simple, yet tasty, dish as a young girl in a Cantonese restaurant. I remember the diced sweet barbecued pork and baby green peas as the flavor enhancers of the plain fried rice. Through the years, I have reinterpreted this dish for many a quick night supper. It is especially easy to put together when the rice has been cooked ahead and been chilled. I like to add the roasted peanuts for a crunchy surprise.
-- Chilled, cooked rice is essential for the correct texture. If it is warm rice there will be too much moisture and the end-result will be mushy.
-- Have all ingredients cut up ahead and set out next to the cooktop.
-- Cook this in a wok; the wok must be very hot so that all will cook quickly.
-- Don't skimp on the oil since you want the rice to fry rather than just be heated through.
-- Don't crowd the pan. You can cook ingredients separately and then add back to the wok for the final cooking.
-- Let the each ingredient sear in the wok and do not touch it for at least 20 seconds before tossing it. This is important to develop the best color and texture.
The variations on this recipe are endless. If you don't have barbecued pork, use Chinese sausage; if you like a vegetarian version, instead of meat use your favorite vegetables like chopped carrots, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower or broccoli.
-- For spicier flavor add some hot chili paste or hot sauce like Sriracha.
Three Color Fried Rice
3 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 pound uncooked medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dry sherry
1/2 cup dried black mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes, cut into 1-inch pieces