Back in early November, I decided to take a stab at weekly menu planning in an effort to organize my grocery shopping lists, encourage the trying out of all those recipes I had stashed in my notebook and more efficiently make use of the ingredients I already had on hand. It worked surprisingly well for a few weeks, up until the holiday season hit and I was eaten alive by gingerbread. Just started up the process again a couple of weeks ago and although it’s been hard to get back into the groove (amazing how lazy you get after a few weeks of not having to cook for yourself), I do appreciate the order it has brought to my kitchen. Looking through old receipts, I used to make random visits to the supermarket up to five times a week for a handful of things each time. After the menu regimen started, the total dropped to one large receipt and an occasional small one for when we got last minute cravings. That’s not only a lot of time saved, but quite a bit of money from not purchasing repeats, impulse junk or items that wouldn’t get used after the first time.
So what does all that have to do with fried rice? Simple — fried rice is pretty much the ultimate refrigerator clean-out dish. Just about anything you need to get rid (within reason) can go into fried rice. I know this because I’ve seen my mom put in some pretty interesting things over the course of my lifetime. So when I sat down to make my very first week’s menu, the thing that I immediately jotted for the first day was in bold: FRIED RICE. Rhymes with clean slate to my ears, it does.
I used 3 Hungry Tummies’ Fried Rice recipe as a starting point and then just tossed in whatever happened to be convenient. The beauty of fried rice is that it’s hard to go wrong with it, as long as you do a little prep work. Such as? Right behind the cut…
According to the recipe, you will want 5 cups of cooked rice (I probably used closer to 6 cups of cooked jasmine rice, but was just sort of eyeballing it based on how much room I had in the pan. try to cook the rice the day before and/or let it sit in the fridge a while to cool off — it really makes a huge difference when cooking because it fries up much better), 150g of chopped prawns (I used a small bag of tiny frozen shrimp), 150g of chopped and marinated pork fillet (I used closer to 400g of chopped pork, seasoned with meat baharat), 2 sliced Chinese sausages (I used extra chopped pork because I didn’t have any sausages. however, if you have access to these, they really do make a big difference — I loved these things as a kid because they were so aromatic and made any dish tastier), 3 lightly beaten eggs seasoned with salt and pepper, 3 chopped cloves of garlic, 2/3 cup of green peas, 2 chopped spring onions, a few leaves of shredded lettuce (I used frozen spinach instead, mostly to get rid of the last few blocks in the bag), 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and white pepper to taste.
Heat up your oil in a large pan or wok, making sure it gets really hot. I turn up my electric range as high as it’ll go, but that’s still nowhere close to the temperatures a real wok can take — it has to do, though. The original recipe says to use peanut oil and it’s definitely the best choice for both aroma and authenticity. Sadly, I could not find any at the supermarket so had to use canola instead. Fry your garlic in the hot oil and have everything chopped and set to the side so it is ready to toss in at a moment’s notice. Next, toss in the meats — seasoned chopped pork, in my case. If my prawns were raw, I’d toss them in right after the meat was starting to brown. Since the ones I used were already cooked before they were frozen, however, I tossed them in at a later time to keep them from drying out too much. After the pork is browned, push the meat to one side and quickly scramble your eggs on the other side of the pan.
When the eggs are mostly cooked (the original recipe states 70%, which I’m guessing to mean when it’s starting to look solid but still moist), toss in the rice. Mix everything very well — I prefer using two spoons to more neatly move everything around, but you can always try the toss-mixing method if you have a big enough pan/wok to work with. My arms probably wouldn’t be strong enough to pull that off even if I had the equipment, anyway. When everything is mixed thoroughly, add in your veggies. My green onions went in first because they still had to cook, followed by my green peas that just needed to defrost.
The frozen spinach went in right after the frozen peas. Then I started drizzling the oyster sauce, soy, salt, pepper and sesame oil over everything, a bit at a time. Salt usually isn’t very necessary, since there’s some sodium in the soy already. I tossed in the frozen shrimp last, because it just needs to absorb the heat. There should be lots of loud sizzling happening at this point and rice grains might be popping as well. This is one of the reasons we use old rice — it’s dried out enough that it doesn’t get mushy from all the sauces and heat.
Serve hot! Also excellent for reheating in the microwave, so one convenient large batch not only takes care of dinner, but also a lunch to take to work the next day.
Cost breakdown? Well, if you’re using up leftovers, not much at all. I dug through the receipts and tried to piece together as many ingredients as I could, however, to get a better idea for the next time:
- 400g of chopped pork — 2.75
- about half a small box of jasmine rice — 1.15
- half a bunch of spring onions — 1.10
- 3 eggs – .54
- bag of frozen shrimp — 1.09
- garlic, peas, spinach and condiments are usually present at all times
Let’s toss out the random-but-probably-inflated price of 1.50 to cover that extra stuff that I didn’t price. That means I spent €8.13 to make 6 generous servings of fried rice. €1.38 a meal for a hearty and aromatic dish that includes seafood, meat and eggs? Not bad at all!