Fried Rice

Cook Date: January 9, 2021

We had ham for Christmas so we had a LOT of ham left over. We’ve scrambled eggs and ham; we’ve made a frittata with ham; we’ve had ham sandwiches; and soon we will have ham and bean soup. Still, there is ham. What to do, what to do… Ah! fried rice! I don’t think this is an authentic Chinese dish, but what the heck, it would do the trick. So, I found a fried rice recipe on the NY Times website. Do I really need a recipe? Well, it helps get ingredients ratios right and provides tips.

Vegetables for fried rice

I like getting everything prepped before starting to cook; with stir fry it’s a necessity.

Fried rice ingredients ready to go.

Reading a few other recipes I found that cooking the carrots presented a small problem: being much harder than the other ingredients, it needs to be processed differently. A few recipes call for parboiling the chopped carrots first. The NY Times recipe just has us do a fine dice on the carrots.

Carrots, red bell pepper, and onion will be sautéd together.

Then I took a second look at my prep and … “Where’s the ham!?” The driving reason for making this dish was to use leftover ham and I picked a vegetarian recipe. Not to worry, chop up some ham. That is the primary reason I prep everything first.

Ham chopped for the fried rice just in time.

This dish comes together quickly. I started by sautéing the ham a bit then moving it to a big bowl. Next step was to sauté the onion, bell pepper, and carrots. Then added the peas for a moment to heat them through and moved it all to that big bowl.

I next sautéd the garlic and ginger in hot oil until fragrant, then added the cooked rice. Stir it all around to mix oil, rice, ginger, and garlic. Then create an open space in the middle of the skillet add two lightly scrambled eggs. When the eggs are cooked, back in come the ham and vegetables.

Fried rice is almost done.

Time to put in the finishing touches. This recipe calls for rice wine; as I noted in my post on broccoli beef earlier this year, this is a problematic ingredient. What you usually find in the Asian aisle of your local store is “sweet rice wine seasoning”. It used to be called wine, but hey, it is not wine. To fix that I bought a bottle of Shao Xing Hua Tiao real rice wine at my local Ranch 99 Asian market. A big thank you to Amanda Biddle of The Striped Spatula for her tutorial on Chinese cooking pantry staples. More on that in a minute.

Real rice wine – third from the left.

To finish the dish, we add a couple of tablespoons of Chinese dark soy sauce and some toasted sesame oil.

Fried rice ready to be served.

While I was cooking the rice, Carla made a dish we made years ago from How To Cook and Eat in Chinese by Buwei Yang Chao. I think we got this for our wedding back in the mid 1970s. I just looked on Amazon and see a hard copy edition sells for $877.95 but you can pick up a paperback for $117. It probably doesn’t need saying I don’t think the book is worth that much.

This dish has the awesome name “Ancient Old Meat”. It’s basically sweet and sour pork. Deep fry pieces of pork chops dredged in flour, then saute’ some bell pepper and pineapple. Add a dash of vinegar and some other bits and you are ready to go. It has been decades since we last made this dish; unlike other old recipes we revisit, this one holds up. You can find a copy of the recipe here.

Ancient Old Meat

Put the two dishes into serving bowls and you are ready to roll.

Fried rice
Ancient Old Meat
Fried rice and ancient old meat

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served: Fried rice and ancient old meat

The fried rice was sooo dark – I think due to the fact that I used Chinese dark soy sauce.

Chinese Dark Soy Sauce

That soy sauce is not like your common Kikkoman Japanese soy sauce. This sauce is the consistency of syrup – though not sweet. The fried rice tasted a little bitter. I think next time – and there will be a next time – I’ll go back to the lighter soy sauce.

Rating: ★★★ 3 stars. Great for a weeknight dinner, but probably not for company. Really, this dish is great for using up stuff in the fridge.

A quick note on the photography. I – once again – played around with the lighting. I used a two flashes shooting through MagMod light modifiers.

Flash with a MagMod light modifier.

I tried these modifiers because they would be easier to manage. When I use a large soft box and/or reflective umbrella I have to constantly move around them as I cook. But, if you look at the pictures, you’ll see lots of shadows. The fact is that my soft box and umbrella set up provides the best light.

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