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I can’t remember when I began making fried rice, but it serves well as an emergency meal, or a nice dinner for a few people.  If you keep your cupboard stocked w rice (white or brown), tofu (or any leftover cooked meat); and if you have a handful of Asian specialty ingredients, you can make this version of fried rice – it’s the first time I’m trying to write this thing down, which changes every time I make it.  My general approach doesn’t change much however.  It’s an economical dish, and it refrigerates well, if you have any left over.

I have never used a lot of oil or salt when I make this dish – and I often avoid restaurant fried-rice, generally because it’s saturated w oil and soy sauce.  I limit my soy sauce (and a little fish sauce) to the marinade for the protein- in this case tofu.

I’ll be as faithful as possible to the measurements and proportions I use.  First of all, rinse well a cup of white rice and cook with 1-1/2 cups of water- optionally adding a scant tsp of salt or less, to your liking.   If you use brown rice, it will take  longer to cook and will require additional cooking liquid – but it also packs a lot more flavor – and it’s a whole grain.  Fluff w a fork and allow to cool, while you prepare your protein.  Alternately, you could cook your rice w an equivalent measure of vegetable-, or chicken stock, maybe w a Star Anise thrown in for good measure- this will provide an almost indefinable flavor and some richness, and I highly recommend it.


2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (or Umeboshi plum vinegar)

2 Tbsp rice wine

2 Tbsp water

Stir these liquid ingredients together and pour over 1/2 pound of tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes (or a generous cup of shredded cooked chicken, leftover pork, sliced cooked beef, etc.)  Allow your protein to repose in the marinade, and as Alice B. Toklas says, acquire virtue.  This can be 10 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile, have your vegetables ready for stir fry.

You can get prepackaged Asian-style veg in the freezer section of your grocery store.  I have often used a couple of cups of ordinary frozen mixed vegetables, and that makes a perfectly wonderful fried rice.

Today I prepped mine fresh:

1 med carrot, cut into thin matchsticks

2 med stalks celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal

2 med scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

1/4 of a small head of cabbage, cut into med-fine shreds

1/2 green pepper, sliced thinly

1 small jalapeno pepper, sliced thinly on the diagonal

You will also need:

1 tsp finely grated ginger (or more)

1 finely minced or grated clove of garlic (or more)

1/2 tsp dried, ground shrimp powder

Since all your ingredients are now in place, you can start really cooking, and you are now only minutes away from meal-time.  It all starts moving very quickly.

Start with an egg or two, whisked in a bowl with 2 tsp cooking oil and 1/4 tsp white pepper.  In your wok or a large skillet place a Tbsp of cooking oil (and a few drops of sesame oil) and quickly let the egg set in a relaxed thin sheet.  Remove to a plate or cutting board and slice into slender ribbons.  Set aside.

Next, transfer your tofu (or other protein) from the marinade to the hot wok or skillet surface, with 1 Tbsp of cooking oil, and a few drops of sesame oil.  Allow to gain a little color and heat through very well, tossing lightly over med/high heat for a minute or two.  Remove the cooked protein from the heat, add to your collection of cooked egg; wipe out your wok or skillet and bring it back to heat.

Add ginger, garlic and dried, ground shrimp (or a bit of shrimp paste) if you happen to have it at your elbow, to the hot oil, and  agitate vigorously, careful not to allow anything to burn and become bitter.  At once, add all of your veg and toss around, until they are cooked as crisp or limp as your heart desires.  I usually only cook mine for 2-3 minutes, which allows them to retain their color, nutrition, texture and flavor.  Eat your vegetables! 🙂

Add your cooked rice to the veg and incorporate gently, adding the protein and cooked egg at the end.

Finally, I added a 1/4 c of chopped cilantro, and a couple of Tbsp of Thai holy basil.

This basic recipe I’ve made over the years, dozens of different ways, and it always somehow comes out well.  I forgot the bean sprouts.


When I was living in Taipei about 25 years ago, my landlord was kind enough to walk me through his recipe for Ma Po Dofu (known among other names as Stinky Tofu, because of the unmistakable  pungency  of fermented black beans.  They’re like micro- truffles).

I always order this dish in restaurants when it is available anywhere in the country, but I have never had the courage to try and prepare  it myself.  I always thought it was complicated, and it’s not.

I made MaPoDofu today for the first time in my home-wok and it was almost as good as my landlord’s version, cooked on a hot-plate in the northern suburbs of Taipei City.  Shih Lin District, Section 6.  It’s a rich dish, with lots of fire.  You’re going to be using Szechuan peppercorns, and they are no joke.  They also define the dish, if it’s an authentic recipe.  You have to roast them and then grind them – and the amazing thing is they retain their flintiness, as well as the heat.  Also, find DaBanJyaon (a bean and chili paste, spelled in a few highly confusing variations), and some hot chili oil.

I referred to two fine recipes online to cook this dish to the best of my memory-, and consulted a couple of good Chinese cookbooks.  One version included fresh ginger, and the other didn’t.  I include ginger in my version.

20 oz silken tofu

1/4 # ground pork

3 T Spicy bean paste (Toban Djan, see above)

2 T ground chili (I used 1/2 ancho and 1/2 Hungarian Paprika)

2 T cooking oil

3 T chili oil

1 T Szechuan peppercorns (roasted and ground)

1 T soy sauce

1 tsp fermented black beans (rinsed and pounded)

2 stalks of leeks/scallions for garnish- cut them at a sharp fine angle

2 cloves minced garlic

an equal amount of minced ginger, and 1/2 cup of water.

I cut my tofu into cubes, about 3/4″, and set them in a sieve to rest and become firmer.  Meanwhile, heat the cooking oil and chili oil over medium heat, adding the garlic, pork, spicy bean paste stirring well with a good, metal wok-spatula (this  tool makes your job as a cook much easier).  If you’re using a skillet or a deep skillet instead of a wok, a regular spatula or metal spoon may work equally well.

Now add in your ground chili (something from a good Asian market is better than my short cut, but I think I was still coloring inside the lines), the soy sauce, and your black bean paste.  Now you have something special.

Add the dofu and water, incorporating everything carefully into the stew,  decreasing the heat and simmering no longer than 5 minutes more.  Serve this with steamed white rice.  This dish helps define an entire province in China, as a minor player on a much larger stage.