Fried rice is never something I intend to make, but it's something I'll cook for myself when I'm home, my wife and kids are away, and there's not a whole lot in the refrigerator. Fried rice is best made with day-old rice, so it's essentially glorified leftovers.
Scrambling the egg in the wok or sauté pan first helps prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. And while every Chinese restaurant in America seems to add frozen peas and carrot chunks to fried rice with abandon, I like to use real vegetables: shredded leafy greens, tiny steamed broccoli florets, or inch-long pieces of green bean. You can add a little shrimp or some leftover roast pork. In other words, this recipe can be made with almost anything. The only essential ingredients are rice, egg, and scallion. This is best eaten out of a bowl, beer in hand, after a long day.
1. Heat a wok over high heat; the metal will have a matte appearance and a drop or two of water flicked onto its surface should evaporate on contact. Add the oil and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute, until pink. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil from the pan into a small heatproof bowl and set the bowl aside.
2. In a bowl, stir together the rice, salt, sugar, and black pepper, breaking up any clumps and mixing well to combine.
3. Return the wok to high heat and heat the oil until it is shimmering. Crack the eggs into the pan. With the back of a spoon or spatula, immediately scramble the egg, smearing and spreading it around to coat as much of the bottom of the wok as possible. When the egg is no longer wet but has not yet begun to brown, add the rice and toss to combine. Continue stir-frying until the rice is heated through, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the greens and cook, stirring, just until wilted. Add the cooked shrimp and toss to mix well. Add the seasoning sauce and fish sauce and mix well. Season to taste with additional soy and fish sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions. Transfer to a warmed platter and serve immediately.
Reprinted from the book Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan. Copyright © 2012 by Charles Phan. Photographs © 2012 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Often you find that there are ways you can improve techniques or recipes," says J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.