In many cultures, the crispy rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot is considered a delicacy. In this recipe, the rice is shaped into patties and fried until the outside is crispy while the inside is still moist, almost gooey. The pickling liquid for the onion is refreshing and aromatic, with mint, spicy chili paste, and the tang of rice wine vinegar. The flavorings in this salad are Asian-inspired, based on some of my favorite rice bowl toppings: fish sauce and soy for umami, spicy ginger, and crunchy peanuts. You can also top the rice fritters with other fresh herbs, garnishes, or sauces for different flavor profiles. If you don’t have Carolina Gold rice (the heirloom grain, not the parboiled rice brand), substitute any short- or medium-grain rice—their higher starch content will help bind the patties together. Using chilled rice makes it easier to shape the patties.
Active cook time: 35 minutes serves: 4 to 6
FOR THE PICKLED ONION:
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons sambal oelek or other chili paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
FOR THE RICE PATTIES AND GARNISH:
4 cups chilled cooked Carolina Gold rice or short-or medium grain white rice
⅓ cup rice flour or cornstarch
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal)
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and julienned
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
¼ cup roughly chopped peanuts
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1. For the pickled onion: In a small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, chili paste, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and salt. Add the red onion and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, for the rice patties: Place the rice in a large bowl and break up any clumps with your fingers. Sprinkle the flour over the rice and toss together until the rice is completely coated in flour.
3. Divide the rice into 16 portions, shape each one into a patty, and set aside on a sheet of parchment paper until ready to fry. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.
4. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a deep cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees F. Add 4 of the rice patties to the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown and crisp on the outside, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil to the pan if necessary (be sure to allow the oil it to return to temperature) and skimming out any burnt bits.
5. When you’ve finished frying the rice patties, add the sliced ginger to the hot oil and fry just until golden, less than a minute; don’t let it get too dark or crisp. Remove the ginger with a skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels.
6. Break the rice fritters into large bite-sized pieces and arrange them on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion from the pickling liquid and scatter them over the rice patties. Scatter the crisped ginger, cilantro, mint, peanuts, and scallions over the top and drizzle with the remaining pickling liquid. Serve immediately.
From The Simple Art of Rice by JJ Johnson with Danica Novgorodoff, Flatiron Books 2023. Photo credit: Beatriz da Costa
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