When Life Gives You Leftovers, Make Fried Rice

My favorite food is the food my dad makes for me. He’s as apt to make an involved, multi-course chinese meal as a big pot of rustic minestrone soup. It’s hard to pick an all-time favorite, but for sentimental reasons his “international fried rice” holds a special place in my heart. The spirit of this dish really represents my dad: thrifty, inventive, laid back, homey.

The key is the rice which must be a few days old (ideally a little dried out from being in the refrigerator). The next critical component are your leftovers which can be of any international variety. I’ve seen my dad throw in everything from black bean sauce chicken to Indian take out and even on occasion, spaghetti. Some of my favorite versions of all time were cooked on the final mornings of camping trips, in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. (Yes, my family cooked rice on camping trips.). Some of you may have boundaries for crazy food combinations, but I find fried rice has virtually no limits.

After watching may dad dozens and dozens of times, I started making fried rice in college and have kept on ever since. It shows up on our table often as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Depending on what you include, it can be an “all in one meal” that even picky kids like my son will happily eat. So the next time you find yourself with a random assortment of otherwise uninspiring leftovers, consider making your own contribution to the genre of international fried rice.

Dad’s International Fried Rice

There are probably as many methods of fried rice making as there are fried rice makers, but this is how I do it:

1. Make your omelet by beating a couple of eggs well (I usually add a pinch of salt and some finely minced chives if I have some). Cook in a lightly oiled plan until set. Flip and cook through. Rough chop and set aside. (if your omelet turns out more like scrambled eggs, no worries since you’re chopping it up anyway.

2. Dice your various leftovers and set aside. You want to eliminate any excess sauce from your leftovers which will take away from the crispy, fluffy yumminess of the final dish. If I don’t have leftover cooked vegetables on hand, I usually just throw in some frozen peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking and let them warm through.

4. Drizzle a little more oil in the pan and let it get quite hot. Break up your rice into the pan. Ideally, your rice will be a couple of days old and dried out. Let it warm through and take the time to let it get a crispy in places. I’ve learned over the years, that it’s worth not short changing this step. Letting a bit of the rice get golden and crispy makes all the difference. Sprinkle the rice ever so gently with some soy sauce. If you have some grated ginger on hand (which you will if you use this handy little trick), add some in and fry along with the rice.

5. Add in your diced leftovers and vegetables. Toss well and let warm through. Add your chopped omelet (and optional frozen peas). Toss well and warm though.

6. Taste and season to taste with whatever combination of sauces you like. I sometimes use a few drops of sesame oil, and a light touch of oyster sauce or chili paste depending on how flavorful the leftovers were. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and scallion.

14 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Leftovers, Make Fried Rice

  1. Through the first few sentences, I couldn’t tell if this was a post by Simran or Stacie…”The spirit of this dish really represents my dad: thrifty, inventive, laid back, homey”.

    then I came upon Camping. I knew it wasn’t Simran 🙂

    I don’t think I have ever heard of Spaghetti fried rice but how fun for the kids…

  2. I love LOVE fried rice, or tamarind rice (leftover rice pepped up with a few spices, shallots, and tamarind) or Malaysian curry fried rice (with a dash of Indian curry). Your dad’s version seems simple yet delicious.

  3. Your dad is a man after my own heart…I too love to make fried rice concoctions with leftovers. This type of dish makes one of those dinner-in-a-bowl meals that are so tasty and comforting….thanks for sharing!

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