Cooking Cheap, Eating Good: Fried Rice

Fried rice was never a big deal in my family when I was growing up, in fact, my only exposure to it was at cheap Chinese restaurants, and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t till college when my Indonesian house-mate showed me what fried rice could really be. Living on a very tight budget, a decent rice dish was a God send. Cheap, delicious and relatively easy to make, this meal has become a staple of my diet and is one of the best rice cooker recipes.

This will feed about 2-4 people, depending on portion size. It’s more of a guide line and a starting point than a recipe, and you should feel free to experiment and find your own style. Basically, you will need the following ingredients:

Rice

Eggs

Sweet Soy Sauce (see bellow)

Meat (see bellow)

Vegetables (see bellow)

Cooking Oil (olive oil is best)

Spices (salt, chicken bouillon powder, black or white pepper, and garlic)

1) Rice

Start cooking your rice first, as this is the longest of the steps. I like to use a rice cooker, but you can cook it on the stove if you prefer, just be careful to watch it and keep it stirred if you do. As a general rule with rice, I use twice the amount of water as rice. For this dish, I normally use 1 ½ cup of rice and 3 cups water. After you get your rice started, you can work on the other steps. It should take about 30 minutes.

2) Sweet Soy Sauce

This is a hard one to find in American stores, but not to worry, it’s easy to make yourself. Take about three tablespoons of soy sauce, and stir in a table spoon of sugar (brown preferably) For a bit of extra flavor, add in a dash of teriyaki sauce. Set aside after mixing. The sugar may settle by the time you are ready for it so give it another stir right before adding it.

3) Vegetables

You have some leeway in what vegetables you want to add to your fried rice. At minimum, I use ½ of a white onion, chopped into small pieces. A bag or frozen stir fry mix is a cheap and easy extra, and my personal favorite. Either way, you’ll need a decent size frying pan out, with about 2 tablespoons of oil in it. Bring it up to medium heat on your stove, and once the oil is hot, throw in your veggies and a teaspoon of fresh garlic. Keep it stirred up, and not overly hot, you don’t want to over do them. Stir-fry them for a few minutes (longer if starting from frozen) untill they are done to your liking. Rake them into a bowl, and re-oil the pan (another 2 tablespoons)

3) Meat

You have a lot of choices here as well, and most everything works out fine. Chicken in the most common, but ham and ground beef work just fine. You may not believe it, but ½ of a block of SPAM cut up really fine makes for a delicious meal that people will love. In any event, whatever your choice, cut the meat into small pieces and, once the oil in your frying pan is hot again, throw it in. It is important that the meat gets fully cooked. You may wish to add a little of your soy or teriyaki sauce as you cook the meat. After that is accomplished, rake it in with the veggies. You’ll come back to it later. Re-oil that pan as before, and move on to the eggs.

4) Eggs

After the oil is reheated, crack two eggs into the pan and begin to scramble them. You will definitely want the stove on medium heat for the eggs, so make sure it’s not too hot. You are wanting to get the eggs only half scrambled, they should still be noticeable runny when they are done. After you have them half done, dump them in with the veggies and meat. It’s okay to lave them half done, they will finish cooking later, when every thing is mixed all together.

5) All together

For this final stage, you will want the largest frying pan you have. You’ll want the pan re-oiled, maybe 3 tablespoons or so, and get it hot. Have the heat set to between medium and high for this stage.

Dump the cooked rice into the pan. As soon as you do, quickly dump in your eggs, meat and veggies, and stir them up. Add in the soy sauce and keep it stirred up. You will want to add in a sprinkle (tea spoon or so) of each of the following: salt, chicken bouillon powder, and either black or white pepper (white pepper is the best). Keep it stirred up, and heat for no more than 3-4 minutes. Turn off the stove and enjoy.

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