Welcome, all to my own experience with Fried Rice 101!

Dear Aito,

Did I ever say thank you?

When you said that having a rice cooker made you feel like a real person again, I didn’t really understand. I’d never owned a rice cooker, but I’d always been curious – mostly because I have the uncanny ability to always over- or under-cook rice on the stove.

I’m glad we got this rice cooker for the house. It’s amazing. AMAZING. How does it not burn the rice? How is it cooked perfectly every time? How does it do it so fast?! And how does it keep it steamed and perfect for days, even when it’s not on?? Because I’m not a rice scientist (which apparently is a thing that exists), I am content to never know, and only reap the delicious rewards.

You don’t even need oil. Just crisp and brown it a bit.

It can make any KIND of rice! Did you know there are a lot of different kinds of rice? I thought there were, like, maybe two dozen, tops. WRONG. Counting only cultivated rice (and ignoring the wild species), there are at least 40,000 varieties. Add in the wild strains, and that number shoots to 90,000! So when you complained that the rice in Vietnam was harder than the Japanese grains, I just chalked it up to you being homesick. Boy, was I wrong – sounds like you were on to something.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Rice cooker achievement unlocked, I realized I didn’t really know how or what to cook. The dish I love to eat in the mornings before school was a light breakfast-y fried rice… and that was my hook.

Aito, you helped me discover the simplest, most amazing food – fried rice. For the benefit of my friends back home, let me relay the ‘recipe’ – if you can call it that. It’s basically as easy as making hard-boiled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich.

P.S. Friends who can really, really cook rice: ignore this. It’s probably way too American for your tastes.

Fried Rice

Ingredients:

Day-old rice
Veggies, as desired
Meats, as desired
Soft Cheeses (yes, possible! and decadent!)
Oil
One egg (2 if you’re making a ton of rice and/or you like it eggy)
Soy sauce
Salt, if desired

Refrigerated rice, or rice from take-out, is best, but fresh
rice is just fine in a pinch.

1. First of all, you’ve got to have some rice. One day old is best, but it doesn’t really matter tooooo much. Set it aside.

2. Second, clean, chop, and lightly stir-fry your veggies and meats. Don’t use too much oil, like I did with these potatoes. A wok will make this easier. Salt very gently, if desired.

3. Prep your space. The next steps go very fast. Have out the egg, soy sauce, oil, any cooked meats/veggies, and rice. Long cooking chopsticks are preferred.

4. Heat your wok to a high temperature and add a little oil. TIP: The amount of oil is one of those measurements that you will need to eyeball and experiment with, based on how much oil is in your extra ingredients + how much rice you have. You don’t need a ton of oil, but it should be able to barely coat the bottom and lower sides of the wok. You’re not deep frying anything here.

Essentially, just garlicky (and too oily) home fries.

5. Once your oil is shimmering, throw in the rice and mix rapidly. Break up larger clumps of rice.

6. After your rice absorbs the oil, throw in veggies and meats and mix. Keep moving it around (and flipping with the wok occasionally, if you can).

7. After making sure there’s not too much oil, crack your egg(s) into the middle and mix rapidly before the egg sets.

8. Add as much soy sauce as preferred.

9. Mix and flip until the grains are visibly dry. Seriously, long chop sticks are your friends here. And flip the hell out of that wok, nerd. You know it’s fun.

9.5. (EXTRA CHEESE STEP: I’ve discovered that a cheap soft cheese – Laughing Cow here in VN – is great at this point. Throw in a few wedges and break them up so you have some rice-coated little balls of cheese. They will melt a bit and you will write poetry about its magnificence.)

10. Dump in a bowl and retreat to your air conditioning to savor the fact that you used a rice cooker today, and it was easy and delicious.

THAT’S IT. REALLY. THE END.

My favorite part of the whole fried rice experience is that it basically demands you get creative with your food. Like breakfast? Here’s a breakfast fried rice I made: bacon, extra egg, cheese, and peppers.

What about all those leftover veggies? Carrots, potatoes, squash, corn, cheese, and ham. Done.

And then you can get interesting. Here’s a pasta I stir-fried, and then, after adding the egg, tossed with soy sauce and peanut butter, and topped with ground roasted peanuts. Daaaaamn.

It’s such an insanely easy dish, it’s tempting to be lazy sometimes: you can get a pretty compelling meal out of simply stir-frying a pack of instant noodles (with or without half – no more! – of the flavoring packet) and topping with chili sauce. Because sometimes a dinner that takes more than 6 minutes to make is just not going to happen.

So thank you, Aito, for imparting your rice-centric worldview to me and convincing us to buy this rice cooker. I’m in love with it.

Next up… what else can I make in a rice cooker?? LET’S PLAY.

Expect pictures… obviously!

Ben

P.S. If anyone actually writes poetry about cheesy fried rice, please, please, please leave it in the comments.