Starchy, crunchy and flavorful, fried rice is a satisfying dish no matter what you add to it. And you can add just about any vegetable or protein, fresh or left over.
I love fried rice not only for its taste and versatility, but also because it’s so easy to make at the last minute. I almost always have most of the core ingredients stocked in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. If a carton of leftover takeout restaurant rice suddenly appears on a shelf next to the milk, I’m good to go.
I’ve never been all that great at cooking rice. I just can’t seem to get the ratio and timing right, and I always forget when you’re supposed to leave it alone and when you’re supposed to stir it. I finesse this handicap by leaning on a little trick I learned during my restaurant days: boiling the rice in a big pot of salted water as if it was pasta. That way, there’s no rice-to-water ratio to worry about. For brown rice, 45 minutes does the trick.
And if you’re in a particular rush, you can swap in instant brown rice, which is almost as nutritious as regular brown rice and cooks up quicker, as advertised.
This being spring, I made sure that the stars of the recipe were seasonal ingredients, starting with peas. Fresh peas are heavenly, of course, but they start turning to starch as soon as they’re harvested, so be sure to cook them right away. I also incorporated two other spring vegetables, sugar snap peas and radishes, though I left the radishes raw. Saute a radish and this spicy, crispy root vegetable becomes sweet and tender.
But I like the kick of a raw radish, so I simply shredded them, then tossed them with a little seasoned rice vinegar. Sprinkled on top of the finished dish, these raw radishes are similar to a pickle.
Protein-wise, this recipe calls for shrimp, but you can use any protein you choose, or toss in mushrooms and call it a vegetarian’s delight.
I can guarantee that if you try this recipe even once, you’ll be inspired to make it again and again.
Shrimp Fried Rice With Pickled Radishes
Start to finish: 40 minutes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups coarsely shredded radishes (about 10 large radishes)
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup blanched fresh or thawed frozen peas
1 cup blanched sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Coat the pan with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper to the eggs, then add them to the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the egg all around to make a flat pancake. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds, or until almost set. Turn over the egg (you can cut it in a few pieces to make it easier, using the side of a nonstick pan-safe spatula) and cook for another 10 seconds. Transfer the egg to a cutting board.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the onion. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until almost cooked through, about another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and return the skillet to the heat. Add the remaining 11/2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, then add the rice, pressing it flat with the back of the spatula. Cook until the rice is slightly crispy, turning it over with the spatula, about 8 to 10 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, in a small bowl combine the radishes, vinegar and salt to taste. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, sake and sesame oil. Chop the egg and add it along with the peas and sugar snap peas to the bowl with the shrimp. When the rice is nicely crisped, add the contents of the shrimp bowl and the soy sauce mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the mixture is heated through. Transfer the fried rice to 4 bowls and top each portion with some of the radishes.
Nutrition information per serving: 440 calories; 120 calories from fat (27 percent of total calories); 14 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 175 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 22 g protein; 670 mg sodium.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”