Growing up, there was one thing I could cook, fried rice. Growing up in a half Asian household, we always had my preferred ingredients. Cold, day (or two) old rice, oyster sauce, eggs, peas and the star of my meal, lop cheung, aka Chinese sausage. Every time I made fried rice I followed the same basic recipe. Cook the sausage and remove from the pan. Scramble an egg or two in the residual oil left by the sausage (it’s quite fatty, so there is plenty) and remove. Add a little oil and fry the rice for a few minutes before stirring in the oyster sauce. After a few minutes add the peas, egg and sausage to the pan and voila, you’ve got a banging fried rice. So fast, so easy, so tasty.
These days, I make this far less often. Not exactly sure why, but it makes my taste buds sad, although it probably makes my heart and waist band happy. The other day I was trying to figure out what to make for lunch. I was thinking of my usual mundane choices. A sandwich, cereal, eggs, leftovers (Indian for the 3rd day in a row). All of them sounded pretty meh. Thinking through my other options, I realized that I had a bunch of leftover rice in the fridge, which is rare since we normally just leave it in the rice cooker for a day or so after cooking. Time to make some fried rice.
I was digging the rice and eggs out of the fridge when I noticed the bok choy in the crisper. I had been meaning to cook some of it up as we’ve been in a bad rut with using all of our veggies from our CSA so this was a good excuse to use some up. At that point I decided to skip the lop cheung and make veggie fried rice (unbeknownst to me we were out, so I guess it was always going to be vegetarian). Figuring that without the flavor of the sausage, the rice was going to turn out a little bland I started to look for other goodies to toss in. Shallot, yes. Sesame oil, yes. Chili Crunch, oh god yes!
I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about our most recent food obsession, Chili Crunch. It’s dried garlic and onion in a chili de arbol oil. Not too hot, it gives just enough heat. The closest thing to it is the chili oil at Chinese restaurant, except this is waaaaay better. Since trying it in January, we’ve eaten it with nearly everything we’ve had at home. From spinach to chow fun to mac ‘n cheese, EVERYTHING is made better with it. It’s hand crafted and only available in a handful of stores. Luckily, she sells online at Chili Colonal or at Foodzie, which is where we first discovered it.
After chopping the bok choy and shallot I heated a little bit of oil in a pan. Following the same order as my childhood fried rice (substituting sausage with shallots and then bok choy and adding in the sesame oil in with the rice and oyster sauce). Finally I topped it with a nice spoonful of the chili crunch.
This meal is so quick and easy, I’m not sure why I don’t make it more often. There is no real recipe to follow, so the possible variations are limitless. Want the original version (original for me at least), chop up some lop cheung. Don’t like oyster sauce (looking at you Dana), substitute some soy. Have other meat on hand, chop up leftover steak. Want a healthier variant, replace the meat with a veggie, be it bok choy, napa cabbage, Chinese broccoli or anything else you have on hand.