Oh, shrimp, you delectable little morsel, you sweet little tease of the sea, have I told you how I love you? You were always my favorite food. When folks asked my favorite meal, I might answer stroganoff, or pad thai, but when they asked favorite FOOD, it was, and always has been, from the time I could form a word: you, shrimp, always you.
First, a qualification: shrimp isn’t cheap. But we were still able to get it on our $40 per person per week budget, so I guess it’s cheap enough. We just don’t get it very often because when protein is over $3 a pound, I scoff, flip my thinning hair, and turn toward the boneless chicken thighs. Childhood crush notwithstanding. But this time I did it! And despite my fears, it didn’t break the bank!
With the simplification of fried rice, I had two main goals: 1) to find a way that you don’t have to have leftover steamed rice sitting around (because who the heck just has tons of leftover rice laying around??), and 2) to quickly cook the harder vegetable (i.e. carrots) so that the creation of the whole dish is fast and streamlined.
Not to toot my own kazoo, but I do believe I accomplished BOTH objectives, through the judicious and elegant adoption (i.e. wholesale theft) of techniques from other people. Hey, folks, this is how innovation happens. At least I acknowledge my benefactors. (Thank you, Cook’s Illustrated!)
Seriously, though, for the leftover rice dilemma, the folks over at Cook’s Illustrated tried a million different variations, because they’re amazing like that, and they found the solution. See, the issue is, for rice to fry properly, the grains of rice need to have their own structural integrity. When you steam rice, then chill it, the chilling hardens the grains into themselves, so that they remain distinct when you fry them. But if you cook rice and then try to use it before chilling it, the grains all gloomp together and end up as a soggy mess. So what we need is some way to cook rice, and RIGHT THEN be able to use it for fried rice, without it getting… you know… gloompy. 1
The Cook’s Illustrated solution? Short grain brown rice.
Seriously, that’s it. Cook a cup of short grain in a couple of quarts of hot water, so that you’re boiling it like pasta, not slowly steaming it like regular rice. Boil for about a half hour, then drain it. This process cooks the rice more quickly than the more common steaming method, but because of the hull of the brown rice and the structural integrity of the short grains, you get tender rice that retains discrete grains and doesn’t stick into a waddy mass.
So the rice is taken care of. There’s just one more issue. Carrots.
I’ve gotta have carrots in my fried rice. They’re just classic. But carrots, being a hard root vegetable, take foooooorrrrreeeeeeeevvvvvvveeeeeerrrrrrrr to cook. If you try to just fry carrot pieces in a pan, it’ll probably take twenty minutes for that step alone. It can be easier to dump a cup of water in the pan with the carrots and let it boil off, but that can still take a good ten or fifteen minutes, and there’s the good chance that the water will make the carrots mushy.
So I turn to the mircowave.
Cut your carrots into fairly small pieces, say 1/4″ chunks. (Here’s a video [not me] if you are unsure of this step at all.) Put ’em in a microwave-safe bowl, cover the bowl, and microwave for four minutes. Remove, stir, and add to the pan for the fried rice. That four minutes gets ’em tender enough without making ’em soggy.
The rest of this recipe is pretty straightforward. Fry your shrimp, about a minute and a half per side in a preheated pan. Remove. Scramble up some eggs. Remove. Fry onions for flava. Add carrots and fry for mo’ flava. Add garlic and ginger to fry up some of that classic Asiatic flava. Throw everything back in there to fry, add soy sauce, a tiny bit of fish sauce, maybe just a touch of molasses. A tiny bit of that special secret sesame oil, because it makes everything it touches turn to delicious Chinese-flavored gold. Bam. Sriracha? Yes please. Lime? Well, I didn’t have any this time, but it would be awesome.
A note! I actually forgot to do the eggs separately. I forgot about ’em until I had all the vegetables in there, and I was too lazy to take ’em out for a minute, so I scootched them all to the other side of the pan and went ahead and scrambled the eggs in the other half, and OF COURSE the eggs got soggy and fell apart into everything because the pan was crowded. So it could’ve been better. But it was still pretty damn good.
CHINESE TAKEOUT. Cheapo. Shrimpy. All of the flava, none of the fluuuuugh you usually feel after eating Chinese takeout. Because dudes, all the stuff in here is good for you!! But forget about that. Just eat it because it tastes good.
-Josh is listening to The Rolling Stones
- 1 cup short grain brown rice
- 12 oz large raw shrimp, peeled
- 4 eggs, scrambled
- 1 carrot, cut into 1/4" chunks
- 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and cut into 1" lengths
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1" fresh ginger, minced
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp fish sauce
- 1/4 tsp molasses
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the rice and boil for 30 minutes. When it's done, drain in a colander.
- Meanwhile, put the chopped carrots in a microwave safe bowl, cover, and microwave for four minutes.
- Put a frying pan on the stovetop on medium heat and add a bit of oil. When the pan is hot, fry the shrimp until pink, about 90 seconds per side, then remove the shrimp to a plate.
- Fry the scrambled eggs, then remove (dump it on top of the shrimp).
- Once the carrots are done in the microwave, add them and the onions to the frying pan. Stir occasionally until you see them starting to brown. Remove from heat. At this point you should wait until your rice is drained.
- Once the rice is drained, put the frying pan back on the heat, let it get hot, add the garlic and ginger, and fry for about thirty seconds. Then add EVERYTHING ELSE except for the sesame oil to the skillet and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the sesame oil. Stir and taste, adding more soy sauce as necessary.
- Fresh ginger keeps really well in a plastic bag in the freezer, then you can grate it with a microplane grater. No peeling or knife necessary!
- It’s a word now. I deem it so. ↩