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Fried Rice: Keep It Simple

February 15, 1996|MARIE SIMMONS

A Chinese friend taught me the art and science of making a bowl of fried rice; now I can't get enough of it.

I learned that fried rice in China is considered a snack food, not a main course. Perhaps that is why, in its essence, it is so pure and has so few ingredients. I still eat it as a main course, but instead of weighing it down with a lot of other ingredients, I eat a bigger serving of the simpler version.

Fried rice is a simple dish on two counts: One needs only a few basic ingredients to prepare it, and the technique, stirring in a large skillet or wok just long enough to heat the ingredients, is all the cooking that is required. Furthermore, it adapts to any number of interpretations, adding versatility to its other attributes.

It is most important to begin with cold cooked rice. Rice that has been refrigerated undergoes a change in texture (it is called retrogradation), making it hard and chewy. The starch in the rice gets so firm that it isn't very good eaten cold, but this firm texture makes it perfect for stir-frying because the rice will not get soft or gummy when reheated.

It is also important not to skimp on the oil. The hot oil carries the flavors (usually garlic and fresh ginger), which will be distributed throughout the dish only if there is enough oil to lightly coat each rice grain. White rice is traditional in Chinese cooking, but a mixture of white and brown grains is quite delicious.

The following recipe consists of rice, softly cooked eggs, green onions and seasonings. It is fresh, simple and pretty. But the variations are endless. Just don't overdo it. Try adding small amounts (less than 1/2 cup) of one or two of the following: cut-up cooked broccoli, diced carrot, sliced green beans, thawed frozen tiny green peas, diced or slivered cooked chicken, pork, chopped shrimp or flaked fish. For additional flavor, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and dribble with a little toasted sesame oil or soy sauce.

FRIED RICE WITH EGGS AND GREEN ONIONS

4 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon minced ginger root

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 cups cold cooked rice

1/2 cup thin diagonal slices green tops of green onions

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional

Soy sauce or sesame oil, optional

Whisk eggs and salt in bowl until foamy.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot enough to evaporate 1 drop water upon contact. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Quickly tilt skillet to coat bottom of pan. Add eggs all at once and as they bubble up around edges, push them to center, tilting pan to cook eggs evenly. Break cooked eggs into clumps. When eggs are set, transfer to dish.

Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to hot skillet. Add ginger root and garlic and cook, stirring, just until sizzling, about 10 seconds. Add rice all at once. Turn heat to medium-high and stir rice to heat through and distribute oil evenly. Add cooked eggs and green onions and stir to combine. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce or sesame oil.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

466 calories; 212 mg sodium; 212 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 61 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0.12 gram fiber.

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