I think my fascination with fried rice started when I was a toddler and my parents took me to the Kon Tiki Ports restaurant. It was a Polynesian wonderland tucked inside of the Sheraton Chicago on Michigan Avenue, complete with wooden foot bridges covering running streams filled with koi, enough tropical greenery to magically transport you to the jungle, colorful lanterns and banners, fishing nets, tiki torches and masks, ebonized Asian furnishings and those huge rattan peacock chairs. To me, it was Disneyland gone midwestern. I was a kid who wouldn’t eat, but in the Kon Tiki’s festive surroundings, my parents could shovel chopstick-loads of food into my gaping mouth.
Admittedly, I am a fried rice snob. It’s hard to please me, and only a handful of restaurants have managed to do so throughout my lifetime. My favorite variety of fried rice is Yang Chow. Now, the history of this variety of rice is checkered, as the perfectly flat city of Yang Zhou tried to claim it as their own. Yang Chow fried rice was really invented by Qing dynasty magistrate Yi Bingshou (1754-1815), who was once in charge of the region. As served on the West Coast, Yang Chow Fried Rice usually contains shrimp, chicken and char siu (Chinese barbecued pork), as well as eggs, scallions and possibly peas and carrots. Wow! That’s a whole lot of meat going on, and the mix of many flavors coming together is what makes this rice delectable.
For my version, I will keep the scrambled eggs and shrimp, but replace the chicken with sliced shitake mushrooms, and let sliced portabellos stand in for the char siu (pork.) This is not an easy, one-skillet preparation, so allow yourself the time to make this dish in a leisurely manner. With proper planning, I can do it in less than an hour. I use basmati rice to keep this dish as low on the glycemic index as possible, and organic gluten-free Tamari instead of regular soy sauce. I also add lots of fresh veggies for good health. Everything used in this recipe was purchased at Ralphs, my local Kroger grocery outlet, so there is no need for specialty shopping to make this exotic dish. However, if you do have access to a Chinese market, pick up some gai lan (Chinese broccoli), chop it up and sautee it with the veggies for even more green power.
2 cups basmati rice (white or brown), steamed
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 eggs, scrambled (I use cage free, grain fed eggs)
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts, washed
2 portabello mushrooms, chopped into cubes
1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
8 ozs. frozen peas and carrots
1 cup fresh Chinese snow peas
5 – 6 stalks green onions, diced
1 tsp diced fresh ginger
1 tsp diced fresh garlic
1 tsp. + 1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
gluten free organic Tamari to taste
oyster sauce to taste (read ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain MSG!)
1 cube vegetable bouillon (read ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain MSG!)
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch groundfennel
1 pinch szechuan pepper, ground
You will need a skillet to fry the eggs, a steamer or pot to steam or boil the rice until fluffy, a wok or skillet to saute the vegetables, and if you want to saute the shrimp separately, another skillet.
Steam or boil the rice ahead of time and let it cool. You can prepare the rice a day before and refrigerate it. You will get better results with cool rice.
Add one tsp. (or more if desired) coconut oil to a skillet and scramble the eggs over medium heat until firm. Remove them and place them in a bowl to the side.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the remaining coconut oil and sesame oil. Add the peas and carrots, mushrooms, bouillon, tamari, oyster sauce, snow peas and optional gai lan, and let them saute until the vegetables are lightly cooked but still crisp (5 – 7 minutes or so, depending on your stove). Add the spices, bean sprouts, scallions and shrimp, and stir continually for several minutes until the shrimps are a lovely opaque pink.
Turn your flame to low. Stir in the rice and fluff with a fork until all ingredients are mixed. You can chop the scrambled eggs before adding them, or chop them with a fork while mixing them in. I usually use the second method. Add the eggs last so they maintain their bright yellow color. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes before serving.