Ingredients: white rice, salmon, green peas, onion, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, cabbage, egg, soy sauce, corn starch, rice wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, sesame oil, peanut oil, butter
Fried rice is an excellent way to use up leftover rice that has hardened in the fridge. In fact, you can’t really make it properly with freshly-cooked rice, which just gets mushy in the wok. Fried rice is also an opportunity to use up small quantities of vegetables. This is a very savory dish, and always includes scrambled egg, so I don’t usually bother to include other proteins. This time, however, I really wanted to try adding salmon. It turned out okay but wasn’t necessary at all.
I started by cubing and marinating the salmon in a solution of corn starch, rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and a dash of soy sauce. This is stir-fry standard operating procedure. The idea is to provide a velvety protective layer for the pieces, so that they do not scorch when subjected to a flaming wok. Do not skip this step, as it is essential for that soft restaurant-quality texture. You can, however, use vermouth or white wine instead of rice wine vinegar.
After quickly frying the salmon chunks in a bit of peanut oil and setting them aside, I scrambled 2 eggs in the wok, then removed them as well. Next up were the veggies: first the onions, then shredded cabbage, followed in a few minutes by canned bamboo shoots and frozen green peas (neither of which need much time to heat up). All of that went into another bowl beside me, after which I gave the bean sprouts some alone-time in the wok. I like doing those last because I want them to be seared but still have plenty of “tooth” left (I suppose this term comes from al dente, “to the tooth,” when pasta is ever-so-slightly undercooked).
Before frying the hardened rice, I made sure to break up all the clusters that had formed. This ensures even cooking. Once the wok returned to high heat, I tossed the rice in, followed by a small hunk of butter. Then I did that cool Iron Chef move a few times, where you hold the handle sturdily with one arm and flick the wok contents up in the air (then catch everything). Note that it’s important to let the wok sit on the burner for a few seconds after each toss, because the metal cools off very quickly.
After a few minutes of those antics, I returned everything to the wok and splashed in some soy sauce, which was hungrily soaked up by the rice and began to form a nice brown crust underneath. I finished off the fried rice with a swirl of sesame oil (for aroma) and some imaginary scallions (since I ran out of real ones).