Five Ingredient Fried Rice

Jan 30 2012

If there’s something more difficult to scrape off the bottom of my sock than cooked rice, I don’t know what it is.

Really. I don’t know. Pretty please, don’t tell me. It’s probably something way more disgusting than rice, and I’ve probably had it stuck to my sock at one point or another, and I probably have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I’ve probably blocked it from my memory. Please, as a favor to a mom of five, let it stay blocked.

Rice is one of the Top Five Messiest Foods to Feed Children. It’s listed right under spaghetti sauce in a white shirt and right above giant popsicles on a hot day.

There’s just no way to feed five children rice without accepting that my home will pay the ultimate price in the form of a massive rice infestation. I don’t want to give ideas to all the terrorists who read mom blogs, but if they ever figure out how to attach a biological weapon to a grain of rice, the world is screwed. Because those grains are an epidemic in and of themselves. I find them in hair, on clothes (often days after serving it), on toys, of course on my table and floors, and – the WORST – squished onto the bottom of my socks. They stay around forever, creating mini-hazards wherever children are found.

We serve rice at our house a lot. A lot, a lot. Alotalotalotalot. Because I do things that make sense.

I blame growing up in Asia for my ongoing devotion to rice. And, the truth is, frying rice makes me feel powerful. Taking the same grain that fed the ancient, mysterious world and mastering it so that I’m able to nourish my family? That’s power. And love. And it soothes the mommy in me.

Also, frying rice in oil, soy salt and sugar makes it better than crack. Not that I’ve ever done crack. Which kind of proves my point. Because I’ve mainlined fried rice thousands of times.

I took the pictures below weeks ago so I could continue my cooking tutorials (aka cheaterpants easy ways to make foods that otherwise seem difficult). But Zakary, of Raising Colorado fame, posted her first vlog (video blog) this week, and, you guys, she totally highlights the extraordinary need for another fried rice recipe in this world and the lengths to which a desperate mom will go to get it.

I realized that I’d better finish this post STAT. For Zakary. For moms everywhere.

I’m practically saving the world.


Five Ingredient Fried Rice

I’m telling you that this is five ingredient fried rice, and I’m only sort of lying.

To make fried rice, you need five basic ingredients.

  • 6 cups cooked rice, any type
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I call it soy salt, ’cause I like to call a spade a spade)
  • an onion

And then, you can add anything else you want. For this recipe, I added 2 cups of diced ham, ginger and sesame oil.

But you can add frozen or fresh veggies, scrambled eggs (if they don’t make you yarf – you know who you are), lunch meat, garlic, coriander, cumin… you know, whatever you have sitting around in your spice cupboard or fridge that sounds yummy.

The beauty of fried rice is the fact that, in Asia, it’s a leftovers dish. Kind of like stews and soups. You take what you have on hand, you throw it all together, and you hope to God it turns out well. Also kind of like life.


Dice your onion. I don’t care how you dice your onion. I think I’m supposed to care, though, so here’s how I dice my onion:

I cut it in half. I peel each half. I slice each half into strips.

Then I cut across the strips like this.

It’s he fastest way I can dice an onion, and that’s important to me because I’m an onion blubberer.

In a large skillet – or a wok, if you must – using 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium high heat which seems WAY too hot, but isn’t-isn’t, fry your diced onions until they turn dark brown and sorta charred.

You’re not really caramelizing onions (which is a slow release of sugars). You’re more cooking the sin right out of them and helping them find Jesus. If they’re not getting singed in the process, it’s probably not working right. (No offense, Jesus.)

Next, add your “other chunky stuff” to the skillet. In my case, that’s ham.

And then cook the hell out of it, too. Charred, black spots here and there? That’s how you know it’s working.

This really bears no reflection on my theology.

It probably bears a lot of reflection on how I think theology shouldn’t be, but we can talk about that later.

Let’s take one second to discuss rice. I always use leftover rice. Whether yours is leftover or fresh, the cooked rice you’re using should be soft. As you may know, if you store leftover rice in your fridge, it gets hard and gross. Don’t use hard, gross rice; frying it that way will make hard, gross fried rice. Making leftover rice soft again, though, is easy peasy. In a microwave-safe bowl, dump your rice and 2 Tbsp. water; cover with a plate and microwave on high for 3 minutes. As the rice steams, it reconstitutes the grains, making them soft, and, well, edible. Edible is definitely the goal.

To your rice (or to your skillet – again with me not caring), add 1/3 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. soy salt.

And then add “other non-chunky stuff” (i.e. spices and sauces) to your rice or skillet. In my case, that’s 1 tsp. ginger and 2 tsp. sesame oil.

Dump all that stuff in the other stuff.

Sentences like that are the reason I’m not writing a cookbook. Know thyself, yes?

But really, everything should be in your skillet now, which is still on medium high, even if that makes you uncomfortable. You want to fry the rice while constantly stirring it, not steam it. And if you can’t stir constantly because that’s the dumbest direction EVER to give moms of little kids… as though you’re not going to have to stop to wipe someone’s butt or lecture a child about slamming his brother’s ear in the door… well, then, you’ll get little, yummy, crispy bits in the rice, and, I’ll be honest, the imperfect parts are my favorite.

Keep frying and stirring until any liquid is fully absorbed by the rice, creating a nice coating. This usually takes 5 minutes or so.

Then serve it hot. With a side of veggies if you have guilty-mama syndrome.

Try to keep grubby kid mitts out of the rice until it’s eating time. Kids are very, very sneaky, so good luck.

Now, I can’t claim that this fried rice recipe is authentically Asian in any way other than the fact that I use, you know, rice. But that’s the beauty of fried rice, really. It’s a creative endeavor that lends itself to improvisation. And that’s why it works for my family. There’s no one right way.

For an authentic, Indonesian twist, though, and one that I love, put an egg on it. The fried rice “special” always came with a fried egg draped over the rice. Almost like putting a bird on it, except, you know, not.



Five Ingredient Fried Rice:
the short, boring directions


  • 6 cups cooked rice, any type
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I call it soy salt, ’cause I like to call a spade a spade)
  • a diced onion
  • whatever else you want – ham, diced lunchmeat, scrambled eggs, garlic, coriander, cumin, chicken, fresh or frozen veggies, etc.


  • In 2 Tbsp oil, over medium high heat, fry onions in a large skillet or wok. Let them get dark brown and charred-ish.
  • Add other chunky ingredients (i.e. ham) and fry ’til there’s also some golden brown char here, too.
  • Make sure your cooked rice is soft.
  • Dump in everything else and continue frying and stirring on medium high ’til everything is combined, coated, and absorbed.
  • Serve hot.
  • Put a bird fried egg on it.