Despite what most people think, the definition of ‘fried rice’ varies from culture to culture. Eggs aren’t a necessary ingredient nor are meats, which makes fried rice an extremely versatile dish to work with. In fact, fried rice typically frequents left-over and neglected ingredients, including the rice. The best rice to use is usually day old rice that lacks moisture and is easy to pick by the grain. This gives the rice that crispy coating while still holding softness in the interior.
Mustard greens, or ‘jie cai’ in Chinese (芥菜), is a popular vegetable in Guangdong. Because it has a bitter (though sweet) aftertaste, my mother doesn’t like stir frying it. Instead, she likes to cure them in salt and pickle them. In fact, many recipes online that feature mustard greens offer pickling recipes. Rather than waiting hours or days, this is a quicker and simpler method.
The fried rice is simple with few ingredients but it gives plain rice a spicy kick. The up-side? It’ll cater to the vegan and vegetarian friendly crowd. You can find mustard greens at your local Asian grocery store, though I’ve seen it at some farmer’s markets before. Supposedly eating this stuff can also help lower your cholesterol too.
|Pickled mustard greens (芥菜) in fried rice||
- Mustard greens (4-5 bunches)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Day old rice (2 cups cooked)
- 3-4 Green Chile peppers, preferably Anaheim
- Cooking oil
- Thoroughly wash the mustard greens to get rid of any sand or soil. To make the cutting easier, don’t dissemble the leaves. After washing, thoroughly dry. Then, stack the stalks, lining the leaves with the leaves and the stalks with the stalks. Chop vertically straight down as finely as possible (~1cm). After, chop perpendicular to the long shreds so that you get 1cm by 1cm leaves. Toss into a giant bowl.
- The “pickling” process begins. Throw in the salt and stir to incorporate. Now all you need to do is wait. The shredded leaves will begin to sweat water very soon. The whole purpose of this step is to eliminate as much water as possible. While we usually wait for 2 hours, you can actually get away with just 1 hour.
- After the wait time, you want to quickly rinse the shredded leaves. Just run the bowl under cold water very briefly. You don’t want the fried rice to be over salty but you don’t want to over wash and eliminate the salt. After, strain carefully in a sieve until all the water is gone. You’ll find that what seemed like a ton of mustard leaves has now shrank into only a fraction of the original size.
- In a wok (or a sautee pan), drizzle some cooking oil. Chop the chile peppers (how many you decide to add depends on your tolerance for spice, but we usually add 3-4) and toss them into the hot oil. Then add the now strained shredded mustard leaves. Toss in the wok until the leaves are fully coated with the oil. Now, add the rice. Make sure that the rice is DRY. If you don’t have day old rice, use slightly less than the recommended amount of water to make the rice so that it comes out dry when cooked. Continue cooking in the wok until the leaves are thoroughly mixed with the rice.
- The washing/chopping process should take about 10 minutes and the cooking should take another 10 minutes. Clearly, if you’re craving meat, you can add them into the rice too. Just make sure you cook the meat first, then cook the mustard greens and finally add in the rice. If you’d like to add an egg, you’ll want to cook the scrambled eggs in a decent bit of oil. When the egg is 70% cooked (it should still be a bit runny in the middle), add the rice so that the uncooked egg coats the grains of rice. Cook for a few more seconds until the egg is nearly done and add in the mustard greens.
Wait time for the pickling is roughly 2 hours