Fried Rice With Spring Vegetables

Fried rice is one of my favorite dishes to turn to when you aren’t quite sure what you have the fixings to make.  If you’ve got leftover rice and some kind of vegetables, plus the pantry staples, you’ve got a delicious one-bowl meal.  The key is having the rice really be old and cold (you can make fresh rice, but it won’t fry up as nicely).  Probably once a week, I make way too much steamed rice for a single meal just to have the leftovers available for fried rice later in the week.

Fried Rice With Spring Vegetables

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3 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces bacon
2 cups shitake or oyster mushrooms
1 bunch (about 4-5) spring onions, or 2 bunches green onions
2 cups sugar snap or snow peas
1 bunch fresh asparagus
4-5 cups leftover cooked rice
2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar

You really can use just about any vegetable combination, but with spring upon us and lovely asparagus about, my course was set.  I hoped for spring onions — they’re slightly larger and milder than green onions, but those will, and did, do in a pinch.  Get some kind of interesting mushroom if you can — these were oyster, but shitake would be good as well.  Along with the little slivers of bacon, these are going to be your “meat.”  And snow peas … love snow peas.

To prep the vegetables, slice the majority of the asparagus, peas and onions into 1/2 inch pieces that will distribute well through the rice, leaving a few — or in this case, the tops of the asparagus — whole.  Chop the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.

Sautee the chopped bacon in the oil until crispy — yes, this seems like a lot of grease, but you’re frying a lot of rice in it.  And cooking the bacon in it first infuses it, carrying the bacon flavor throughout the dish.  Add the mushrooms and sautee until they start to brown and soften.  This mix is the essence of umami — bacon and mushrooms.

Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften, then scoop this mixture out into a bowl leaving as much of the oil behind as you can.  Now for a step that happens quickly … so quickly I failed to get a photo.  With the bacon mix out of the pan, turn the heat up to high until the oil is shimmering, then add the cold rice.  Toss thoroughly to distribute the oil, then keep it moving until the rice kernels start to turn a little golden and crispy at the edges.

Now add back the bacon mixture, plus the peas and asparagus (or any other vegetables you choose).  Mix well and cook until the vegetables start to get al dente.

Sprinkle with the rice vinegar.  I had to work in two batches to make the gargantuan supply of fried rice that I was craving in one pan, so I offloaded the first batch onto a platter, hit it with vinegar, then did the same with the second.  I liked that the vinegar got throughout rather than being just on top — it contrasts with the deep bacon and mushroom flavors so well.  So you might consider that if you’re doing a big batch or multiple batches.  You might even just dish it up and hit the individual servings with a teaspoon or two directly.

You can serve this with soy sauce and sesame oil for folks to add to taste for the more “take-out” flavor, but with the delicate vegetables and mushrooms I recommend it just as is.  Happy spring!

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