Even if Labor Day weekend is here and the kids are back to school, you don’t have to say good-bye to summer completely. Here in Southern California the hottest days are often in September and October. Cool salads or dishes with a tropical twist can help extend the summer wherever you call home. One of our family favorites is fried rice – we love it with lots of veggies, especially green peas and, it’s easy to adapt it to any cuisine – add kimchi to riff on Korean bibimbap or sambal as in Indonesian nasi goreng, or try a spicy Thai rendition with cucumbers to cool the fire. My fried rice is most like Hawaiian fried rice – makes sense since our mom was born and raised in Hawaii. Hawaiian fried rice usually contains egg, green onions, peas, cubed carrots, and either Portuguese sausage or Spam or both, and is cooked in sesame oil.
Mom on a Kauai beach, circa 1947/48 (?)
Other than Spam musubi on a few occasions, I haven’t eaten Spam since childhood. Sausage used to be my go-to, but no longer (very high in sodium). But the wonderful thing about fried rice is its versatility – which is probably why nearly every cuisine has their own version. It is definitely one of the best dishes for those need-to-use vegetables lurking in the crisper and leftovers from Chinese takeout or weekend grilling. It’s also a great way to get a serving or two of vegetables into the tummies of finicky eaters who push aside a straight up serving of the edible rainbow. Today’s fried rice makes excellent use of leftover grilled wild salmon with pineapple – close your eyes and you could be basking on the beach in Maui or lazing under a palm in the Caribbean.
- 3 cups cooked white rice*
- 8 ounces of cooked salmon flaked
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon Togarashi seasoning*
- 1 cup frozen peas prepared according to package directions
- 1 cup fresh diced pineapple
- Condiments: furikaki sesame seeds, gomai
Using a large chef's knife, cut off the crown and end of the pineapple. Cut in half lengthwise, then slice the pineapple flesh into 1/2 inch slices without cutting through the peel. Use a spoon to remove the fruit. Reserving one pineapple half for serving.
Chop the carrots and prepare the rest of the vegetable. The cooking goes quickly when stir frying, so having your mis en place at the ready is best. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium high heat.
Add the sunflower and sesame oil to the wok. Heat over med-high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the rice, turn up the heat to quickly brown the rice, stirring constantly. Remove the rice to a bowl.
Lower the heat to med-high, add a little more oil if necessary before adding the carrots to the wok. Cook for 3-4 minutes, tossing or stirring constantly. Add the chile flakes and green onions, cook for another minute. Return the rice to the wok, add Togarashi, stir to combine the ingredients and cook for another minute. Move the rice mixture to one side, leaving a space to cook the egg mixture. Use a spoon to turn and quickly cook the eggs. Mix the eggs into the fried rice. Again, make a small space in the wok to add the peas and cook off any moisture before mixing them into the rice.
Scoop rice into the pineapple half and garnish with chopped pineapple and black sesame seeds.
*Togarashi is a Japanese seasoning blend of chili pepper, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed. I buy S&B brand which is salt-free. Drizzle with sriracha, sambal olek, soy sauce, etc. as desired. Easily made vegetarian and/or vegan, fried rice is also naturally gluten free and is a wonderful vehicle to include any vegetables that you prefer: broccoli, corn, chopped green beans, bean sprouts, etc.
Rice that has been refrigerated for several days is very dry and makes the best fried rice. If using freshly cooked rice, refrigerate uncovered for at least an hour and expect your fried rice to be moister.