I love Asian food. All of it. I was lucky enough to live in Japan for 4 years growing up, and I’m pretty sure it was while living there that I decided I needed to cook all the time and eat everything in sight.
My really healthy parents are so proud.
While I was in college I lived in Japan again, but with a host family in Osaka instead of Tokyo, where I had lived before. My host mother, Keiko, was a fabulous cook and had mad skillz when it came to cooking a few things on Sunday and preparing several meals throughout the week using several ingredients or incarnations of the same thing over and over again while still making each meal different and special. This saved her time and money, which was essential since she worked 12 hours a day and had to feed 3 kids, me, and a rude husband each night!
Fried rice was one thing that Keiko was particularly adept at NEVER making the same way twice. She used whatever protein and veggies she had on hand, mix it with eggs and leftover rice, and SUDDENLY we had a one-dish dinner with tons of flavor and nutrients.
This is more of a method than a recipe, and REALLY hard to mess up. So, the next time you make rice (Japanese or any other kind), make extra and serve it the next day as fried rice!
I use lots of Japanese ingredients in my cooking, and I’ll tell you all about them, but feel free to substitute any easier-to-find ingredients that you have on hand – you’re not serving this to the dang prime minister – make it the way you’ll like it best!
On this particular night, here’s what I used:
- Dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted in soup base
- Hon-Dashi – dried fish flavoring – this is what makes Japanese food taste Japanese – just like we use chicken and beef base for lots of American dishes, fish base is integral to Japanese cooking and won’t make things taste “fishy.” If you think you don’t like seafood, leave it out. If you can’t find it, use 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, found on the Asian Foods aisle EVERYWHERE (like, at Big Lots on a good day)
- 4 cups cooked white rice (1 cup dried, cooked according to package directions, would make 4 servings)
- soy sauce
- sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons light frying oil
- 2 eggs
- sesame seeds
- mirin – sweet cooking wine. substitute white wine, beer, or sake for the same effect. No biggie!
- Fish cakes (this is really Japanese – you might find them in the freezer section of a Whole-Foods-type joint, but I get them at our Japanese grocery store. They barely taste like fish and are a great protein source that’s low in fat and calories. Use flaked white fish, chicken, beef, or shrimp in yours and call it a day. It’s all delicious!)
- 1/2 zucchini
- 1 small leek (1/2 onion or 5 scallions would be just fine here)
- 1 cup sliced cabbage
- Shriracha sauce, for topping
- pickled ginger, for topping
- pickled radish, for topping
- cut up some veggies
- saute the veggies
- add in cooked rice
- stir in two eggs, soy sauce, and sesame oil
- ate food