Hi there and welcome to our second edition of “The Best, Ever”. The first time around we brought you a truly delicious vegan lava cake. For this edition we decided focus on a different kind of treat, a perfect blend of salty, sweet, and savory: Fried rice.
|My mouth is salivating already!
Every Chinese restaurant can make delicious fried rice, but it always seems impossible to duplicate the results at home. In some ways this is a good thing: homemade fried rice is almost always less greasy and less salty, and healthy fried rice recipes exist all around the internet. The downside of these guilt-free versions is that you lose the true fried-rice experience. That oil and salt is there for a reason! This recipe focuses on a truly authentic experience, and forgoes any “homemade = healthy” pretensions (though it’s still healthier than most takeout).
Our fried rice adventure required us to pass three milestones: we needed the perfect meat alternative, we needed the perfect rice, and we needed the perfect stir-fry technique. The part of “meat” in this production was played by our good friend Seitan. A nice seitan loaf, seasoned properly, is meatier in texture than both tofu and seitan, which is why we’ve used it here as a stand-in for pork. The rice is an interesting thing: most people think you need leftover rice for fried rice, but we’ve found the perfect way to make same-day fried rice that tastes completely authentic. The stir-frying technique is fantastically simple, so with no further adieu, let’s go!
Part One: Sweet and Spicy Seitan
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 inches ginger, sliced thin
1 cup wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, grated
2 inches ginger root, grated
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Place the veggie broth, water, smashed garlic, and sliced ginger in a large pot and set the heat to high.
2. While the cooking broth heats up, mix the gluten and nutritional yeast together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine the remaining seitan ingredients (veggie broth, soy sauce, lime juice, chili flakes, oil, garlic, and ginger).
3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Once the liquid has been mostly absorbed remove the dough from the bowl and knead for about three minutes. It will be very elastic and fairly tough. Form it into a wide, flat log.
4. When the cooking liquid is boiling place the seitan log in the pot, partially cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the seitan for 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cover completely. Place the whole pot into the fridge and let the seitan sit in the broth overnight (see note below).
5. When you are ready to make your fried rice, take the remaining five ingredients and mix them together in a bowl. Cut about half of the seitan into small slices and toss it with the glaze.
6. Now comes the best part. Place the seitan in a frying pan set to medium heat. Dump in the remaining glaze. The key to getting perfectly delicious seitan meat candy is to fry the seitan for a good, long time, stirring often. Eventually the sugars will reduce and caramelize, coating the seitan bits in a sticky layer of sweet and spicy heaven.
|Seitan bits, ready to be fried.
Note: During the boiling, the seitan loaf will expand and poof up. This is entirely normal, but mildly alarming if it is your first time making it. Cooling the seitan overnight will allow it to absorb a little more flavour, but the real reason is to firm it up. It will originally be somewhat light and spongy, but 8 or more hours later it will be nice and dense – a perfect meat substitute.
|Delicious seitan candy!
Part Two: Same-Day Rice
1 cup long grain white rice
2 tablespoons neutral oil (we used grapeseed oil)
2 cups water
1. Start the rice in a dry, cool pot. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me. Add enough oil (about 2 tablespoons) to coat the rice and leave the bottom of the pot slick. The rice at the bottom shouldn’t be swimming in oil. Turn up the heat to medium.
2. Before cooking, the rice will be translucent. Our goal is to make it opaque. Stir the rice constantly for 10 – 15 minutes until it all looks solid and white. My rice got a little brown, but that is what happens when you need to pause and take pictures every few minutes. This is a technique called “parching” the rice.
3. When the rice is opaque, add the water and set it to high heat. Do not cover! Once the rice is at a full boil, give it a quick stir and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the rice continue cooking until almost all the liquid is gone.
4. Once the liquid is almost entirely boiled off you can give the rice another stir, remove it from the heat and cover. The rice should be al dente – firm enough to stand up to a final frying, but not so hard as to be crunchy.
|Close-up of dry, raw rice prior to parching.
|Parched rice (note the more “solid” white colour of the rice).
This odd technique for cooking the rice may seem a little wild, but it really is the best way to get rice the perfect fried rice texture. As my cousin said last night, the grains of rice have issues with their personal space: they stand alone, rather than cuddle up and mush together. Sure, you can always use day-old rice like the restaurants use, but sometimes you need your junk-food fix right away. This rice works perfectly in any recipe that calls for somewhat dried-out rice: Spanish carne asada, burritos, salads, the list goes on.
Part Three: The Final Fry
About 4 cups of assorted sliced/diced veggies (carrot, broccoli, and cabbage are all favourites)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
Drizzle toasted sesame oil
|A beautiful mise en place, if I do say so myself.
1. First things first: Fried rice is all about improvisation and last-minute decisions. Don’t have any broccoli? Sub in bok choy. Ran out of carrot? Omit it entirely. The best way to decide what to put in your fried rice is to open the fridge and grab a little bit of everything. Variety is the spice of life and all that. For us, this meant that our meal involved cabbage, carrot, broccoli stalks and florets, leek, green onion, and zucchini. Get all of your veggies cut up into nice bite-sized chunks. Using a wok effectively is a very hands-on experience, so you won’t have time to cut things up during.
2. Grab a wok and add a small splash of high-heat oil. Grape seed or unrefined sesame work great, but safflower or canola will do in a pinch. Add a tablespoon to the wok and let it reach a screaming hot temperature. Here is the secret to good wok cooking at home: that dial that I told you to set to “high”? Leave it there and don’t touch it until you are done. I set mine to max and left it. You need high heat to actually stir fry something without just steaming it. Trust us on this one.
3. Your ingredients need to be divided up based on how quickly they cook. Things like broccoli stalks and carrots take the longest. Drop them in the wok and stir/flip them around for a few minutes until slightly soft. If you don’t stir constantly everything will burn, so be careful. A stir-fried utopia will be the reward for your vigilance.
4. Next up is the softer items. Onion, cabbage, and leeks would fall into this category. Drop ’em in, stir ’em up, and let them cook for a minute or two.
5. At this point you could add some aromatics, which includes ginger, garlic, shallot, green onion, etc. Toss everything for another minute.
6. Finally it is time to add the delicates. Broccoli florets and zucchini count, as well as things like sweet corn and lighter greens. Toss everything around yet again.
7. Before we can finally eat, we have to toss in the rice. Add it to the wok and stir quickly, then pour in the soy sauce, dried ginger, sugar, and sesame oil. Toss everything to coat and voila, your meal is ready.
|The first few batches of veggies sizzling, steaming, and popping away.
There are a lot of steps to this fried rice, but it’s not as complicated or time-consuming as it may seem – plus, the reward is an amazing meal (or side dish). Plate up some of the rice/veggies and spoon on some of the seitan candy. Top it all with some sesame seeds and maybe a dash of sriracha. It may not be the healthiest meal, but it is certainly the best fried rice I have had in a long, long time.
|A little piece of heaven.