vegetarian fried brown rice

fried rice2

We’re at the end of day eight of 30 days of clean eating, and we’re having a good old time. I haven’t found myself craving anything that I’m missing, which has surprised me. Except toast, I wanted toast a lot. So I picked up some killer locally-made bread that is a good option for us. (In full disclosure, we did split a piece of homemade cake at our friend’s graduation party this weekend, and as the sugar surged through my veins and my pulse raced, I was reminded of why I should not do that.)

Some of my other observations so far:

1) My husband says he feels better, that he actually feels great; his cheerful and energetic demeanor makes me believe him.

2) Requires lots of time.

3) Costs a lot.

I haven’t even been buying organic produce or hormone-free, pasture-raised meat because of the sticker shock, and we are spending about 40% more than we normally do at the store than we did a week ago. The price difference between a loaf of bread or jar of nut butter now and the stuff we’d buy before? Double.

Produce, the main staple of our diet right now, really adds up fast, even at the discount grocer. It’s killer. Thankfully, eggs and dried beans are cheap.

So, today’s recipe: fried rice is awesome, right? Not really from restaurants (mushy peas, MSG attack…). But at home, where I can control the ingredients and flavors, I have come to love fried rice. Like an old song that is brilliant for the background of a really good television show, but maybe doesn’t cross my mind when choosing a dinner party playlist, this is an unassuming but satisfying one-pot, one-bowl dinner. Simple, enjoyable. It meets my self-imposed standards for nutrition, frugality and of course, texture and flavor. I love the plump, bright peas, fragrantly fried garlic, slices of scrambled eggs and especially the occasional crisp grains of rice from the bottom of the pan — aren’t those the best?

fried rice1

I feel that I’ve finally landed on a sauce that pleasantly dresses and flavors the rice situation without being soy-sauce-salty-town. It’s fresh and enjoyable. And such a good way to use up any leftovers! Cooked pork, chicken, maybe carrots past their prime or some freezer-burned edamame come to bright, flavorful life in fried rice.

fried rice6

The two most important things you’ll need are a really good non-stick pan (I recently had to retire one of mine, and boy, do eggs shimmy and shake across my new pan!) or well-seasoned wok. Secondly, to avoid clumps, the rice really needs to be cool and dry. If you must cook rice the same day as frying it, try to give it some time to cool, spread out on a cookie sheet in the fridge. My preferred method/the easiest way is to make extra rice one evening when serving it alongside dinner and stow the leftovers just for this purpose.

A splash of nuoc cham has become a favorite way of ours to top a bowl of fried rice, offering heat, brightness and acidity, but it contains white sugar so did not fit our clean eating plan. A squeeze of lime provides the same bright lift to the flavors and really takes it to the next level. Enjoy!fried rice3

vegetarian fried brown rice

serves 4
Frying rice is a very quick process once your wok or pan is hot, so begin by prepping, chopping and setting out all your components and mixing your sauce. From there, dinner will be ready in less than 10 minutes.
So many vegetables are happy in fried rice, such as bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, chopped cabbage, sugar snap peas or snow peas, asparagus, water chestnuts, bok choy, kale or other leafy, sturdy greens… use your favorite, use what you have on hand.
(Note on chiles – fresh jalapenos, serranos, dried red pepper flakes, spoonfuls of sambal or Sriracha are all options, or leave the heat out depending on your preference. The two firey Thai chiles we used produce a medium-hot kick for this recipe and plenty of spice for us. Make sure you turn on the hood fan of your stove if using fresh chiles – they produce spicy steam when they hit the hot pan.)

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (or substitute 1 tablespoon each soy sauce and honey or agave)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari or nama shoyu
¼ cup dry white wine, stock or water
1 tablespoon fish sauce (replace with soy sauce for vegetarian option)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (replace with hoisin for vegetarian option)
1 tablespoon honey or agave
black pepper

Fried rice:
Grapeseed or other high smoke-point oil
4 eggs, beaten
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 Thai chiles, minced
2 large or 3 medium carrots, sliced ¼-inch thick and halved, quartered if large
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, sliced diagonally
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 cup frozen peas

Finish with:
sliced scallions
nuoc cham
freshly-squeezed lime

Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. (If using Sriracha or sambal in place of fresh chiles, add them to this mixture.)

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a well-seasoned wok or nonstick pan over medium heat, swirling to coat. Add beaten eggs and tilt pan to coat, making a large, flat omelet. Cook until set, flip out onto a cutting board and slice. Set aside and wipe pan clean.

Heat another tablespoon or two of oil over medium-high. Add chiles, if using, and garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until just becoming crisp-tender, 5 – 8 minutes. If necessary, add water, wine or stock to keep things in the pan moving along. Add rice and stir-fry until hot through and beginning to crisp here and there. Reduce heat, add edamame, peas and prepared sauce and stir until warmed through, just 30 seconds or so. Add egg strips and stir to combine.

Divide between bowls and top with scallions and nuoc cham, or a squeeze of lime.

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13 thoughts on “vegetarian fried brown rice

  1. Jennifer says:

    This looks delicious, Sophie. You guys are doing great, but I hear you about the cost. I’ve found if I try to stick with produce that’s in season or at least cheap-at-the-moment, I can save a lot (I scour the flyers to see what’s cheap and plan meals around that). As for the bread, have you tried Lahey’s no-knead bread? Dead easy to make at home and you can throw some whole grains in it to healthy it up a bit. I bet it’s only about 50 cents a loaf to make it.

    • Yes! Love Jim Lehey’s no-knead bread. Thanks for reminding me of that. Simple and so cheap. I just have to find a day when it isn’t so warm for baking that :) Some summer weather has arrived here in our valley, 89F the other day! But for outdoor cooking, I’ve found that with some flour swapped out for whole-wheat in his pizza dough, it works even better to cook on the grill! Yay! I’m taking your produce-buying tips to heart. Thanks!

  2. Looks delish and very healthy with all those brightly colored veggies! I have actually never made fried rice, mostly because I usually just end up making stir-fry and fresh rice, but my rice is probably not nearly as flavorful as yours :-) ugh, I agree about fresh food prices!!! I usually have to plan out the dishes so I don’t waste too much precious veggies especially for things that come in big bunches/bags. For fruit, I try mostly just buy what’s on sale since it’s delicious regardless of what name the apple has, etc. Also, what’s up with some Farmer’s market prices? shouldn’t local food be cheaper?!?! I understand farming is hard work, but we won’t be able to convince the regular Americans to eat healthier with those prices!

    • Yes, I agree. Prices for healthy food are all but prohibitive to most Americans in my income bracket and lower. It just isn’t practical, when two individual frozen pizzas total $2 and take no time at all, and local/organic/hormone-free fresh food and meat costs so much. Why is it that something grown out of the ground (say: kale) costs so much more than a box of macaroni and cheese, highly processed using who knows what? The kale hasn’t been processed… it seems like it should cost less. :( It is terribly sad that fattening, non-nutritive food is what is best available (school cafeterias, one example) and most easily affordable to most Americans. So, so sad. Especially when so many people don’t feel like they have time to cook, even.

      I’m with you, I try to shop very smartly and use up all my produce before it can spoil on me, using recipes that overlap, etc. The farmer’s markets are just opening here for the season and yes, I LOVE their wonderful produce, but it kind breaks the bank :( At least for us right now on one income. Sigh.

  3. Lokness says:

    The fried rice looks great! It sounds healthy with all the vegetables. :)

  4. eating organic is expensive but i rationalize that it’s a choice. we choose to spend our hard earned money on food that will nourish us and keep us strong and healthy. it’s a give and take thing, so we choose not to get cable or the fanciest phone in order for us to be able to keep our organic food consumption addiction. when i first changed my grocery shopping ways i balked at the prices but it gives me such joy to be able to provide an honest table at home. do you guys have a CSA to go into near you? it helps so much during the summer months for us to do CSA and it forces us to eat seasonally and to consume vegs that we normally would bypass at the stores.

    something that i have enjoyed adding to fried rice (which is something i usually throw together when odds & ends in the fridge don’t amount to anything separately) is kale or beet greens, for the added fiber and random bitter note.

    • I agree with your views on eating organically and your justification of the cost, yes. Unfortunately, even though we haven’t had TV/cable in years, don’t have fancy phones or car payments or a lot of the usual luxuries, I’m still not sure we can stretch our budget for organics; at least not until we know what our next second-income will be. Until then, I am holding onto our cash with an iron fist ;)

      We are very fortunate to have many wonderful organic CSAs locally! I have been considering it in relation to our budget. Love your addition of hearty greens to your fried rice — will have to try it!

  5. khyati says:

    i thought its a vegetarian website.How can add non vegetarian ingredients in it..Surprise which way they give this recipe name veg.brown rice!!!

    • Hi, Khyati! If you follow the substitutions listed in the recipe, this is definitely a vegetarian dish that you can feel great about. This is not a vegetarian web site though :) Just some of the dishes here are vegetarian — this is a great one!

  6. rhonda says:

    This looks so good! Beautiful and fresh. I think I will substitute scrambled tofu for the eggs though. It looks divine and not so expensive to make for family of four which includes to grandsons we are having the blessing to raise.. two teenage boys and on an income of only one thus far this summer. Thank you!

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