Tasty Fresh Fried Rice

So. I really, really love fried rice, particularly Thai style. It’s greasy, spicy and loaded with different flavors. I’ve spend years–literally, years–developing this recipe with the goal of creating the perfect fried rice. This includes watching tutorial after tutorial on YouTube, many visits to the oriental market, and once I even called in to a Thai restaurant to ask if they used a certain spice because I was allergic to it. But really, I just wanted to know if they used it. Too far?

Lots of people might think “what’s the big deal? Just toss some rice and soy sauce together and call it good.” Oh, no. No no no. Making quality fried rice is a complicated process that requires preparation, methodology and no cutting corners. The cooking process is really quick–about 10 minutes–but technique, order, and quality of ingredients are key if you want it to taste right.

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Piping hot fried rice, served with lime slices and an over easy egg.

Today, I chose to use shrimp and imitation crab meat as the main ingredients. Really, you can use anything–chicken, pork, steak, tofu. Just add it to the wok after the garlic/peppers and before the onions. Also, use whatever veggies you want–diced tomato, basil, peas and carrots, sliced bell peppers, mushrooms. Just make sure to add in the veggies in order of how long they require cooking. Example: If you are using onions, tomato and mushrooms, add the onions first, then mushrooms, and then tomato, since onions take the longest and tomatoes just need a couple seconds.

Some tips before we start:

  • Always use a metal wok and spatula. A Teflon pan just won’t get you the same results because it just won’t get hot enough. My wok is literally over 30 years old, but it’s still going strong! Also, an electric stove just won’t work–you definitely need to cook over a flame.
  • Buy a good soy sauce at an oriental market. The stuff at the grocery store just tastes like salt, and will completely spoil the flavor. My favorite is dark mushroom flavored soy sauce.
  • Cook your rice a day ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Day old rice is dry and loose, and won’t be mushy. If you forget this step, like I do, a couple hours in the fridge is good enough.
  • Use an oil with a high smoking point–peanut or canola oil work the best.
  • Do your self a favor and do not smell the fish sauce. Let’s just say the smell will probably make you want to pour it down the drain. Although it’s rank, adding a little bit to Asian dishes really brings out the flavors. It’s used in every Thai dish you’ve ever eaten.
  • Have all your ingredients measured out, chopped, minced, opened and lined up within arm’s reach. Woks cook food incredibly quickly, and if you aren’t prepared, the cooking process can be extremely stressful.
  • During the cooking process, never stop moving and tossing the ingredients around the wok, to ensure everything cooks evenly without burning. If ingredients are sticking, add a little more oil and scrape the side of the wok so it doesn’t burn.

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Spices and sauces: Day old jasmine rice, fish sauce, mushroom flavored dark soy sauce, peanut oil, Sriracha hot sauce, sesame oil, pepper and sugar.

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Fresh ingredients, counter clockwise: Minced garlic and Thai chilis, diced sweet onion, eggs, shrimp, imitation crab, scallions and lime slices for garnish.

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When the oil is almost smoking, add the garlic and chili peppers for a few seconds. Then add egg and scramble.

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Add in onions until caramelized, then seafood. Next, add rice, pepper and butter.

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Add soy sauce, then fish sauce, then sugar and sesame oil, a squirt of Sriracha, and throw in the chopped scallions at the end.

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Serve hot, with slices of lime and an over easy egg. Try to eat it with chop sticks. When my hand cramps up, I usually admit defeat and switch to a fork halfway through.

Tasty Fresh Fried Rice
Serves 2, cook time 30 minutes

  • 2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1-2 Thai chili peppers, minced fine
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced or sliced
  • 1 package imitation crab meat, broken into chunks
  • 10-12 frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and dried
  • 2 cups cooked, day-old jasmine rice
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons quality soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 generous squirt Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • Lime slices for garnish
  1. Wash, dry, chop, mince, open and measure all ingredients. Set them up in order on the counter top next to the stove. Loosen any clumps in the rice.
  2. Turn the burner on high, and add peanut oil to the wok. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the minced garlic and chili pepper. Using your metal spatula, continuously and vigorously move the garlic and pepper around the bottom of the wok until the garlic starts to brown. If the oil is hot enough, this will only take a few seconds. Be careful here, there’s a very small window between browned and burned.
  3. Add in the eggs. Scramble until dry.
  4. Add in the sliced onions. Toss around the wok until caramelized–about 2.5 minutes.
  5. Add in the imitation crab chunks and shrimp. Toss around until heated and coated in oil, about 1 minute.
  6. Add in the rice, pepper and butter. Toss with your spatula until the grains are evenly coated, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add in soy sauce. Continue to toss the mixture around for another minute, until the soy sauce is evenly distributed in the rice. Add more if the color is too light.
  8. Add fish sauce and sugar. Stir and cook another minute.
  9. Add sesame oil and Sriracha. Stir and cook for another minute.
  10. Add in chopped scallions. Serve hot with lime slices and an over easy egg (optional).
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Crab Cakes with Sriracha Remoulade

Crab cakes are one of those things that seem fancy and impressive, when in reality, they can be thrown together in under 15 minutes (if you’re quick) with non-perishable items you likely have in your cupboard. After realizing how easy and inexpensive it is to get near-restaurant-quality crab cakes at home, I now scoff at the $13 appetizer offered at your local fancy restaurant. Thanks, but I think I’ll just bring my own crab cakes from now on.

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My recipe for the crab cakes is inspired by this food blogger, who uses fresh crab, and a lot of it. Maybe for special occasions I’ll bust out the fresh crab, but on days like today, I’m opting for the canned lump variety. Crab cakes always need a sauce to go with it. And no, I don’t think tartar sauce makes the cut. I whipped up a simple Sriracha remoulade inspired by this recipe. Since Sriracha may soon be hard to come by, it was difficult to part with even a few drops of what I consider to be the world’s single best hot sauce. On a side note, the city of Irwindale, California needs to suck it up. Burning eyes and headaches are a small price to pay for living in such close range to a Sriracha factory.

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Ingredient list: Sriracha hot sauce, olive oil, panko bread crumbs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, a lemon, an egg, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, chopped celery and canned lump crab. If you want bigger chunks of crab, go ahead and use 2 cans.

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To make the remoulade, mix together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt/pepper, and enough Sriracha until the desired spice level and color are reached.

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Mix together the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, red pepper flakes, celery and parsley.

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Then, gently fold the crab meat and panko into the mixture, taking care not to break up the crab lumps. Nobody likes a crab cake without crab lumps.

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Divide the mixture up into 6 even parts, about 1/4 cup each. Roll them into balls, and then shape into a patty. If the mixture is too runny, add some panko. Too dry, add more mayo.

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In a medium non-stick pan, heat olive oil to med-high heat, and add in the crab cakes. Cook on both sides until golden brown, about 5 minutes each side.

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Top with the remoulade and serve with slices of lemon.

Crab Cakes with Sriracha Remoulade
Yields 6, cook time 20 minutes

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 2.5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stalk finely diced celery
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley
  • 2 cans lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon slices for serving
  1. Make the remoulade by mixing together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add in Sriracha a little at a time until desired spice level has been reached. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, salt, red pepper flakes, celery and parsley.
  3. Gently fold in panko break crumbs and lump crab meat. Make sure crab is fully drained of liquids.
  4. Divide evenly into 6 patties by rolling into a dense ball and then forming into flat-topped shape.
  5. In a medium non-stick pan, heat olive oil. Once hot, add in the crab cake patties and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Once golden brown, flip patties and cook another 5 minutes. Transfer the crab cakes to a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  6. Top with the Sriracha remoulade and serve hot with lemon slices.

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Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Caramel Topping

First off, I want to say that I am not a skilled baker. I like to get creative with recipes, and since baking is an exact science, this often does not turn out well. I would also like to add, though, that these little cheesecakes might be my crowning kitchen achievement to date. If you plan to make these, I hope you have a house full of hungry people to feed. If not, I would highly recommend bringing them to work to lessen the risk of eating every single one, on the couch, by yourself, watching guilty pleasure TV in sweatpants.

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The finished product, in all its glory.

I followed this recipe exactly, except I didn’t make any caramel from scratch. I’m clearly not as fancy as the Cooking Classy blog writer, who is a boss when it comes to desserts. But that’s okay.

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Ingredient list: Sugar, butter, graham crackers, light brown sugar, caramel topping, heavy whipping cream, eggs, muffin cups, pumpkin puree, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon, cream cheese, vanilla extract and sea salt.

The single hardest part of this recipe, besides the waiting period, is grinding the graham crackers down into a fine dust, especially if you don’t have any appropriate kitchen appliances to assist. After testing out several methods which covered my kitchen in a thin layer of dust, I found the most effective method is to place the graham crackers into a large plastic bag, and jump on it for about 5 minutes. Make sure the bag doesn’t break, to save your cheesecakes from tasting like feet.

Cheesecake2Mix the cracker dust, sugar and butter. Add a heaping tablespoon to each muffin cup, and then push down into a dense, even layer of crust. Bake for 5 minutes.

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Stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour and spices until it looks like smooth desert sand. Then, add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Crack in an egg in one at a time, then mix in the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Finally, add the heavy whipping cream. Don’t forget to bang the bowl against the counter, to ensure the air bubbles are released and your downstairs neighbors are annoyed.

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Using a 1/4 cup, pour the mixture in to each muffin cup until it’s almost full. Be sure to leave a little room for the caramel topping. Bake 20-25 minutes, until nearly set.

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Here we have the nearly-finished product hot out of the oven, sans caramel topping. When the cheesecakes are finished baking, remove them from the cupcake pan and let cool, about 30 minutes. Then comes the hard part – transfer to the fridge and let them set for about 3 hours. During this time I would suggest maybe doing some exercise in preparation for what’s coming next.

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Just before they are ready to eat, spoon a couple teaspoons of caramel topping on each cheesecake, and sprinkle a little bit of sea salt. Beautiful!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Caramel Topping
Yields 24, cook time 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 1 3/4 cup graham cracker dust
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 packages cream cheese (24 oz. total)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 jar caramel sauce
  • sea salt
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Melt the butter and crush the graham crackers into a fine dust. Place all crackers in a large, heavy-duty zip-lock bag, and by whatever means necessary, crush them until no pieces remain.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together crushed graham crackers and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir until coated.
  4. Line cupcake pans with 24 muffin cups. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of graham cracker mixture to each, and press down firmly into an even layer. I had a lot of the mixture left over, so don’t use all of it unless you want half of the muffin cup to be crust. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  5. In a mixing bowl, mix brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger until smooth.
  6. Add softened cream cheese. If you have a hand mixer, blend on low until smooth, about 30 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, wash up and use your hands.
  7. Add in eggs 1 at a time, then mix in pumpkin puree and vanilla. Lastly, add in heavy whipping cream. Stir until smooth – no lumps!
  8. To release air bubbles, bang the bowl against the counter about 30 times. Try not to disturb the neighbors.
  9. Add about 1/4 cup of the mixture to each muffin cup, until the cup is nearly full but not quite.
  10. Bake in oven about 20-25 minutes, until nearly set and not giggly. Remove and cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to fridge for 3 hours.
  11. Just before serving, spoon in a thin layer of caramel topping to each mini cheesecake. You should use no more than half of the jar. Top with a little sprinkle of sea salt. Store any leftovers in the fridge.