Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hawaiian-Style Fried Rice

No, there's no pineapple or ham.

What's your favorite comfort food?  Usually the words "comfort food" conjures up images of pot roast, mac and cheese, and apple pie.  I've found that my favorite comfort foods are very different from that of my friends who grew up on the "mainland."  I seek chicken katsu, breaded in panko and fried until golden brown.  Banana lumpia, crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and coated in sticky melted sugar.  And best of all, my mom's fried rice, which she made many Sunday mornings for breakfast.  Yes, breakfast.

Fried rice is one of those dishes that everyone in Hawaii claims that their parents make best.  I'm no exception.  I was thinking about it a couple months ago, when I was making fried rice for dinner (my mom always finds it odd when I make it for dinner instead of breakfast) for my friend, Lauren Carmen San Diego, who interestingly enough, claims that I make the best fried rice.  I omitted the veggies I usually add (because Lauren hates veggies), and it occurred to me that maybe everyone likes their parents' fried rice best because their parents only included the things they like.  For example, my uncle always made his with onions and chives, which I abhorred, while my mom made hers with Spanish chorizo, which I love.  All this to say that fried rice is so extremely customizable, and as long as you include things that you love and omit things that you hate, you're going to love it.

I will say that there is one thing that will take your fried rice from good to great: BACON.  This is what makes fried rice "Hawaiian-style," because nobody in Hawaii makes their fried rice without bacon (that I know of, at least).  Sure, if you're a vegetarian or you don't eat pork, you don't have to add it, but oh my goodness, you are missing out on the salty, smoky flavor that it imparts on the rest of the ingredients.  In fact, my mom always drained the bacon renderings, added the rest of the ingredients, then drizzled a couple tablespoons back into the wok.  I always thought that the secret ingredient was the oyster sauce, but I ran out once and just used soy sauce with a pinch of garlic salt and ground ginger, and I didn't even notice the difference.

Fried rice is a great way to use up the leftovers in your fridge.  The last time I made it, I added the last bits of meat from a leftover rotisserie chicken, the last of my arugula, and about 1/3 of a cup of corn left from a dinner party with friends.  My mom likes to go all-out - we once ate fried rice with leftover steak and shrimp.  It was glorious.  While adding leftover meat and vegetables is optional, using leftover rice is essential.  Using rice that has gotten a little hard makes it easier to mix with the rest of the ingredients, and not to worry, it softens during the cooking process.  Conversely, using just-cooked rice will result in mushy fried rice, and trust me - nobody likes mushy fried rice. 

I like a 1:1 rice to meat/vegetable ratio, but if you like your fried rice with more, well, rice, feel free to make that adjustment.  The recipe below isn't necessarily my favorite version - it's just the version I have pictures of.  Again, adjustments and substitutions are encouraged.  (For the record, my favorite version involves bacon, Spanish chorizo, julienned carrots and celery, and a fried egg on top.  Yes, it's very healthy.)  I never use a recipe, so these are approximations.

Hawaiian-Style Fried Rice
Serves 4, or, spread out over a couple of days, one very hungry Alli

3 cups leftover cooked rice, cold
1 package bacon, coursely chopped
2/3 cup shredded leftover rotisserie chicken
2/3 cup julienned carrots
4 ounces arugula
1/3 cup corn
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
5 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat a wok to medium-high heat.  Cook the bacon until very crispy.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to another bowl and scoop out as much of the bacon renderings as you can (though leave a couple teaspoons in the wok to cook the rest of the stuff in).

Add the carrots to the wok and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the chicken, corn, and arugula.  Cook until the chicken is heated through and the arugula is barely wilted.  Add the bacon back in.  Add the rice - the cold rice will have stuck together, so crumble it with your hands over the meat and vegetables.  Stir well - make sure that the meat and vegetables are evenly distributed throughout the rice.  Drizzle a couple tablespoons of the bacon fat back over the rice and stir well, until evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, mix together the oyster sauce and soy sauce.  Spoon the mixture over the fried rice a little at a time, stirring well and tasting in between, to make sure you don't add too much of the soy sauce mixture.  When it's flavored to your liking, the fried rice is done.

For maximum presentation points and tastiness, tightly pack the fried rice into a small bowl and unmold onto a plate.  Drape a sunny-side-up egg on top.  Yum!


  1. Oh gosh, fried rice is pretty much #1 on my comfort food list!! Thanks for the tips! I will definitely throw in some leftovers the next time I make it! mmmm!

  2. I think you're right about the word "comfort food" - I think about those traditional things too, but also things my Mom used to make a lot when I was a kid. I'm looking for that Banana lumpia on your site...have you posted that? Yum! Can't wait till you do. ;)

    So many good things in this Hawaiian-Style fried rice. The use of oyster sauce must be amazing!

  3. Cristina,
    No, I haven't posted it yet! I think I need to pay a visit to Ranch 99 to find some lumpia wrappers! Also, my mom taught me to be very picky with bananas - everyone at home uses a variety called cooking bananas, but I'm not sure that's its "official" name or where I could possibly find some of those. I did make it before with regular supermarket bananas, and it turned out okay, so if the craving hits hard one day, I could probably make do with those.

    And yes, oyster sauce makes everything better :)