Getting a takeaway doesn’t quite mean what it used to. The choice used to be between a pizza, ‘an Indian’ or ‘a Chinese’, and was reserved as a Friday night treat, to be eaten out the box while flopped on the sofa watching Cilla Black’s Blind Date.
Nowadays one is as likely to order a truffle risotto as a Pizza Hut combo deal. Furthermore, many millennials and Gen Z-ers seem to have no qualms ordering takeaway several times a week, carefully transposing the slow-cooked beef Massaman curry onto bone china so they can pretend (to themselves or their Instagram followers) that it’s home-cooked – honest.
But all these new trends give the old-school takeaway options a somewhat nostalgic appeal. Chow mein and Kung Pao chicken for some reason appear infinitely more alluring when served in those little red boxes, even if they only seem to come like that in the movies. In the case of egg fried rice though, I eat it too often to order in every time. So I’ve mastered doing it at home and, happily, it tastes as good as the takeaway version. It is also an excellent way of using up leftover rice. The dish meets all the key tests one would want when replacing takeaway with home-cooked: quick, easy, minimal washing up and can be made from ingredients you’re likely to already have in the house. It is much healthier and cheaper than ordering to boot. Here’s the recipe.
How to make it
There are two secrets to egg fried rice. The first is to use cold, leftover rice taken from the fridge. It has a firm, dry texture that freshly-made rice doesn’t. The second is to serve the dish ferociously hot – the rice needs to have felt the hot metal of the wok. This is necessary not just to kill bacteria in the rice, but because it tastes so much better. Shovelling it into your mouth while making demented blowing and puffing contortions with your face is all part of the fun. The recipe serves two generously; making it for more than two can be tricky as it will overcrowd the pan. This basic recipe can be made into a rounded main meal by adding prawns, silken tofu or raw veggies (I like broccoli or petit pois) and cooking for an extra 3-4 minutes. If you are really pressed for time and/or don’t have the garlic, ginger and chilli in the house, you can replace them with a good squirt of Sriracha sauce, added at the same time as the rice.
1.5 tablespoon flavourless oil (e.g. vegetable or sunflower)
400g cold, cooked rice (left in the fridge overnight) – I like to use white basmati but you can also try brown basmati or long grain rice
2 large eggs
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-inch thumb of ginger, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (or half a teaspoon of chili flakes)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced (on the diagonal)
1.5 tablespoons light soy sauce
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Heat the oil in a wok on a medium heat until it starts to smoke. Add the chopped garlic, ginger, and red chilli and stir-fry for 30 seconds, keeping it moving with a spatula. Tip in the rice and break up the clumps into small pieces, again keeping it constantly moving so nothing burns.
- Once all the rice has been broken up into individual grains (it’s important to do this thoroughly as you don’t want big clumps of unseasoned rice), push the rice to one side of the wok and crack the two eggs in the freed up space. Let them fry for 30 seconds (you can add a bit more oil if it looks a bit dry) and then break them up and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Fold into the rice. Now is when you can add any other ingredients like prawns, tofu or veg.
- Add the soy sauce and toss. Give it a taste and season with a bit of salt if need be.
- Throw in the spring onions, give it a final toss and serve straightway. Once in the bowl, drizzle over the toasted sesame oil (if you do this while still on the heat it will kill the sesame flavour). Tuck in, and turn on the telly.