Toss, rather than fry the rice

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Fried rice (photo) is probably the first dish that many people learn to cook. A staple in most homes, you fry leftover rice with bits and pieces lying in the fridge, which usually include cucumber cubes and a beaten egg.

The dish is easy to whip up and tasty, thanks to the egg, soya sauce and Chinese sausage usually found in it.

The trouble is, the rice is often fried with too much oil. And if it is an Indonesian-style fried rice, it is topped with a fried egg, which means more oil.

Also, the rice used is generally white, as that is what is eaten in most homes. White rice is a simple carbohydrate, as opposed to the more complex carbs, such as brown rice, that we are all encouraged to eat nowadays.

But there are easy ways to make this enduring staple dish healthier.

The first rule is not to fry the rice.

At least, not in the way that many of us do it. Often, we use plenty of oil to lubricate the pan to prevent the rice grains from sticking.

To prevent food from sticking to the pan, you need to heat the wok well before frying noodles or rice.

If you heat the wok first, then add the oil, the pan takes on a non-stick characteristic. Plus, you obtain that essential wok hei or "wok breath".

Therefore, I do not fry the rice in the conventional sense but, rather, I toss the rice in the wok together with the other ingredients, which I do fry first. I do this for maximum fragrance and flavour, using just enough oil to caramelise the ingredients.

To make things even healthier, I eat fried rice by placing spoonfuls in a lettuce leaf, which I then wrap and take bites out of. I also munch on a fresh lettuce leaf in between bites to cleanse my palate for the next mouthful.

Most importantly, I never use white rice. Instead, I use brown rice or a mixture of rice, spelt and barley grains. This ensures a healthy intake of complex carbs, fibre and, yes, vitamin B in that plateful.

You may wonder, does the rice still taste good after taking all these measures?

Well, it is fluffy, fragrant and nutty, with the fresh lettuce cutting through the usual satiety of the fried rice.

While the usual combination in fried rice is Chinese sausage, egg and peas, you could use just prawns and peas, or crabmeat and egg.

Here, I fried the rice with fishcake and seaweed, topped with fresh sprouts - either alfalfa or radish - as garnishes. Sprouting is said to boost the amount of protein, minerals, vitamins and fibre in a plant.

While the fishcake is fried with garlic to obtain some fragrant garlic oil, which is lovely to toss the rice in, the dried seaweed is added at the last minute so that it wilts in the residual heat. A bit of cut chilli can be added for heat and colour.


Fried rice with fish cake and seaweed

(Serves four)


3-4 cups cooked brown or mixed grain rice

1 tbs vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2-3 pieces fishcake, cut into slivers, about 1 cup or more

1/2 cup (or more if desired) shredded dried nori seaweed, available in packets

1 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

On the side

Whole butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce leaves

Radish or alfalfa sprouts, to garnish

Cut red chilli


Heat the wok till it gets hot, then add the oil. When the oil is heated, add the chopped garlic, then the fishcake slivers. Toss well till the fragrance arises. Switch off the heat.

Add the rice to the hot wok, season with salt and pepper, and toss.

Add the shredded seaweed and toss well with the rice. Taste and season further to adjust the taste, if needed.

Serve the rice, topped with fresh alfalfa or radish sprouts.

Offer whole lettuce leaves and cut red chilli on the side. Instruct your guests to place the rice on the leaf, add red chilli, if they desire, then wrap and eat the parcel.

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