The Friday night menu in our house consists of mom having the night off. So whether it's a homemade pizza, Chipotle or Panera -- yes, sometimes it comes to that $12 mac and cheese kids meal -- my effort is minimal.

One night a few weeks ago, my daughter thought it would be a great idea to make our own version of fried rice at home with one caveat: no carrots or peas in the rice, "Veggies on the side, please." Yes, it's easy enough to make a phone call and order, but I swear fried rice is easy and fun to make in your kitchen. If you need a very specific combination of flavors (ie: you prefer your fried rice to taste exactly like your favorite take-out spot) then you may not be as thrilled about homemade fried rice, but trust me, it's worth a try.

After a quick dig in the fridge for cooked rice, frozen veggies, a can of corn, frozen shrimp, scallions, an egg, and soy sauce, everything comes together in less than 20 minutes.

Just about anything can go into fried rice: leftover chicken, grilled steak, pork, and fresh or frozen vegetables.

Pro tip: Don't use super "wet" leftovers or your fried rice will be mushy. 

So we made two versions of fried rice that night: mine was jam-packed with vegetables and an egg scrambled in, and my daughter's rice had egg and scallion with her vegetables on the side. Both had shrimp too. After I posted the goods on Instagram Stories, to my surprise, everyone wanted the recipe.

"Throw a little of this and a little of that in a pan with some oil, scramble an egg on top of that, add rice and then soy sauce" wasn't really cutting it. But truth be told, cooking fried rice isn't a science like making a cake; you don't need exact ingredients or measurements.

Here are some of the major keys to getting it right:

  • Use leftover medium- to long-grain cooked rice since these won't clump or crumble when fried. The leftover part is important because rice that has been refrigerated overnight has lost some moisture, will be firm and is best for frying with additional ingredients. Two cups of rice cooks down for about one large serving.
  • Use your biggest pan or skillet and don't put more than 2 servings in it, otherwise the rice and add-ins won't have room to fully incorporate.
  • Turn up the heat and use a good two tablespoons of oil ... rice will start to stick pretty quickly.


Make fried rice:

1. Preheat your wok, skillet or pan over high heat for about 1 minute. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil and heat it until it shimmers. Reduce the heat to medium and add some minced garlic and chopped onion, then stir until fragrant about another 2 minutes.

2. Add the vegetables -- we used carrots, peas, corn, chopped in bite-sized pieces (should have added broccoli too) -- in order of how long they will take to cook (carrots and broccoli usually take the longest, and should be added first). Cook until they’re tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the cooked meat, and cook it for a minute or so to let it crisp up.

4. Move all the ingredients to one side of the wok. Crack 2 eggs into the middle, letting them sit for a minute or so until they begin to set. Then, stir to scramble them until they are almost cooked through, but still a little wet.

5. Slowly add the rice, stirring and tossing between each addition. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up rice clumps. Add a few tablespoons of your chosen sauce (soy, oyster sauce, bottled teriyaki sauce, chili paste, etc.). Add the sauce slowly too because once it's soaked, there's no turning back. 

6. Stir everything swiftly around the wok until the rice is heated through, well-coated, and well-colored (little bits of white here and there are okay). Add more oil if the rice begins to stick to the wok; reduce the heat if it starts to scorch. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Add chopped scallions right before serving and toss throughout. Then divide the rice among dinner plates immediately or eat it right out of the pan!