Celebrating Chinese New Year
By Nancy Eisman
My latest food obsession is Chinese Fried Rice, a classic dish at every Chinese restaurant in America. The local spot serves a really good vegetable-centric version, and the only thing keeping it from being totally plant-based is the cooked egg incorporated into the dish. So I created this egg-less version, using seasoned, scrambled tofu, with extra veggies, aromatics, and garnishes added to please my palate.
The classic vegetables in CFR are peas, carrots, and yellow onions, which is an ok place to start, with endless possibilities. For the peas I substituted both string beans (Chinese long beans would be a nice choice) and snap peas, swapped out the yellow onion for white onion and added shallots and scallions. For more aromatics I included lots of fresh ginger and garlic, and then added generous handfuls of bean sprouts and bright green cilantro for more color, texture, and flavor.
As always, use the classic recipe and my swap outs for inspiration, but make the dish your own, e.g., diced sweet potato, parsnips, water chestnuts, chopped Brussels sprouts, sunflower chokes, Chinese broccoli, etc., etc.
This Vegetable Fried Rice recipe is just in time for Chinese New Year 2016, which begins on February 8. This 15-day festive holiday is celebrated throughout the world, featuring colorful parades, banquets filled with symbolic foods, and gifts exchanged to wish good fortune in the coming year. Whether you choose to make this recipe, tweak it so it’s yours, or dine with family and friends at your favorite Chinese restaurant, enjoy all the food and good fortune I hope comes your way.
Vegetable Fried Rice
1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
½ block Water-Packed Firm Tofu, crumbled
2 pinches Ground Turmeric
1 pinch Ground Black Salt, Aka Kala Namak* (optional)
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 cup String Beans, diced
1 cup Snap Peas, diced
¾ cup Carrots, diced
1 cup White Onions, diced
½ cup Shallots, diced
4 Green Onions, diced, divided in half
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 cups cooked Basmati and Wild Rice or Jasmine Rice (best made ahead of time and refrigerated)
¼ cup Hoisin Sauce
¼ cup Lite Soy Sauce
1½ cups Bean Sprouts
¾ cup Cilantro, chopped
*This adds a not unpleasant, funky, eggy taste, and is available at Indian markets. The tofu will still do a good job of standing in for egg without it, but it does have that extra something, something.
Heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan. Add the crumbled tofu, turmeric, and black salt and stir to combine. Continue cooking about 2 minutes, add a pinch of sea salt, remove mixture from pan, and set aside.
In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat to medium-high. Add the diced green beans and cook about 3 minutes. Add the diced snap peas, carrots, and white onions, stir to combine, and continue cooking another 3 minutes. Add the shallots, ½ the green onions, and garlic and cook about 2 minutes.
Add the 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, the pre-cooked rice, and the scrambled tofu and stir to combine everything in the pan. Add the soy and hoisin sauces, stir, slightly raise the heat, and cook at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, but 30 minutes is even better. You don’t want the mixture to get mushy, but actually browned and a bit crusty.
Add additional sauce if you’d like, and then stir in the bean sprouts and cilantro. Garnish with the remaining green onion, turn off the heat, and serve.