I take a pretty freewheeling approach to making fried rice – I look to see what’s in the fridge and freezer, and work from there. Sometimes it’s as austere as rice with eggs and some spring onions, but most of the time, it’s more elaborate.
Fried rice is a fast, easy way to use up leftovers, although you should take as much care with combining the flavours as you do when composing a dish from scratch; if you have containers of ratatouille or tomatillo salsa in your fridge, it’s best to save them for something else, rather than throwing them into rice. It’s essential that the rice is chilled, because if it’s freshly cooked and hot, it will clump up in the pan, rather than separating into individual grains.
This recipe can be varied in so many ways. If you have leftover cooked seafood, meat or vegetables in the fridge, cut them into small pieces (rinse them first, if they were cooked with strong-flavoured ingredients), then add them to the fried rice when it’s almost ready, so they just heat through. You can also use another type of raw seafood (or small pieces of raw meat) in place of the shrimp, or, if you’re a vegetarian, substitute firm tofu for the meat or seafood (soft tofu will exude too much water).
I rarely use soy sauce in fried rice, preferring to season it only with salt. But, when I served it to friends, they complained about the too-white colour of the rice, which I actually like – it makes the other ingredients appear more vivid. Use soy sauce if you like; if not, season the rice with fine sea salt. For a Thai version of fried rice, add fish sauce (instead of soy sauce) and some chopped red bird’s-eye chillies, and serve the rice with lime wedges.
After preparing all the ingredients, the rice should take five minutes or less to cook.
Remove the heads, tails and shells from the shrimp, then cut the meat into 1cm (7/16in) pieces. (Freeze the heads, tails and shells to make shrimp stock, for another dish.)
Slice the Chinese kale stem into rounds about 5mm ( ¼in) thick. Cut the baby corn into 1cm (7/16in) pieces. Put the kale and corn into a bowl and add the peas.
Press the rice between the palms of dampened hands to break up the clumps. Set up all the ingredients by the side of the stove – the vegetables in one bowl, the shrimp in another – and have the oil and seasonings at hand.
Whisk the eggs. Heat a large, well-seasoned wok (or skillet) over a medium-high flame and rub the interior thoroughly with oil. When the wok is very hot, add one-third of the egg and immediately swirl the pan so the egg becomes a thin, large circle about 15cm (6in) in diameter. Cook until the egg is set – it will be matte and slightly dry on the surface – then use a metal spatula to carefully lift it out of the wok. Place the egg crepe on a plate then make two more the same way, stacking them as they’re ready. Loosely roll the stacked egg crepes, then cut them into strips about 5mm ( ¼in) wide. Unroll the strips and pull them apart.
Wipe out the wok with a paper towel (there’s no need to wash it, unless there’s egg stuck to the metal). Place the wok over a high flame and when it’s very hot, add about 15ml (1tbsp) of oil. Swirl the pan to coat it with the oil, then add the kale, corn and peas. Sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt, add a splash of water then stir-fry for about a minute.
Add the shrimp and stir-fry for 30 seconds, or until the shrimp pieces start to turn pink, but are not yet cooked. Add the rice and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Spread the rice around the surface of the wok so it heats quickly, leave for about 15 seconds, then mix; repeat this twice.
If using soy sauce, drizzle it over the rice and mix well. If using salt, sprinkle it over the rice and mix well. Turn off the flame and taste for seasonings; add more salt or soy sauce, if necessary. Mix in the egg crepe strips then transfer the ingredients to a serving bowl. Serve with stir-fried Chinese kale.