Friday, February 03, 2012

Recipe: Chinese fried rice...with #gf quinoa!

I'm publicly admitting this.  As a second-generation Chinese-American who loves all things cooking and eating, and especially chowing down on authentic ethnic dishes of all stripes, you'd think I'd be a natural at whipping up Chinese food, right?  Sadly, you would be so very very wrong.  I SUCK at cooking Chinese food.  There, I've said it.  For whatever reason, I seem to have a mental block trying to cook Chinese food.  I can't get the proportions right, or the seasonings balanced or the right ingredients to get the authentic tastes and textures right, even when I have Mom on the other side of the phone walking me through it.  (And Mom NEVER writes her recipes down, she does it all out of her head   -- which only pours gasoline on my problem.)  When I've tried to make Chinese food in the past (with authentic cookbooks in hand), they've been weak. Pale. Sunset Magazine-type imitations of what they are supposed to taste like. Sad.  Accepting this reality means that most of the time when my friends ask me for really good Chinese food, I am forced to throw them into my car and drive them to Chinatown or the San Gabriel Valley.  :)

But the other day, something came over me, and I was CRAVING fried rice.  I haven't had fried rice since 2003, when my food allergies were diagnosed and I discovered I was allergic to, um, rice.  And soy.  Both key ingredients in fried rice...hello tragedy! Fried rice is a bit of a comfort food for Asians -- it's casual, it's filling, it has lots of little tasty bits in it.  Sometimes it includes leftovers, so it can change from time to time.  Years ago, the few times I've tried to "casually" throw it together it was bleah.  An insult to my ancestors -- mostly my grandma who was a great cook! 

Anyhow, flashback to the present.  I found a soy-free fried rice recipe on (have you tried this site yet? It aggregates recipes from all over the web into one place and you can share and comment like Facebook. Disclaimer -- the founder is a friend of mine, so I'm biased!) that looked easy enough to convert to be FAQ-friendly.  I substituted a few things that I already had in the pantry, and guess what?  It WORKED! (Cue the angel music!)  It tasted great -- authentic.  It didn't use weird, hard-to-find Chinese ingredients.  I was so happy.  Sorry for those who are egg-allergic on this one. Next time I make this I'll try to figure out an egg-free version.

A few notes: any good Chinese dish is a combination of flavors and textures, so if you delete items, be sure to replace it with something of a similar texture.  For instance, I've made this both with turkey as well as with pork, and when I took out the peas, I added back in diced green pepper. Additions suggested by the original recipe are baby corn, mushrooms, snow peas.  Don't remove the sausage though, that's a key flavor in this recipe and helps make up for the lack of soy sauce.


- This is easier made in a wok if you have one, if not, use the largest frying pan you have.  You may need to make this in batches if everything doesn't fit into the frying pan.
- Use a high heat oil like grapeseed, or canola in a pinch to stir fry effectively.  Olive oil does not get hot enough, and will also add a different flavor.
- Cut and prep all the ingredients ahead of time.  Once you start heating the pan, everything will go very quickly!
- Wear an apron, there may be splatter.

Chinese fried quinoa/rice with sausage, shrimp and turkey 
Adapted from The Shun Lee cookbook
4 to 6 servings

  • 2 oz of good quality gluten-free, dairy-free smoked kielbasa (pork or turkey),  cut into 1-1/2" length slivers (I used Wellshire Farms, there's also Applegate Farms)
  • 3 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, washed and dried thoroughly
  • 2 ounces boneless, skinless turkey or chicken breast, minced with a cleaver or heavy knife or in a food processor
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil, for passing through
  • 1/3 cup peeled and minced onion
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and minced
  • 3 tablespoons thawed frozen baby green peas
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (or if you can have rice, use white or brown!)
  • Ground white pepper to taste (don't use black, it won't taste the same!) 
Prep quinoa: rinse 1 cup of quinoa well.  (If you've never used it before, it is naturally bitter, so thorough rinsing is important!)  In a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil.  Once brought to boil, turn down to a medium simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until fluffy like rice.

1. Combine the shrimp, chicken, the 1 egg, cornstarch, and the pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Mix well, and set aside.

2. Heat a large wok over high heat. Add enough oil for 1/4" inch of deep frying in the wok or frying pan, and test with a thermometer to heat it to 300°F. (A quick, unscientific way to see if it's hot enough is to stick in the handle of a wooden spoon in the middle of the pot so it's touching the bottom.  If bubbles form around it right away, it should be hot enough!) Add the shrimp and chicken, and stir gently unto they turn white, about 45 seconds. Using a wide wire-mesh strainer, transfer the shrimp and chicken to a colander to drain. Discard all but 4 tablespoons of the oil from the wok.

3. Beat the whole eggs in a small bowl, and add to the wok. Scramble the eggs until they are quite firm and not runny, about 15 seconds. Transfer to a plate. 

4. Return the shrimp and chicken to the wok, and add the onions and the scallions. Stir-fry until the scallions soften, about 15 seconds. 

5. Add the sausage and peas, and stir-fry for 15 seconds. 

6. Add the quinoa, white pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir-fry until the rice is piping hot, about 3 minutes. Return the eggs to the wok and stir-fry for a few seconds. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Serve immediately.

For reference, here's the link to the original Sausage, shrimp, chicken fried rice recipe from The Shun Lee cookbook.

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