We’re doing some Asian fusion today.
Asian cuisine, in general, is one of my favorites. Chinese, Thai, Japanese…you name it, I love it. I find that most people are on board with a lot of Asian dishes, too, which makes serving large groups of people with varying tastes a little easier. Dishes like this one, however, are made with frequency during the week in our house…for just the two of us.
While a lot of Asian dishes require a well-stocked pantry (soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, etc), once you purchase the ingredients, they’ll last forever and usually go a long way in a ton of dishes. I love making fried rice as a base for dinner during the week because (1) it comes together easily and quickly, (2) I can throw whatever leftovers I have in the fridge into the mix, and (3) it holds up beautifully for several days in a row. I love multi-tasking dinners for the week. Cook once, eat thrice. It’s the way to go! Especially with a baby in the house.
This version is a fusion between the classic technique of Chinese fried rice (or at least the American-ified version) and the flavors of Korean fried chicken. The latter is a new-to-me discovery, relatively speaking. There is nothing better than crispy, crunchy, spicy-sweet Korean fried chicken, something my husband and I only recently discovered last summer while dining out. OMG. My mouth is pooling with saliva just thinking about it. While I adore eating it out, I really have to be motivated to deep fry anything at home. I suspect, however, that in order to get that authentic taste/texture, it does actually need to be FRIED.
With record-high temperatures in these parts lately, deep frying is NOT happening anytime soon.
As a result to make it work with my daily life, I opted to pan fry this batch of chicken and settle instead for the FLAVOR of Korean fried chicken. Meaning, the flavors of the glaze. And guess what? It worked out juuuuust fine. Sticky, sweet, slightly spicy chicken without all the mess and maintenance. Yessss. So much yes.
Now let’s talk about what goes into the fried rice. How do you guys feel about bok choy? Have you ever eaten it before? Cooked it? I LOVE IT. It’s actually one of my favorite veggies. I don’t use it often, but every time I do, I’m reminded of why I am so fond of it. It has a cabbagy sweetness and the best texture. It’s great in stir fries, roasted, sautéed, and in fried rice dishes like this one. It adds a pop of green, some much-needed crunch, and a touch of sweetness. L-O-V-E it. In addition to the bok choy, I’ve added in some carrots and aromatics like onions, garlic, and ginger. You can, however, throw whatever you have on hand into the mix. Bell peppers would be fantastic, for instance. Broccoli, too!
Now, it’s time for a confession: while fried rice is DEFINTELY 100% BETTER when using day-old, chilled cooked rice, you can still make this with freshly made rice. And I often do. You won’t get quite the same level of crispiness that you will with day-old, chilled rice, but the flavors are still amazing. You’ll just have a slightly softer texture to the rice. As I already said, I make this type of thing on reg in our house, and I probably only use leftover rice half the time. Mostly because I don’t have enough forethought to cook rice ahead of time, or when I do, we inevitably eat it all before I can fry it up.
So, go ahead and work with what you got. No judgement here. This is all about weeknight ease.
And delicious flavor. There’s so much of that happening here.
1 lb chicken tenders, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Korean sweet chili paste
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
⅓ cup sake, vermouth, or dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, grated
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 carrots, finely diced
1 boy choy, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups cooked and cooled rice (I used brown jasmine; rice fries up best if it is cooked a day before)
Soy sauce, to taste
Toasted sesame oil, to taste
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Season the chicken tenders well with salt and pepper. Whisk together the flour and cornstarch and lightly dredge the chicken pieces in the mixture until they are thoroughly and evenly coated. Heat the oil until it is shimmering in a large skillet or wok. Sear the chicken, in batches, until golden and crispy on all sides. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, chili paste, soy sauce, sake, garlic, and ginger. Heat over medium and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add the sesame oil and sesame seeds and remove from heat. Right before serving, carefully toss the crispy chicken in the warm sauce (See NOTE below).
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat (you can use the same one you used for the chicken – just wipe it out first). Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for a minute or so. Add in the carrots and bok choy and cook until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.
Remove the veggies from the pan and set aside on a plate. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the eggs, swirling the pan so they coat the bottom evenly and allowing them to set before stirring around and breaking into pieces.
Remove the egg from the pan and add it to the plate of veggies. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the rice. Toss to coat the rice in the oil and then leave it undisturbed for a few minutes so that it can fry up and get crispy. Flip the rice over to try and get as much of it evenly browned/crispy as possible. Once the rice is crispy, return the veggies and eggs to the pan and toss to combine. Season the mixture with soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir in most of the scallions (reserving some for garnish) and remove the rice from the heat.
Place the fried rice mixture in bowls and top with the crispy chicken. Garnish everything with the remaining scallions, more toasted sesame seeds, and another drizzle of soy/sesame oil. Serve immediately.
If you are making this and planning to serve it later or over the course of a couple nights, I recommend keeping the chicken and sauce separate until just before serving. This will help the chicken retain some of its crispy texture. If serving at a later time, just reheat the chicken and sauce separately and then combine right before you want to serve.
The fried rice can easily be made ahead and it reheats beautifully. I like making a large batch of it and eating it throughout the week. It holds up great in the fridge.
Korean chicken glaze adapted from here.