Sunday Night Chinese Food

April 17, 2012

My parents are both Jewish and both from New York.  That means that, on a lot of Sundays, we ate Chinese food.  There were different places we went, some in Seattle proper, some on the little island suburb where I grew up.  No matter which restaurant we went to, several things remained constant.

First it was the tea.  My parents would let us drink tea with as much sugar as we wanted in it.  I think it was the late 70’s/early 80’s version of an iPad.  Something to distract us three kids so that they could attempt to have a conversation.  We would pour and pour and pour that sugar until it was a thick slurry at the bottom of the little tea cups, and then we would spoon it up like soup.  And then there was soup – wonton soup to be exact.  Those little perfect parcels in burn-your-tongue hot broth, just waiting for my teeth to burst them open.  I was always disappointed by the small ratio of wontons to broth.  I could have eaten 50 of them.  My parents always ordered “bean curd” which only they enjoyed since we three thought it was disgusting.  If only my ten-year old self had known how much I would grow to love tofu!  And finally, pork fried rice.  (Yes, Jews eating pork.  We were far from the only ones.)

Here is where I admit that I had never, until last night, made fried rice.  Here is also where I admit that the word “fried” scares me.  You will not find much fried stuff here.  I don’t make donuts and I can count on one hand the number of times I have deep fried.  I am scared of the technique, the mess, and the amount of fat in the food that is fried.  That last reason is why I never order fried rice in a Chinese restaurant, truthfully why I don’t often eat in Chinese restaurants.  (This is a gross generalization but I find Chinese food, in Seattle anyway, to be much greasier than other Asian food.)

Here is why I went for it.  I’ve been making this tempeh for my Spanish cooking classes.  It goes in the paella.  It is so good that, after the class is over and I am washing countless dishes, my fingers keep sneaking into the almost empty pot, hoping that some previously uncovered piece of tempeh will appear.  Doing this search reminded me of the pork fried rice of my childhood and how I would clumsily attempt to get as much of that pink-hued pork with my chopsticks.  I also realized that I sometimes have cold rice in the refrigerator and making something new with it is much more interesting than sprinkling it with water and microwaving it.  And finally, when you make something yourself, you can control how much oil goes into it.

I made this version with a bunch of scallions, a much-more-than-what-you-might-think amount of ginger, cold rice (every recipe you look at will tell you it has to be cold), my magical tempeh, frozen peas, a bit of sesame oil, and a fried egg on top.  The fried rice I remember had bits of scrambled-then-cut eggs throughout the rice, but I have finally realized that, since I go a little swoony every time a dish is described as being topped with a poached/fried/soft-boiled egg, it’s time to do more topping with eggs.

Want to know a little more about tempeh?  Check out this post.
One Year Ago:  Pane con Formaggio (Cheese Bread), Banana-Date Tea Cake
Two Years Ago:  Cinnamon Chocolate Ribbon Cake (I really like this post), Tabasco and Asparagus Quinoa
Three Years Ago:  Orange Cinnamon Biscotti, Southwestern Sweet Potato Gratin

Ginger Fried Rice with Roasted Tempeh
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

I know some people like to grate their ginger on a microplane rasp, but I think it works best here to just chop it really fine.  Don’t skip the steaming step for the tempeh, it can taste bitter if it is not steamed first.

For the tempeh:
1 8-ounce package of tempeh (any flavor)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika

For the rice:
3 tbsp. canola or peanut oil, divided
1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Kosher or sea salt
About 4 cups cold rice
2 tsp. sesame oil
½ cup frozen peas, unthawed
3-4 eggs

Make the tempeh:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Cut the tempeh into ½-inch dice.  Place in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk the soy sauce, the oils, and the paprika together in a small baking dish.  Pour the steamed tempeh into the same pan and place in the oven.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until the tempeh has absorbed all the marinade and it is starting to get browned in spots, about 25 minutes.  Set aside.  (The tempeh can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator.)

Make the rice:
Place a large shallow pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the canola or peanut oil, then add the scallions, ginger, and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until softened and starting to brown, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice, breaking up any clumps with your hands.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Drizzle in the sesame oil, give the rice a good stir, then add the peas and the tempeh (you may not want to add all the tempeh).  Cook for another 5 minutes while you make the eggs.

Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in the last tablespoon of the oil.  Crack the eggs one at a time into the pan and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft, about 4 minutes.

Serve the rice in bowls and top each with a fried egg.


  1. there are a LOT of chinese restaurants that i will not eat fried food from.
    and yes, fried doughnuts used to scare me too, but when i had a big enough pot and a thermometer, i was less fearful.
    well, to be honest, still a bit weary of frying yeast doughnuts; i still think they will blow up. lol

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — April 17, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  2. We don’t have a chinese background but when my kids come to visit on Sundays they often ask for a Chinese Dinner. Like your meal.

    Comment by Helene — April 18, 2012 @ 12:25 am

  3. We definitely ate chinese take-out once a week when I was young. and now…I don’t think I’ve had it in at least two years…maybe three. All the oil! Just so not my thing. And not tasty enough to make it worth it.

    This ginger fried rice though…much more my style!

    Comment by Joanne — April 18, 2012 @ 12:49 am

  4. Sunday night was deli night in our house.
    Bagels for breakfast with eggs and lox, then all kinds of yummy deli sandwiches all day long!

    Comment by stacey snacks — April 18, 2012 @ 1:19 am

  5. We don’t eat Chinese very often. I think I could eat this every night:)

    Comment by Maria — April 19, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

  6. I never make fried rice, but it is one of my favorite things. When I once attempted it, I didn’t get the right texture in the rice. I like it very dry, and mine ended up slightly mushy. I need to try again, and I need to try cooking with tempeh!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — April 26, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

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