Fried rice never gets the respect it deserves. Sure, the majority of carb-lovers love it. And no one is sorry to see it on a takeout order. I think fried rice might be one of the most universally loved comfort foods, rivaled only by pizza…at least in North America. But unlike pizza, fancy or artisanal fried rice is hard to come by. Even in the blogging world, fried rice is often billed as a dumping ground for leftovers. A quick, easy meal the kids will eat and the perfect vehicle for the sad scallions you almost forgot about. But fried rice deserves better. It most certainly deserves better from me because it has been a huge part of my life all my life. And this is why I went a little above and beyond for this Honey Garlic Fried Rice.
When I was growing up, my mother loved to make Chinese food. She is a white woman from PEI, whose first introduction to the cuisine came in the form of Canadian Chinese takeout. Yes, authenticity wasn’t high on her list of priorities when she bought her first wok. Making lighter versions of my family’s favorite takeout was. But my mom is a curious soul, so she quickly became bored with reproductions of lemon chicken and started actually learning the cuisine. Sichuan peppercorns and black fungus were her gateway drugs.
Having a mom who is an adventurous cook has its perks. And one of those perks was always having a vat of excellent fried rice in the fridge. None of us came by this diet honestly, and yet fried rice is as much a part of my childhood as lobsters and chowders are. We never fully live up to our regional stereotypes, do we?
I’m sure it is apparent that I gather a lot of culinary inspiration from Asian cuisines. I have the utmost respect for the diverse and nuanced dishes that have their roots in the continent. But here in North America, we seem to have a real problem valuing cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean, to name a few. We don’t want to pay a pretty penny for a noodle of any stripe, unless of course, it’s dressed up and served on a white table cloth. And even that is a recent development.
So why do we value some nation’s foods over others? Well, it’s internalized racism – to be blunt. We think of cheap noodles as cheap noodles and that doesn’t sit right with me. If we valued food purely on the merits of how much we enjoy it, I would put fried rice and every bowl of noodle soup I’ve slurped head and shoulders above steak au Poivre and I love steak au Poivre.
So today’s Honey Garlic Fried Rice got some serious zhuzhing. You even have to turn on the oven for this. But preheating aside, this fried rice is no less approachable than any other. The difference is it uses high-quality produce, fresh herbs, and a simple but delicious from-scratch sauce. If we can go all out for our homemade pizzas, why can’t we do the same for our fried rice?
Now, this dish is sort of a love letter to the Canadian Chinese food I loved as a child. My earliest go-to order was honey garlic spare ribs. I don’t order them anymore because somewhere along the way my tastebuds change and I now find them too sweet. So I made my own honey garlic sauce that leans heavily on the soy sauce and eases back on the honey. Oh! And shows no mercy when it comes to garlic and fresh ginger. I decided to really double down on the honey garlic of it all by adding honey garlic sausages rolled into mini meatballs. Perhaps that was over-kill but I would do it again.
Beyond the meatballs, the rice was rounded out with tender chunks of roasted squash – yes, I roasted squash for fried rice – crisp sugar snap peas, carrots, shallots, and fresh herbs. The result is a dish that tastes less like a vehicle for wilted produce and more like a celebration of all the bowls of fried rice I’ve known and loved…or something like that.
Honey Garlic Fried Rice with Sausage & Squash
- A large wok
- 1 cup squash cubed, I used turban but any variety will do
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 knob ginger minced
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp water
- ½ lime juiced
- 3 honey garlic sausages
- 3 shallots cut into wedges
- 2 medium carrots cut into half moons
- ¼ head green cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas halved
- 4 serrano or red chilies thinly sliced, optional
- 3 cups cooked jasmine rice cold
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh mint finely chopped
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the squash in an even layer across a small baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender. Set aside.
- Pour the neutral oil into a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the soy sauce and honey and bring to a rapid simmer.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the water and cornstarch. Whisking constantly, stream the cornstarch mixture into the simmering soy sauce mixture and continue to whisk until the sauce is thick and glossy. Take the sauce off of the heat and stir in the lime juice. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Remove the casings from the sausages and, using a ½ teaspoon as a guide, roll the meat into mini sausages. Place the wok over medium-high heat until smoking, add the sausages and cook, shaking the wok frequently, until golden and firm. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the shallots, carrots, and cabbage to the wok. There should be enough fat in the wok to fry your veg in, but if it is looking dry, feel free to add additional oil. Fry the veg until the shallots are just translucent. Add the snap peas and chilies, if using, and fry for a few minutes more.
- Turn the heat to low and add the rice and meatballs. Toss to evenly disperse all the ingredients. Taste and season with additional soy sauce, if necessary.
- Take the rice off of the heat and add the mint, cilantro, and scallions and toss. Spoon the rice into bowls and garnish with additional mint and cilantro leaves, if desired. Serve immediately.