Use-It-Up Fried Rice

Andrea Nguyen

"The Pho Cookbook"

"Along with banh mi and tacos, fried rice is another go-to for repurposing leftovers. It’s easy to make a luxurious mound of cơm chiên, as long as you remember a few points: To ensure grains that don’t gum up, use dry-ish, cooked rice (it can be made up to 3 days in advance). Make the rice up to 3 days ahead, or prepare a fresh batch and let it cool completely on a baking dish.

Add-ins such as meat and vegetables should be cut into smallish pieces so they’ll distribute well among the grains; you want every bite to be exciting. Avoid adding too much liquid seasonings or wet ingredients to the pan, or they’ll overhydrate the grains instead of just lightly coating and seasoning them. Employ lots of heat and cook quickly (line up the ingredients near the stove, so you can dump them into the pan). Cook in two batches when doubling the recipe.

This fried rice can be taken in many directions. Keep it sumptuous with your choice of add-ins and rich egg, or emphasize just one of them. Omit both for a great simple fried rice to pair with other dishes. You can always enliven things with spicy vinegar in the Notes, which has more ideas." — James Beard Award Winner Andrea Nguyen


  • 3 cups cooked long-grain rice, such as white or brown jasmine, at room temperature (or a few minutes out of the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons fat, such as canola oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, rendered lard, or European-style butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked leftovers, such as meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, or tempeh (or a combination), cut or broken up into pieces the size of large peas
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, soy sauce, Bragg Liquid Aminos, or Maggi Seasoning sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped
  • Fine sea salt


Stir the rice to prevent lumps. Set with the remaining ingredients near the stove—this recipe comes together quickly.

In a large nonstick or carbon-steel skillet over high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the fat. When the fat is nearly shimmering, add the garlic and stir-fry for 10 to 15 seconds, until aromatic. Add the leftovers and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes to reheat and refresh. Add the rice and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until warm and slightly revived.

Push the rice to the skillet’s perimeter to create a 4-inch-well in the middle. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon fat to the well, pour in the egg, then pour the fish sauce around the rim of the well (onto the rice). Quickly stir-fry to break up, scramble, and work the golden egg bits into the rice. Add the green onion and cook for 10 to 15 seconds longer, until just wilted. Turn off the heat, taste, and season with salt, if needed.

Transfer the rice to a plate or shallow bowl. Serve with additional fish sauce, soy sauce, or Maggi Seasoning in case diners want an extra-savory punch.

Instead of cooked leftovers, use chopped raw meat, seafood, or veggies (try mushroom, green beans, or frozen peas or carrots, thawed). Heat 1½ tablespoons oil, add the raw ingredients, and lightly season with salt, fish sauce (or soy sauce, Bragg, or Maggi). When cooked through and hot, add the rice and continue as directed.

To gild the lily with bacon, chop 2 or 3 slices, fry them up until crisp, and use the rendered fat instead of the oil. Keep the bacon in the pan as you fry the rice or use it at the end as a garnish.

To make a quick chile garlic vinegar, in a small bowl or jar, combine 1 sliced jalapeño with seeds intact, 1 small smashed garlic clove, 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar, and ¼ cup water and let sit for 15 minutes. Have diners use a spoon to sprinkle it over their rice. The vinegar will keep for up to 2 weeks at room temperature or for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.


4 servings as a side

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Rice Vietnamese Side