Upgrade Your Fried Rice With Blistered Green Beans and Basil

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

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Blistered green beans and rice share star billing in this easy dish. [Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt]

In today's episode from our continuing adventures in fried rice, I decided to take a slightly different approach, with a recipe that places nearly equal focus on vegetables and rice. Charred, blistered green beans are an excellent accompaniment to rice, and here the beans make up over 50% of the weight of the rice. To flavor it, I use garlic, scallions, Thai chilies, and a whole lot of fresh Thai basil.

Here's how I make it.

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Start with a couple of cups of cooked jasmine rice. As I discovered in my initial testing with fried rice, using either freshly cooked rice or rice that has had a chance to chill in the fridge overnight works best. Avoid using rice that has been sitting for anywhere between one and six hours—it's more likely to clump.

The remaining ingredients are simple: a half pound of trimmed green beans, cut into bite-size pieces; the garlic, scallions, and chilies as aromatics; fish sauce and soy sauce; an egg; and plenty of torn fresh basil (preferably purple Thai basil, but Italian basil will work fine).

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The key to great fried rice, with a nice smoky flavor and individual rice grains, is to use plenty of heat and cook in batches. I cook my rice a cup at a time in a smoking-hot wok with a little bit of vegetable oil, stir-frying until it starts to brown and a nice skin forms around each individual grain. As each batch finishes cooking, I transfer it to a bowl. Once all the rice is cooked, it's time for the green beans.

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Heat up a little more oil in the bottom of the wok, then add trimmed green beans, letting them sit in the oil until they're really darkly charred and blistered, to give them a good smoky flavor and a tender-crisp texture.

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Next up: aromatics. I add the scallions, chilies, and garlic and stir-fry them just long enough to develop their aroma—about 30 seconds is plenty of time—before adding the rice back to the wok and stirring it all together.

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To make the dish a little heartier, I add a scrambled egg. The key is to clear out a space in the center, add some more oil, and make sure that it gets nice and hot before you add the egg.

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If the pan is hot enough, the egg should immediately start sputtering and spitting. That's your cue to put it out of its misery and break it up with the flat end of your spatula, really chopping at it to get it to break down. Once it's mostly cooked through, toss it all together with the rice. Our work is almost done here.

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Just before serving, season the rice with a teaspoon each of soy sauce and fish sauce, along with a touch of salt (you won't need much, as the soy and fish sauces are very salty), a little sugar to balance out the heat, and a bit of ground white pepper. Now is also the time to add a big handful of basil leaves. I like the licorice-like flavor of Thai purple basil, but sweet Italian basil will also do just fine if you can't find Thai.

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A quick final toss, and we're ready for dinner. Though this dish isn't strictly authentic Thai, it does have a lot of Thai flavors, so I like to serve it with the traditional fried rice accompaniments: lime wedges, sliced cucumbers, extra fish sauce, and extra chilies (for the brave).

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