Free fried rice image

Fried Rice in the Dorm: A Quick and Cheap Meal

Keegan Congleton

Contributing Writer

Almost everybody has enjoyed fried rice at least once. Whether in a restaurant or at home, this simple dish has been a staple for many people and has spread and adapted across cultural lines. The simplicity of fried rice and the inclusivity of ingredients make it a dish that is highly variable in flavor and cooking technique. This also makes it a great meal for college students on a budget. Whenever my family makes too much rice for dinner, the next day we have fried rice for lunch. It’s quick, easy, and the ability to use leftovers makes it a good way to mop up food waste. 

Despite the remoteness of Sewanee’s campus, it is not as difficult as you may think to get ingredients for this dish. All of them can be sourced from McClurg and local stores. The rice can be found in the sum line. The salad bar can provide any vegetables you might want to include, such as bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. There also might be soy sauce, but if it has been used up, as it often has, then you will have to get it in Monteagle. However, eggs and oil are available in Monteagle which are very important for the dish as well. For cooking, you will only need one pan that is preferably non-stick or seasoned cast iron.

The quality of your fried rice might not match that of restaurants, but with better technique and experience you will be able to improve beyond your expectations and make it unique to your tastes. The main reason your fried rice might be less than what you expected is butter. If you would like to make your fried rice without butter I recommend peanut or sesame oil which have nutty flavors that match that of butter and are generally healthier. Another issue could be that this recipe doesn’t include yum yum sauce which is delicious but somewhat hard to find. If you have it, use it sparingly because it can overwhelm the flavor of the dish. As an alternative, you can use mayonnaise, yum yum’s main component, to make your dish creamier but I have not tried this, so proceed with caution. One delicious ingredient that is likely available in Monteagle is MSG. You can find it under the name accent and it will greatly improve the umami of your dish. These three ingredients are not necessary, though, and I have made great quality fried rice without them.

The main difficulty of this dish is getting a good ratio between the egg and rice. Browning your egg is something I usually avoid, but it adds a classic and delicious flavor to your fried rice. This makes a non-stick pan preferable but, at the very least, don’t leave a film of egg on the bottom of the pan or your rice will be bland. The spices and soy sauce are also integral to the quality of the dish and as you get closer to achieving the right balance it gets easier and easier to tip that balance. It is also generally recommended to use leftover rice as this improves the flavor and texture of the dish. If you are looking for the classic fried rice vegetables use carrots, peas, and onions. Most of all, I can say that this dish is nothing to fret about. It has always been delicious and fun to make even when I’ve screwed up, so don’t waste food and enjoy your failure. The ingredients I list are also very subject to change based on your circumstances, so play with them as you like and enjoy.

Recipe feeds 3-4 (scalable to number of people):

4 whole eggs

2 cups cooked rice

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (add more to taste)

Pinch of salt and more to taste

Garlic powder or fresh garlic to taste

Ginger powder to taste (optional)

1 cup Mixed vegetables (optional)

1 cup Meat (optional)

2 tablespoons of oil/butter

 Heat your pan to medium high heat, and add oil or butter. Then add meat, and cook partially. Add vegetables, and then add a pinch of salt to extract their water. This will improve browning. Cook vegetables until they reach your desired texture. Then add fresh garlic or use garlic powder at the end of cooking. Add the scrambled eggs to mix whites and yolk, and ensure the eggs do not burn to the bottom of the pan. While there is still uncooked egg, add rice, and lower the heat. The desired egg should be browning on the bottom while the rice is mixed with the uncooked egg to make the signature yellow rice. Mix well. Add soy sauce and garlic powder. Taste while adding your sauces so you get what flavor you are looking for. Keep track of what the end result was and improve with the next meal. There are hundreds of other recipes with different techniques, so have fun. Serve and enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Keegan Congleton