This is one of the most common and satisfying of northern-style fried rice dishes, a simple combination of cooked rice, cubed ham, sweet green peas, and fluffy bits of stir-fried egg. It is excellent as a one-bowl meal or as a colorful companion to a simple dish of fish or meat.
Cook the rice according to the directions. Fluff, let stand until cool, then seal airtight and refrigerate overnight. Or, if you wish to use the rice within the hour, spread it on a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool. Just before using, toss gently with your fingers to separate the grains.
Trim the ham of any skin or fat, then cut it into neat cubes about ¼ inch square.
Blanch fresh peas or lima beans in plain boiling water until tender, drain, and rush under cold water to stop the cooking. Frozen peas or lima beans should be thoroughly defrosted.
Preparations may be done a full day in advance. Seal the ingredients separately and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
About 15–20 minutes before serving, put a large serving bowl or individual rice bowls in a low oven to warm. Have all the ingredients plus a medium-size bowl to hold the eggs within easy reach of your stovetop.
Heat a wok or a small, heavy skillet or omelet pan over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 1½ tablespoons oil, swirl to coat the pan, then reduce the heat to moderate. When the oil is hot enough to puff one drop of the beaten egg on contact, add the eggs. If the oil is properly hot, they will swell and puff immediately. Give the mixture 3–4 seconds to set on the bottom, then gently push the cooked egg to the far side of the pan with a spatula, allowing the uncooked portion to flow underneath and puff on contact with the hot pan. (If you are using a flat skillet, hold the eggs in place once you have pushed them to the side, then tilt the skillet toward you to aid the flow of the liquid portion.) Continue pushing the cooked portion aside as soon as the bottom sets. When there is no more freely running egg, scrape the eggs promptly into the bowl and break into small bits. If you have cooked them correctly, they will be soft, a bit runny, and golden as opposed to brown.
Wipe the wok clean of any egg bits, then return it or a large heavy skillet to high heat, and heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a grain of rice on contact, add the rice and toss briskly to coat and separate each grain and heat the mixture through, about 2–3 minutes. Lower the heat immediately if the rice starts to scorch. If the rice is sticking, push it to one side and dribble in another 1–1½ teaspoons oil from the side of the pan. When hot, sprinkle the salt into the pan. Toss to combine, then add the ham and peas or lima beans. Toss to mix and heat the mixture through, about 30 seconds, then return the eggs to the pan and stir gently several times to combine. Add the scallions, and toss another 5–10 seconds until the eggs are hot.
Serve immediately for peak flavor. If the menu demands do-ahead cooking, fried rice can be kept warm for up to an hour, tightly covered, in either a steamer set over low heat or in a low oven.
Leftovers keep 3–4 days and may be reheated as above using high heat.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.