This is the fried rice version of traditional Vietnamese red rice, a plain tomato rice made by steaming in a pot. I added ham, peas and egg to turn it into a quick and easy meal. Frying up the tomato rice with garlic adds extra flavour which is on point!
Red Vietnamese Fried Rice
Fried rice always makes for a great quick meal if you can incorporate enough “stuff” into it to fill it out from a nutrition perspective so you can justify calling it “dinner” rather than just a side dish. Today we’re turning to frozen peas, pre-chopped ham and egg for literal no-effort, no-prep add-ins to make this tasty dish I’ve called Red Vietnamese Fried Rice.
In case I wasn’t clear about it in the opening, this is not an authentic Vietnamese recipe! At least, not to my knowledge. It is based on a traditional Vietnamese dish, Red Rice, which is a tomato-flavoured rice served with meats and other mains, somewhat like Mexican Red Rice. I have always loved the flavour but I wanted to turn Vietnamese Red Rice into a more substantial, can-be-a-standalone meal. So I thought I’d spin it into a fried rice dish, and here it is!
What you need
Here’s what you need to make this quick meal.
Day-old cooked rice – Cooked rice refrigerated overnight or frozen cooked rice (thawed) is best for all fried rice recipes to get the the right texture. Freshly cooked rice is too moist and your fried rice will clump and become sticky. The taste is fine, but the texture is not ideal! Tip of the day: I always have bags of frozen cooked rice in the freezer for this purpose. I get the jitters if I’m out!
If it’s an emergency and you’re all out of day-old cooked rice (it happens): Cook rice of choice, spread out on a tray to rapid cool on counter. Then refrigerate for as long as you can until cooled.
Rice type: I’ve used jasmine rice which is popular in Vietnamese cooking. However, any plain cooked rice can be used (white, brown, basmati).
Tomato paste – For the tomato flavour and red colour.
Ham (or bacon) – I use pre-chopped ham bits for convenience (being that this is a quick meal) and also because I like that they are chunkier than chopped sliced deli ham.
Fish sauce – The soy sauce of Vietnam! It has a more complex, deep flavour than soy sauce. It smells pungent on its own but when cooked out what remains is a delicious and incomparable savoury flavour. Having said that, I did find that using just fish sauce for the seasoning was a bit fishy even for my taste so I’ve used a combination of half fish sauce, half soy sauce.
Soy sauce – As mentioned above, I found using a combination of fish sauce and soy sauce works best for this dish. Use light soy sauce or all-purpose soy sauce, not dark soy sauce, which is too intense and will overwhelm the dish. More on different soy sauces and when to use which here.
Butter – My fat of choice; more flavour than using plain ol’ boring oil! If you’re thinking, “butter isn’t an authentic ingredient in Asian cooking!!!”, don’t forget Vietnam was once colonised by France, the land of bread and butter! (Banh Mi is another tasty legacy of the French occupation)
Garlic – I doubt you’ll ever see a fried rice recipe on my website that doesn’t include garlic!
Eggs – To get some extra protein into this dish, and because soft golden curds of scrambled egg littered through red rice both looks and tastes great.
Frozen peas – Some veg and colour! Feel free to substitute with any chopped vegetables you like (eg. carrot, corn, zucchini) or throw in a handful of quick-cooking leafy greens (baby spinach, kale, cabbage).
How to make Red Vietnamese Fried Rice
Use a nice big pan to give yourself plenty of space for tossing the rice with abandon so you can get nice caramelisation on the rice. It also makes it easier to shove the rice to one side to make room for scrambling the eggs in the pan without interference.
Aromatics and ham – Melt the butter and start by sautéing the garlic for just 10 seconds to flavour the butter, but don’t let the garlic go golden yet. Next, add the ham and cook for 30 seconds. Now add the peas (still frozen is fine) and cook for another 30 seconds. By this time, the garlic should have turned almost golden and the ham will also be on its way to getting some nice colour on it.
Rice and tomato – Next add the tomato paste and rice. Cook them for 2 minutes to cook out the raw flavour from the tomato paste. Meanwhile your ham will have nicely bronzed.
Seasonings – Add the fish sauce, soy and sugar and cook for a further 1 minute until the rice starts to caramelise. Don’t shortcut this step – caramelisation = extra flavour!
Scramble eggs – Scrape the rice to one side of the pan. Melt a bit of extra butter (literally just 1 teaspoon is enough) in the cleared space, pour in the eggs and scramble them. With the heat of the pan this will take just 1 minute or so.
Toss the cooked eggs through the rice.
Done! That’s it, you’re done. Time to eat!
Serve as a meal – or a side
I’ve been making this for myself as a quick lunch but it would also make a great side for a Vietnamese or Asian spread. Sometimes I also throw in a handful of bean sprouts and finely sliced cabbage to freshen things and kick up the vegetable quotient of my bowl. It’s a pretty flexible dish in this regard, though you don’t want to go overboard lest you dilute the flavours. Because we can’t have that!
I hope you give it a go. Let me know what you think if you do! And don’t forget my tip of the day: keep bags of cooked plain rice in your freezer. It’s super handy to have rice on cue to serve with all your stir fries or (more relevantly to today’s recipe) to make a quick fried rice on demand, whether this Vietnamese fried rice or any of my other ones! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
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Red Vietnamese Fried Rice
- 30g / 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 1/2 cup diced ham (I use pre-chopped, Note 1)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 1/2 cups day-old cooked jasmine rice (Note 2)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp fish sauce (Note 3)
- 2 tsp soy sauce (all purpose or light, not dark soy, Note 4)
- 1/4 tsp white sugar
- 2 eggs , whisked
- Melt most of the butter in a large non-stick skillet over high heat (save a dab for scrambling eggs).
- Add garlic, cook for 10 seconds.
- Add ham, stir for 30 seconds.
- Add peas, stir for 30 seconds.
- Rice and tomato paste – Add rice and tomato paste, cook for 2 minutes.
- Sauces – Add fish sauce, soy and sugar, cook 1 minute to get a bit of nice caramelisation on the tomatoey rice.
- Scramble eggs – Push rice to one side of the pan. In the cleared space, melt reserved butter then pour in the egg and scramble until just set.
- Serve – Toss cooked egg through the rice. Serve!
Love fried rice? Me too!
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