Fried Rice: The Ultimate Multicultural Food

When you’re done here, check out the rest of the Bicultural Mom blog carnival on multicultural awareness!

As a child of a multicultural family, fried rice holds a special place in my heart.  While keeping the flavors and ingredients of my own families’ food near and dear, it provides the ultimate canvas for experimenting with flavors and ingredients from other countries and cultures.

Kielbasa and cabbage fried rice

Fried rice was never a “special” meal in my Filipino-American household.  Rather, it was a common occurence after family gatherings and holidays like Easter or Thanksgiving.  Events with a surplus of roasted meat and steamed jasmine rice.   Some families had hotdish or stew to clean out those kinds of leftovers – we had fried rice.

Eggs make it breakfast, right?

Pierogies on the side

Cube it up into little nibble-size pieces

Our fried rice had no bounds – honey glazed ham, hamonada, roast turkey, bratwurst, Spam, chicken breast, lima beans, corn, peas, carrots, cole-slaw mix – it all went in with a couple of scrambled eggs, soy sauce and garlic.  Filipino, Spanish, Chinese and American cuisine all rolled into one warm comforting dish.

Saute the onions, then the veggies and pre-cooked sausage. Your nose will thank you.

Today, I keep the multicultural fried rice tradition alive in my Pakistani-Polish-Mexican neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY.   Jasmine rice is hard to come by, so I’ve embraced the longer grained basmati rice favored by my Pakistani neighbors.  After six years in New Mexico, my palette still cries out for chiles, so we crank up the heat on an otherwise mild, savory dish.  Raphe will roast Southern-style chickens with paprika and beer on a regular basis, throwing the beer drippings into the rice cooker.  The rice, chicken and even the gravy end up in fried rice a few days later.

Crack the eggs right in there. This is a one skillet meal.

Raphe (my wonderful Scandinavian-German-Dutch-Irish boyfriend) and I are lucky enough to have a Polish deli right down the street from our apartment.  Last Friday we picked up some cheese peirogies and kielbasa on the way home from our run.  He fried them up while I made a savory mustard seed cole-slaw.  We had a ton of sausage and cabbage left over.

Go ahead and get your fingers dirty

The next morning, the kielbasa and cabbage went into the rice with the soy sauce and scrambled egg.   Out came a breakfast dish not clearly recognizable as  Filipino or Chinese on one hand, but not clearly Polish or American on the other hand.  Just the like product of many multicultural endeavors, it was its own entity – a new combination of flavors and textures greater than the sum of its ingredients.

Peas go in last to keep their bright color

“This is really great comfort food,” Raphe said, barely lifting his head between bites.

I couldn’t agree more.

More Multicultural Recipes @ Kensington Kitchen


  1. If you’re using uncooked meat, make sure to brown it first.  Before the onions.  Before the vegetables.  Before the eggs.  If it’s a little extra crispy at the end, that’s fine – adds texture.
  2. We used leftover red cabbage that had been marinated in white vinegar, garlic and mustard seeds, which gave the the fried rice a tangy edge.  Feel free to use fresh cabbage if you don’t have the time to marinate cabbage overnight or just don’t like the idea of pickles in your fried rice.

Polish Sausage and Marinated Cabbage Fried Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients Local sources
3 cups cold, leftover rice Eastern Fruit and Vegetable
1/2 lb pre-cooked Polish sausage I&D Interfoods
1 c. marinated red cabbage **see #2 above
2 eggs M&Z Nice Grocery
1/2 c. frozen peas Trader Joe’s
1 T minced garlic Golden Farm
1 onion, coarsely chopped Eastern Fruit and Vegetable
soy sauce to taste NY Mart on Ave U
fresh ground pepper to taste Bobby’s Dept Store

1. Prep

  • Chop onions and garlic
  • Dice sausage into .5cm cubes

2. Cook meat, vegetables and eggs

  • In a skillet or wok, saute onion and garlic in olive oil.
  • Add sausage and cabbage to the pan.  Cook until sausage is warmed through.
  • Push sausage and vegetables to one side of the skillet/wok.
  • Crack eggs directly into the pan.  Gently scramble with wooden or plastic spoon.
  • When eggs are set, chop into small pieces with side of spoon and mix with vegetables and sausage.

3. Add rice and spices

  • Cold, leftover rice will stick together.  Break off a chunk and crumble it into the skillet.
  • Add frozen peas and cook until warmed though.    Cook longer if you want some crispy rice from the bottom of the pan.
  • Season with soy sauce and cracked pepper to taste

4. Finish and Serve

  • Serve in shallow bowls with hot sauce on the side.  Dumplings or pierogies make excellent side dishes.

8 responses

  1. Pingback: Multiculturalism {Carnival Entries} | Bicultural Mom

  2. Interesting combination and sounds like something I’d like! I have a friend from COlombia and she use to always take her leftovers from the night before and mix it with rice for breakfast in the morning.
    Sounds like a great neighborhood you live in!
    I’m going to have to give this one a try!

  3. Marni, I love your take on fried rice and making it go with everything. I think every good cook has a favorite staple that they always turn to in refreshing a dish. I love rice and we also use Basmati. :) I love that rice is so flexible and holds flavors well! I can seriously add almost anything to it and discover a completely new dish. Great recipe and I’m so jealous of your neighborhood! ;)

  4. @Tara and @Chantilly Thanks! Kensington, Brooklyn is really a fabulous neighborhood. There are lots of immigrants from all over the world – Pakistan, Georgia, Mexico, South America, Jamaica, Russia, Poland. It’s the most diverse place I’ve ever lived and one of the best places for food shopping I’ve ever seen. I feel so lucky that I had both the American and Filipino cooking influences growing up – it makes me more open to new flavors now.

  5. You’re right, fried rice is the ultimate mash-up food. I love how you guys are so creative, making it with the Polish, Mexican, Southern and Filipino style ingredients. I always love the intersection of food and culture and will have to check back here again.

    • Hi Grace, thanks for stopping by!

      (Please allow me to wax philosophical for a moment) For me, there’s less an intersection of food and culture as food IS culture, both literally and figuratively. Food comes directly from the earth – the environment that people inhabit – and is a direct reflection of the tastes, experiences and customs of the group. So much happens around the kitchen table or campfire or grill – little conversations, little life lessons, proper manner, improper manners – that is central to culture. When you’re mixing cuisines, you’re mixing those customs and environments. If you listen carefully you can almost hear the food telling you the story of its people.

      And it’s beautiful (as well as delicious).

  6. Pingback: 2011 in the Kensington Kitchen | Kensington Kitchen

  7. Pingback: Project 365, Day 8: Egg fried rice is comfort food | Kensington Kitchen

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