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Fry any cooked grain Asian-style

Beyond brown rice, any leftover cooked grain can be fried Chinese-style.

It’s not the quintessential combination of rice, egg and barbecued pork that define this dish but the technique. It can be applied to any “ancient grain,” advocated in my Jan. 12 column. And cooking fried grain from leftovers is a key component of my “pot-of-grain-pot-of-beans” meal plan.

Fried quinoa? Fried millet? Fried farro? These dishes may sound offbeat, but their effect is healthy, thrifty and easy. They effortlessly accommodate any bits of protein, boosted with egg, and the cook’s preference for fresh produce, yielding dishes that belie Chinese takeout.

Complimentary textures are key. A dense grain, such as farro, wants substantial vegetables alongside it. Think roasted root vegetables or winter squash, as well as heavier proteins, including beef, lamb or pork sausage.

A bit lighter, quinoa, millet and brown rice take well to medium-weight vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, plus poultry or crisped bacon.

And for something as distinctive as wild rice, I devised an off-the-cuff dish of silken tofu to mirror scrambled egg’s texture, along with ripe summer tomatoes with mint. This accidental recipe from two summers past is one I dream of during the cold months.

Yet there’s no shame in sticking to the classic format with white rice, delicate enough for shrimp and other shellfish. This fried rice recipe ran last year alongside Tribune New Service’s “perfect steamed rice,” the indispensable backdrop for Asian recipes that fete Lunar New Year, beginning Tuesday.

Try Chengdu Chicken or Shredded Crispy Beef With Chile. Get even more adventurous with Sichuan-Style Noodles With Pork and Bok Choy.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp Fried Rice

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water

1/2 pound shrimp

5 tablespoons oil, divided

3 large eggs, beaten

3 1/2 cups cold cooked long-grain rice (1 cup uncooked)

2 large scallions, finely chopped

Add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to the cornstarch-and-water mixture. Shell the shrimp and devein if large. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Mix with cornstarch coating.

Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot; add 2 tablespoons of the oil, swirl and heat for 10 seconds. Turn heat to medium, scatter in the shrimp and stir them briskly for about 11/2 minutes or until they are pink and firm. Pour into a dish and set aside.

Stir 1/4 teaspoon of the salt into the beaten eggs. Clean pan and set it again over high heat; heat until very hot, then add remaining 3 tablespoons oil, swirl and heat until very hot. Pour in eggs, and as they puff around edges, push the with a spatula to far edge of pan as you tilt pan toward you, letting runny eggs slide onto hot surface. Push and tilt eggs until they are no longer runny, but soft and fluffy. Give them one big whirl and scrape into a dish.

Set pan over medium heat — you don’t need any more oil. Add the rice, and toss with a spatula for 1 minute to heat it through. Sprinkle in remaining 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt to taste; add the scallions and stir rapidly to mingle. Add shrimp and eggs and stir rapidly in turning and folding motions for about 1 minute, until eggs are in small pieces and well-mingled with rice and shrimp.

Makes 3 or 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “The Key to Chinese Cooking” by Irene Kuo.