04 January 2021

Making Your Own P.F. Chang's Fried Rice When Living in the UK

Copycat Gluten Free PF Changs Fried Rice Recipe


What's an American to do when there is one P.F. Chang's in all of the United Kingdom and you don't live anywhere near it? You go to the internet to discover copycat recipes, but then realize that those copycat recipes are geared towards U.S.-based home chefs because of the listed ingredients. It's me. I'm that American.

Since West Sussex was in Tier 4 with the latest "stay at home" lockdown restrictions in England during the holidays, I was trying to figure out ways to make New Year's Eve at home different from every other day spent between familiar walls. If we were finally able to tell 2020 to bugger off from the comfort of our couch, then at least we could eat in style while we were at it.

I always loved going to P.F. Chang's with friends to celebrate occasions because it was one of the few casual-chic American chain restaurants that accommodated for gluten allergies and consistently exceeded in knowing how to handle dietary restrictions. A phenomenal allergy-aware or GF-friendly restaurant in Coastal Virginia is still sadly not commonplace in comparison to the UK where everywhere here understands food allergies and I never lack restaurant options... except in a pandemic.

Between P.F. Chang's and my favorite Thai restaurant in my hometown area, they were my fried rice go-tos. Two very different flavor styles, but delicious every time. I still haven't managed to find fried rice in southern England that makes me want to talk about it all the time, so for now, I've stumbled upon a dish I can replicate to satisfy the craving for American-Chinese cuisine (aka justify the limited cupboard storage space for buying a small kitchen appliance dedicated to cooking rice aka I love rice aka we have a new rice cooker convert in Mr. B now).


Copycat Gluten Free PF Changs Fried Rice Recipe in the UK


HOW TO MAKE P.F. CHANG'S FRIED RICE WHEN YOU DON'T LIVE NEAR ONE ANYMORE

[Serves 2] 

INGREDIENTS


Plain Rice:
• 1 cup of uncooked jasmine rice
• 1 3/4 cups of water

Fried Rice Sauce:
• 3 tablespoons of gluten-free tamari soy sauce
• 1/2 tablespoon of yellow or dijon mustard
• 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
• 2 teaspoons of black treacle

Final Fried Rice Dish:
• 3 teaspoons of sesame oil
• 2-3 eggs (per your preference)
• 1/3 cup of carrots, julienne cut
• 1/3 cup of frozen peas
• 1/4 cup of spring onions, sliced
• 1/3 cup of fresh beansprouts
• Your prepared fried rice sauce
• Your already cooked jasmine rice

COOKING SUPPLIES
• Stovetop
Whisk

ALLERGEN NOTES
Sesame and eggs. If you have a sesame allergy, you could also swap for rapeseed/canola oil which is equally good for frying, but with a more neutral taste. The "stir fry oil" you find in UK grocery stores are oil blends and have sesame in them, so avoid these. For those with a gluten allergy, I personally made this recipe with GF soy sauce, but if you have no gluten allergy, you can use regular soy sauce.

PF Changs Fried Rice Recipe

DIRECTIONS


PART ONE: COOK JASMINE RICE
The easiest way to make your rice is to use a rice cooker, but if you prefer to cook your rice on the stove or have no rice cooker, then do the method that works best for you. Using either stovetop or rice cooker, for jasmine rice, it is a 1 cup to 1 3/4 cups "rice to water" ratio, so if you are doubling the recipe, use the ratio accordingly.

One cup of uncooked jasmine rice will make about 3 cups of cooked jasmine rice.

HELPFUL TIP: Cook your rice a day in advance. Day old rice from the fridge always tastes better for fried rice recipes because cold rice helps prevent clumping and mushiness. Traditionally, according to a Japanese friend, fried rice was always made from leftover rice the night before. Tried and true wisdom here, folks!

PART TWO: MAKE THE SAUCE
With a whisk, mix together soy sauce, mustard, ginger, garlic, and black treacle. Set aside until ready to stir fry your fried rice. (You could also make this in advance and store in the fridge until needed.)

PART THREE: MAKE FRIED RICE
1. Set your stovetop to high heat and add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to your wok.

2. Crack your eggs into the wok and scramble.

3. Once eggs are scrambled, add an additional 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to wok and then add julienned carrots, spring onions, peas, and beansprouts. Stir fry for 3 minutes.

4. Add another teaspoon of sesame oil and your cooked jasmine rice to the wok. Mix with veggies and eggs. Stir fry again for 3 minutes.

5. Spread out the rice around the wok and pour fried rice sauce all over the rice. Stir and fry for an additional 3 minutes.

6. Serve immediately or allow to cool for storage in the fridge. This dish tastes especially nice reheated when all of the flavors have settled together! 


Copycat Gluten Free PF Changs Fried Rice Recipe

RECIPE ALTERNATIVES
I prefer P.F. Chang's vegetarian fried rice, but you can stay on menu by adding cooked chicken or shrimp to your wok creation. To go off menu, add yummy fried tofu to your stir fry.

For appetizer options, I always love the saltiness (and gluten-free-ness) of edamame with any type of Asian dish. It's easy to please, and with exception to those with a soy allergy, most everyone can eat it! You can find edamame in Tesco and Sainsbury's, but it might already be shelled in the fridge section (or sushi counter if applicable). I have sometimes found frozen edamame in their pods, and they have also sometimes been called "soya beans" if not edamame. 

(Imagine an American woman confusing the dickens out of a British teenager stocking Tesco shelves when trying to figure out what edamame is called in the UK. "You know, they're really soybeans, but you find them at Japanese restaurants and you just pop them out of the shell!")

You could also do a hot and sour soup or any other Chinese-inspired soup that can be found in most grocery stores if you prefer not to make one from scratch. If you don't have a local Chinese or Asian restaurant to locally support for additional meal options, Marks & Spencer offers quite a few Chinese takeaway options in the fridge section to complement your fried rice.


Copycat Gluten Free PF Changs Fried Rice Recipe

FRIED RICE IN THE UK

Through the palate of diverse Asian cultures, we know every community has their own spin on fried rice, so take this with a grain of rice, so to speak. And depending on where you're from in the States, you may also have only known or prefer fusion-style fried rice. P.F. Chang's fried rice is definitely an American-Chinese hybrid as you'll know right away if you've ever had authentic Chinese fried rice, but this is really to say, opinions will vary greatly on this fried rice debate. There are many delicious ways to make it! 

Due to my many food allergies -- namely gluten/wheat, seafood/fish, beef, and colored peppers of any kind -- I rarely could eat Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian cuisine in the States or in my travels, so my own experiences are limited to the dishes I was able to devour. I'm relying on friends' experiences for some of these reflections!

When you visit any large UK grocery store, you'll see "egg fried rice" in the ready-meal fridge section as well as the shelf-stable Asian section... and admittedly, I cringe. It just looks unappetizing as if they just threw rice, peas, and questionable egg bits into the package and called it a day. Great Britain is clearly the land of savory pies, not rice. And mind you, this is coming from someone who eats like a small child because of very sensitive tastebuds (or what's also called a "supertaster") and prefers softer, more balanced flavors.

Now we know potatoes reign supreme when it comes to the carb here, so rice doesn't always get the spotlight it deserves. This truth is also seen by the tiny uncooked jasmine or basmati rice boxes available for purchase. (Where are the giant body bags of rice on the bottom shelves that could feed an army?! Well, Tesco Extra apparently understands because I did eventually find a 5kg bag of jasmine rice for £8 in Crawley, and there was no way I was leaving the store without it. Thankfully, Mr. B had driven the car for that particular episode, or I would have strapped that puppy onto my back in total pride for my find only later to suffer with a hot water bottle soothing broken muscles... but it would have been worth every kilo.)

The two Asian cultures that are globally very accommodating to dietary needs have always been Japanese and Thai... and they both have very deliciously simple fried rice dishes, so I have eaten these a lot across the continents, and I look to fried rice as being the "basic option" on menus. However strangely, a ton of British Thai restaurants don't even offer khao pad. (You'll find a lot of hybrid Thai food with Indonesian, Malaysian, and Chinese flavors depending on the British restaurant owners/chefs, but when you have forever been spoiled by your Thai friends' restaurants in Virginia and had taken an actual Thai cooking class in Bangkok, you can't help but feel homesick for simple home-cooked fried rice and pad see-ew when you're presented with different dishes than you're used to. Moving boxes to another country is hard, but missing now-unavailable comfort foods is harder.)

And if you don't live in a large city, then Japanese food tends to be sushi from a grocery store, not even a cousin to hibachi fried rice or Yakimeshi with cooked lettuce. (P.S. Living in Brighton while I was on sabbatical was a highlight because the culinary diversity was incredible! Bincho Yakitori was particularly yummy.)

Restaurants, grocery stores, and takeaway spots, of course, adapt to local preferences and demand, but I feel America is much more diverse in the immigrant-influenced restaurant department, and menu options reflect this. The search forever continues for memorable fried rice that I don't have to make from my spot in Haywards Heath, England. So if you see more Asian-inspired recipes pop up in the future from this very white American woman, that's why. I just really miss home and my diverse friends who shared their tables, meals, and new flavors with me.


This recipe is adapted from Heather Johnson to account for personal taste and ingredients that are available and easily accessible in the UK.

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