Rice: Five Spice Brown Fried Rice

Brown Fried Rice - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

It’s ironic but my favorite five spice mix has six ingredients:  Chinese cinnamon, Chinese #1 ginger, star anise, ground fennel, cloves and black pepper.

A quick search online indicates that it’s not all that uncommon and there are mixes aptly named “seven spice.” Supposedly, it’s not so much the number of spices used that’s of import but encompassing all five flavors – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty.

Regardless, the spice mix is what turns this vegetable-laden brown rice dish into a Chinese-inspired main course that’s quick and easy. In China, stir-frys were eaten out of practicality – meat was scarce but rice and vegetables were more plentiful. Stir-frying also conserved fuel by cooking food quickly.

Even though I write this food blog – and put more time into cooking than some – I take advantage of some practical approaches to cooking. For instance, I make one big batch of rice for the week. We’re not huge pasta or bread eaters in our house, so our starchy carb is rice. It’s usually eaten with a lot of soups and beans.

Over the last few months though, I’ve been making fried rice out of leftover brown rice. It’s a go to recipe when I want something substantial without a whole lot of effort. Each time I’ve made it’s been a little of this and that – how I generally cook. I provided measurements just as a guide but hope you make it your own. So, use whatever vegetables you have in the crisper, change out/omit the meat source and even use white rice.

And, one more thing – this is a healthy meal and a good way to eat more vegetables and fiber – despite the word “fried.”

Tidbits on Rice:

  1. Rice feeds more than half of the world’s population.
  2. Asia, Latin America and Africa comprise the world’s major rice growing regions. Notably, most rice is consumed within 10 miles of where it is produced.

Five Spice Brown Rice - Vegetables - Kale - Shrimp - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

Five Spice Brown Fried Rice

Serves 2 to 4

This is more of a guide than a recipe. Substitute freely.

Make the rice a day or two ahead. If freshly made, make sure it is completely cooled. Cold or dry rice is preferable since it clumps less when it’s “fried.”


3 cups cooked brown rice, dried or made a day ahead

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, julienned

1 bell pepper – red, yellow or green, julienned

1 cup broccoli florets, cut bit-size

1 – 2 cups kale, bok choy or cabbage, ribboned

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon chili paste, optional

2 – 3 teaspoons Five Spice seasoning

1 dozen raw shrimp

2 – 3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Sesame seeds

Green onions, finely sliced


  1. Cook brown rice. Set aside to cool. Prepare and cut vegetables.
  2. Heat a wok or large skillet on high heat, use a drizzle of oil to scramble eggs. Lightly scramble and break up large pieces; remove and set aside. In the same skillet over high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and stir in onions, until slightly brown. Add carrots, bell peppers and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add the broccoli and kale or cabbage; stir. Add the garlic, chile paste and Five Spice seasoning. Mix well.
  3. Push the vegetables toward the edges and clear the center. Add the shrimp, saute until almost cooked (a light pink). Add the rice and stir-fry about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and mix well. If too dry, add a little more oil. Return the scrambled eggs to the skillet. Drizzle with about 1 teaspoon sesame oil; mix well. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Serve hot garnished with sesame seeds and/or green onions.


Vegetables:  bean sprouts, mushrooms, peas, long beans, spinach, zucchini, etc.

Protein: tofu, cooked chicken, pork.

Seasoning:  rice vinegar, hoison sauce or oyster sauce.

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2 Responses to Rice: Five Spice Brown Fried Rice

  1. The top photo is drop-dead gorgeous! Have never tried that spice combo and will have to. Just wondering why you put the sesame oil in at the end. I usually use about 1 part sesame oil with 2 parts regular canola or peanut and cook from the beginning. Is the flash point low for sesame oil or something?

    Andrea (FFC): Many years ago I somehow picked up this technique – I think from reading or watching Asian cook books/shows. The lighter sesame oils are okay for frying and higher temps, but the darker sesame oils, which are made from toasted sesames, should be added at the end for flavoring – although some folks do use for stir-frying. I used the dark sesame oil here and a little goes a long way.

    Also, sesame oil (light and dark) tend to go rancid quicker, so store it in the refrigerator.

  2. Jayme says:

    Came across your website after failing miserably cooking brown rice at high altitude. Your technique has worked perfectly! I now eat brown rice way more than white. Now I’m going to try this recipe tonight. Looks mazing with tons of veggies.

    Thanks for your time in educating us on regional tidbits and cooking techniques!

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