If you’ve ever had the pleasure of walking through an open street market in some foreign city you know that there is nothing quite like the overwhelming tidal wave that it is to the senses. Brightly decorated little food stands with colorful signs describing their fare. The excited chatter of vendors striking deals and calling in new patrons. Steel scraping hot steel as charred woks barely contain the freshly prepared morsels that dance just above sizzling hot oil.
The puzzling aroma of a dozen different kinds of food, simultaneously prepared and intermingled with the coarse and rugged scents of a city only slightly more gritty than the seasoned locals who work its bustling streets. And the flavor: no other prepared food can truly replicate the simple tastes and complex experience that it is to stand in the open air and eat unfamiliar food that was prepared right before you.
Possibly the most universally shared dish in the entire world is fried rice. Almost every culture has some variety of it and the possibilities are truly endless. And so it would seem now that this is even true for those of us who have gone grain free. Yep, you heard that right. Grain free fried rice.
I’ve now made this particular variety for several friends, without telling them about the switch-up, and every time they are not only in love with the dish, but utterly stunned when I tell them that there’s no rice in it. And even more dumbfounded when I explain how the cauliflower works!
Read this blog for any time at all, and you’ll quickly find that I’m not a big fan of the “secret substitutions” approach to unique dietary needs, but in this case, I like to surprise people because it’s just so fun to see their reaction.
If you’ve ever made cauliflower “rice” then you know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, then now is the perfect time to give it a shot. It’s an incredibly simple dish to make and it never fails to please even the pickiest of eaters. This dish is a Vietnamese style fried rice with shrimp, sausage*, fresh veggies (even the “rice”!) and savory herbs. So close your eyes, picture yourself in some bustling street market and fire up your wok. You’re going to love where this dish takes you!
*Look for a ‘Paleo’ friendly and gluten free sausage brand through your local farmer/butcher or try brands like U.S. Wellness Meats or Wellshire Farms. There are other brands out there so just go searching and you’ll find something that works for you.
Vietnamese Cauli-Fried Rice W/Nước Chấm
For the Nước Chấm dressing
1/4 cup water
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (to taste)
2 tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce (Get it HERE)
1 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon honey (omit for 21DSD & Whole30)
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
Chili flakes optional
For the fried rice:
3 cups of grated cauliflower (about 1 large head)
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil or preferred cooking oil
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup onion, diced
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup asparagus, diced
1 cup sausage, chopped (traditionally Chinese sausage is used, I used Kielbasa)
1 cup raw shrimp (about 9 large 16 count shrimp, raw or cooked) chopped
2 large eggs, cracked & lightly beaten
1/4 cup spring onions, chopped
Coarse sea salt and cracked pepper to taste (less salt is needed if using the sauce below)
1. Prepare the dressing; In a mason jar, combine all the Nước chấm Sauce ingredients. Shake or mix well. Set aside till ready to use. Can be sprinkle as desired onto fried rice, salads or even use a dipping sauce.
2. Prepare the “rice”: Grate the Cauliflower using a food processor with the grater attachment or use a hand grater. Using the food processor w/o attachment will work to, but the texture won’t be as light.
3. Prep the rest of the ingredients as stated in the ingredient list above. I find it helpful to put each ingredient into a separate prep bowl.
Note: Flat bottomed woks work best on a stove top as opposed to the traditional style. You could also use a regular frying pan. Two woks/pans work best because if you overfill a pan when stir frying, you will cause the ingredients to steam instead of brown and ‘fry’. It is important to have room to spread out the ingredients while cooking. For this reason I just cook the ‘rice’ in one pan and the veggies in the other, then combine at the end.
4. Add the oil, the onions, garlic and carrots to one of the woks/pan, preheated over medium heat. Fry till the onions till soft and translucent.
5. While the onions, garlic and carrots are cooking, heat the other wok/pan over high heat, add about 1 tablespoon oil. Now add the cauliflower and cook the same as you would the veggies/protein. Spreading out and frying the cauliflower, allowing it to brown some, tossing and allowing to brown again. This will take about 5 minutes on a high heat. (High heat and fast cooking is what keeps it from being soggy. Find a temp on your stovetop that works for you.)
6. Make a well in the center of the cauliflower. Add the beaten egg and stir until it just begins to thicken, but is still wet. Toss the egg throughout the ‘rice’. Continue with tossing till the rice is no longer wet. Rice should become nice and fluffy with bits of egg throughout, not large scrambles of it…unless you like it that way. Remove from heat when done and set aside.
7. NOW back to the pan with the onions: Add the asparagus, sausage to the onion mixture, cooking the meat is done. Add the shrimp last and continue to fry, stirring & tossing the ingredients often. Remember to spread ingredients out evenly in the pan between ‘tossing’. This will ensure even browning and NO ‘steaming’
8. Finally, combine the contents of both pans/woks into one pan and toss till evenly mixed.
Season and garnish: Garnish by tossing with the spring onions, cilantro and just a splash of Nước Chấm per serving (or just fish sauce). Serve.