Crispy Dirty Fried Rice with Shrimp, Two Ways

Adapted from Chef Quealy Watson’s Dirty Fried Rice

Quealy Watson, chef at San Antonio restaurant Hot Joy, is a master of fusion. His version of dirty rice is grounded is his Louisiana heritage, but has some really smart twists thrown into the mix: any classic dirty rice would have the Cajun trinity of celery, onion, and pepper at its heart, but rather than bell pepper he substitutes poblano chile to impart some spice; he augments the chicken livers that give the dish its depth and umami with crab paste, black vinegar, and soy sauce; and the final rice dish is stir-fried with egg and shrimp, topped with scallions, MSG, and chili oil. I love fried rice. I love dirty rice. This marriage of the two elevates both, in my opinion, to a level that neither of them could ever have hoped to achieve on their own.

When my fiancé and I first made this dish, we followed Chef Watson’s recipe to a tee in order to really see what his vision was. And that vision was glorious. But I’ve made some adjustments to get the rice crispier, and we each had some tweaks that we’d do to suit to our own individual tastes. So, I offer two adaptations: one for those who want to really highlight the liver in all its “dirty” majesty, and one for those who want the richness that the liver adds to the rice dish, but who are timid to make it the star–it’s more of a gateway-drug to eating liver. 

Liver Lovers’ Dirty Fried Rice

This version is my fiancé’s, and the main difference is that the liver is front and center in the flavor profile. The occasional bite of shrimp adds a little nuance to the texture and flavor. He uses a habanero hot sauce and tops the dish with chili oil for extra heat.

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil, for frying

20 oz. chicken livers, rinsed and patted dry, cut into bite-sized pieces

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

1 small onion, chopped

½ celery stalk, finely chopped

2 poblano chilies, seeds and gills removed, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 TBSP peeled and finely chopped ginger

2 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP black vinegar

1 TBSP of your favorite hot sauce

1 TBSP crab or shrimp paste

3 large eggs, beaten

3 cups day-old cooked jasmine rice (1 cup dry will yield the right amount)

6 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into bite-size pieces

Pickled jalapenos, to top

2 scallions, thinly sliced

Creole seasoning, to top

MSG, to top (optional)

Chili oil, to top (optional)

Instructions:

Heat 1 TBSP vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken livers with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste, then add to the skillet once it’s up to temperature. Cook for about 1 ½ minutes total, just to get the livers browned on the outside but still pink on the inside. Add 4 oz of the liver to a blender and pulse to create a paste; transfer the rest to a plate and set aside.

Heat another TBSP of oil in the same skillet, still set to medium-high heat, and cook the onion, celery, poblano, garlic, and ginger for about 2 minutes, stirring fairly constantly, until the vegetables are tender. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, crab paste, chicken liver paste, and ¼ cup water to the vegetables in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until a thick, dry paste has formed (about 7 minutes), stirring occasionally. There will be about ½ cup when all’s said and done.  

Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large wok on high and add the eggs, cooking for about 15 seconds, stirring constantly until they’re fluffy and just barely set. Add the cooked rice and stir, then press the rice down onto the surface of the wok with your spatula. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir and repeat the process another one or two times, until the rice toasts and caramelizes. Add the chicken liver back and chopped shrimp and, stirring frequently, allow to cook through.

Serve immediately, garnished with your desired toppings.

Dirty Fried Rice for the Lily-Livered

The shrimp in my version of the dish are served whole, and there’s a whole lot more of them, while the taste of the liver marries with the other ingredients to produce a subtle, well-balanced richness. If you have picky guests who might balk at the idea of eating liver, this recipe is the perfect gateway drug for them. The Sambal oelek and fried garlic enhance the Asian feel of the dish.

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil, for frying

4 oz. chicken livers, rinsed and patted dry, cut into bite-sized pieces

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

1 small onion, chopped

½ celery stalk, finely chopped

2 poblano chilies, seeds and gills removed, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 TBSP peeled and finely chopped ginger

2 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP black vinegar

1 TBSP sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)

1 TBSP crab or shrimp paste

3 large eggs, beaten

3 cups cooled cooked jasmine rice (1 cup dry will yield the right amount)

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 scallions, thinly sliced

Creole seasoning, to top

MSG, to top (optional)

Fried garlic, to top

Instructions:

Heat 1 TBSP vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken livers with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste, then add to the skillet once it’s up to temperature. Cook for about 1 ½ minutes total, just to get the livers browned on the outside but still pink on the inside. Transfer to a blender and pulse to create a paste.

Heat another TBSP of oil in the same skillet, still set to medium-high heat, and cook the onion, celery, poblano, garlic, and ginger for about 2 minutes, stirring fairly constantly, until the vegetables are tender. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sambal oelek, crab paste, chicken liver paste, and ¼ cup water to the vegetables in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until a thick, dry paste has formed (about 7 minutes), stirring occasionally. There will be about ½ cup when all’s said and done. 

Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok and add the eggs, cooking for about 15 seconds, stirring constantly until they’re fluffy and just barely set. Add the cooked rice and stir, then press the rice down onto the surface of the wok with your spatula. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir and repeat the process another one or two times, until the rice toasts and caramelizes. Add the chicken liver base and shrimp and, stirring frequently, allow to cook through. Serve immediately, garnished with your desired toppings.

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