When I was a kid, my parents would often make this dish they used to call “Chinese Fried Rice”, even though there was nothing even remotely Chinese about it. It was basically ground beef, veggies, some rice and a lot of soy sauce, sauteed together in a pan. Well, okay. Maaaaaybe the soy sauce was Chinese. But that’s about where the resemblance ended.
Still, I remember loving Chinese Fried Rice nights. So much so, I took that dish with me into my adult life and later fed it to my kids when I became a parent myself .
But then, for some reason, I kind of almost forgot that it even existed…
Until I recently got a major craving for it. Totally out of nowhere, just like that, it hit me: I needed to lose myself in a big bowl of that salty, comforting and satisfying rice dish once again, right then and there.
The only problem is, I don’t do rice anymore and don’t even keep rice in the house, so even if I’d wanted to get a little off-path and indulge in some of the starchy white grain, I couldn’t have. There was but one solution to this problem: I had to call my trusty wonder veggie, my new-found best friend cauliflower, to the rescue. Now THAT I always have on hand!
While I knew that this paleo version, or as I like to call it this “Not Chinese Not Fried Not Rice”, wouldn’t taste exactly like the dish that resided in my memory, I also knew that it would satisfy my craving perfectly fine.
And indeed it did!
Want to make some of that? Let’s go over the recipe together… It doesn’t take all that long to make, you’ll see.
In a large wok set over high heat (or any other large skillet that can handle the heat) melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, sauteeing or stirring almost constantly until golden, about 2-3 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and continue sauteeing for a minute or so, until the broccoli turns vibrant green and is slightly softened. Transfer to a bowl.
Return your wok to the heat source and add one more tablespoon of coconut oil, then add onion, celery, sweet peppers. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sauté until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add that to the bowl already containing the broccoli and mushrooms.
About those sweet peppers: I used the pointed variety because they’re in full season here and can be found pretty much everywhere for a handful of pennies, but feel free to use regular bell peppers if that’s all you can get your hands on. I say half of one should do the trick.
Return the wok to the heat source once more, add the last of the coconut oil, followed with ground beef. Cook the ground beef until it’s almost completely brown, then add salt, pepper, 5 spice, ginger, bird’s eyes, fish sauce, coconut aminos and rice vinegar. Stir well and continue cooking until the beef is cooked through, then send in your cauliflower.
Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring often, until the caulifower is soft but retains a bit of crunch, about 5 minutes.
While this is happening, toast your almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Keep a close eye on them as these things are thin and they burn FAST! (Yeah! I burn mine almost every time…)
Add the reserved veggies and toasted almonds to the beef and cauliflower, stir to combine and serve.
Let me tell you, I sure was a happy camper when I sat myself down in front of this bowl of comforting goodness!
It was *almost* just as I remembered. And I really didn’t miss the rice after all. My good friend cauliflower did a mighty fine job at filling in for it.
Oh, and another beautiful thing about this dish is that it is so versatile. Pretty much all the ingredients can easily be subbed: don’t care for ground beef? Opt for chicken, or shrimp, or even scrambled eggs. Use carrots instead of bell peppers, bok choy or chopped spinach instead of broccoli, water chestnuts in lieu of celery, cashews instead of almonds…
Just let your imagination, or content of your fridge, be your guide. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with this dish.