These crispy rice bowls with fried egg, avocado and quick sautéed greens drizzled with a soy ginger sauce and chili oil are an easy and healthy breakfast or brunch that can be scaled and customized to feed a crowd, or prepared in advance on Sunday for quick breakfasts throughout the week. The crispy rice is the standout here - nutty, toasted flavor and crunchy chewy texture - and contrasts beautifully with the soft runny yolks of the fried eggs and the salty and spicy kick of the sauces. If you’re short on time, the dish still tastes amazing with freshly cooked soft rice - especially if you add texture elsewhere with whatever crunchy vegetables you have on hand - like chopped cucumber or julienned carrot. I’ll always be an advocate of regularly making your own big batch of chili oil in advance, to have on hand for this recipe (and pretty much anything else) but you can use store-bought instead or even swap in your favorite hot sauce. (But seriously, try it with the chili oil, it’s worth it!)
What is Crispy Rice?
Crispy (or scorched) rice is essentially rice that has been cooked through, and then cooked some more, until it becomes crisp and toasted, but not so long that it burns. It tends to feature, in some form or another, in cuisines that depend on rice as a primary staple food. And with good reason. Crisped or scorched rice has more flavor and more texture, it’s like munching on a potato chip made out of rice. Crispy rice is sometimes an intentional, stand-alone, dish as in Persian Tahdig, other times it’s the result of cooking techniques that aim to add something special - in the form of texture and crunch - to another dish, like the Socarrat crust on the bottom of a Spanish Paella, or the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of a Korean stone bowl of bibimbap. It’s also a thrifty cooking strategy among people who cook rice regularly for using up leftovers or even the unintentionally overcooked bits of rice from the bottom of the pan, as it’s used in the Korean practice of turning bits of crispy rice into toasted rice tea. This crispy rice bowl is inspired by the crispy rice component of these dishes as well as Gyeran Bap, a simple Korean rice and egg dish.
How to Crisp Rice
With so many versions of crispy rice, there are many techniques for making it. It can be made in a rice cooker or a stone pot, you could leave your rice on the stove longer than you normally would after cooking or, a variation you may have seen a lot recently online and on TikTok, a Japanese-inspired preparation that takes leftover rice, presses, slices and fries it on both sides to make little cracker-like rice cakes ready for toppings.
For this dish, I like to keep it simply by pressing leftover cooked rice in a thin layer on a large oil-slicked nonstick pan with a lot of surface area (a well-seasoned cast iron skillet works well too) and leave it there until the bottom of the rice is golden brown and crispy. Leave the bottom of the rice in place on the pan as much as possible, but feel free to lift up the edges to check the color. If you’re nervous, even a light golden color will give you a nice chewy texture, but the goal is to get the rice as deep golden brown as you can, without burning it.
You can make crispy rice with any kind of rice you have. I usually make it with either plain long grain white rice, jasmine or basmati. Whatever rice you use, to help make it crispier, rinse it well before cooking to remove some of the starch, and toss with the oil before pressing it into the pan.
Leftover rice that has been cooled is ideal as it has dried out a bit and the lower moisture content makes it easier to crisp. If you are making something with rice earlier in the week, double the amount of rice you normally make, and make crispy rice bowls for breakfast the next morning. You could also use leftover rice from Chinese or Thai takeout. But, you don’t need leftover rice. I’ve made this successfully with freshly cooked rice, it may just take longer for the rice to crisp up.
You could top this rice bowl with eggs of any preparation (soft poached or soft scrambled would be good options) but I like to make it with fried eggs. The key is to fry your eggs just enough so that the yolks remain runny. The yolk then acts as a sauce that, when mixed with the soy ginger sauce and chili oil, adds richness, moisture and flavor to the rice.
The beauty of this dish is its versatility. You can use any greens you have on hand from sturdier kale or chard to something more delicate like arugula or spinach. I like to use spinach because it’s easy to find year-round and it sautées down quickly.
Make it Easier: Now or Later
No one wants to spend more time than necessary in the kitchen, but, realistically, it’s hard to make food that is flavorful, easy, and cost-effective all at the same time. Making things easier often comes at the expense of flavor, and thrift, but there are always options for getting the balance just right for you, whether that means making the meal you are cooking right now easier, or putting in a little extra effort now, to make your time in the kitchen easier later.
Don’t Crisp the rice.
- This dish works with either crispy or fresh soft rice. If skipping the rice crisping step, you might want to add more crunchy elements as toppings, like chopped cucumbers (tossed with a bit of salt and pepper and oil) and/or raw julienned carrots.
Scramble the eggs instead of frying them.
- The dish won’t look as pretty and you’ll miss out on the runny yolk forming a sauce (though, depending on your stance on runny eggs, this could be a good thing), just be sure to keep your scrambled eggs on the runny side and add a bit more of the soy sauce mixture and chili oil so the dish is not too dry.
Make (almost) everything ahead.
- You can prepare the soy sauce mixture, the sautéed greens and cook the rice in advance. Then, all you have to do when you want to eat the dish is fry (or scramble) some eggs, crisp the rice and slice up an avocado.
Substitute simpler sauces.
- Sprinkle soy sauce on top of the finished dish straight from the bottle, without mixing it with ginger and use either a store bought chili oil or swap in sriracha.
OR: make a giant batch of chili oil.
- This is, I think, one of the biggest time investments you can make for enhancing the flavor of your cooking. The great thing about homemade chili oil is that it keeps for up to six months in the refrigerator so you can make it once and not have to think about doing it again for a long time. I’ve got two chili oil recipes on my site that I love to have on hand: a Sichuan version that would work really well with this crispy rice bowl, and an Italian-inspired fennel chili oil that I love to drizzle over hummus toast.
Recipe for Crispy Rice Bowl with Fried Egg and Avocado
- 6cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- ⅓ cup low sodium Soy Sauce
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 ounces dark leafy greens (spinach, arugula or kale), roughly chopped
- 4 eggs
- 3-6 cups cooked rice (depending on how filling you want the meal to be)
- Chili Oil (to serve), homemade - recipe here - or store bought - or substitute sriracha
- 2 avocados, sliced or cubed
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle (optional, to serve)
- Sesame seeds, black or white (optional, to serve)
- Combine the Ginger with the soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
- sauté the greens: heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the greens, mix with the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-4 minutes, until the greens wilt and turn soft and glossy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Crisp the rice: set a large pan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat. Add the cooked rice and press down firmly over the surface of the pan with the flat bottom of a measuring cup, or a fork. Leave the rice untouched, giving the pan a 90 degree turn every few minutes, until the layer of rice touching the pan is a deep golden brown - about 15-20 minutes. Check the progress of the rice by lifting up the edges with a fish spatula or fork and looking underneath. When it reaches a deep-golden brown, flip out onto a large plate and set aside for assembly.
- In the last 5-10 minutes of the rice cooking time, fry the eggs. I fry mine two at a time, but if you have a large enough pan, you could do them all at once. Set a large pan over medium-low heat, when hot, coat the bottom of the pan with the rest of the oil and then wipe most of it out of the pan with a paper towel. Break the eggs into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Allow the eggs to cook for 3 minutes, then cover the pan and cook for another 2 minutes or until the whites have firmed up but the yolk remains soft. Slide the eggs onto a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining eggs.
- Assemble the dish: break up the crispy rice and divide it among 4 bowls. Top with the greens, avocado, eggs and any additional toppings you are using. Drizzle each bowl with as much of the soy sauce mixture and chili oil as you’d like and serve.