When I was asked to feature Ling Ling Fried Rice on the blog, I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical. As much as I love a shortcut to a delicious meal, I’m not a big fan of using prepared foods from the supermarket freezer section. I don’t like that they are often full of unwelcome ingredients (I’m looking at you, high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil!), but more importantly, I’ve rarely been impressed with the flavor and texture of the dishes. I’ll admit, I serve the occasional Trader Joe’s frozen pizza or turkey meatballs to my 8-year-old, and I do love a good frozen potsticker now and then, but that’s about as deep as I delve into the frozen foods aisle.
But then I remembered that Ling Ling has been leading the frozen potsticker charge for years, making some of the best I’ve found. I figured they must know what they’re doing with this new line of fried rice entrees. I was game to taste test a few of them because, let’s face it, sometimes there just isn’t time to cook from scratch.
I went looking for the fried rice entrees at my neighborhood Lucky store, and sure enough, they had all 5 varieties: Bibimbap Beef, Japanese-Style Yakitori Chicken, Yakiniku Beef, Thai-Style Chicken, and Chinese-Style Vegetable, which is their vegetarian offering. I purchased the Yakitori Chicken because my son (who is a serious fried rice aficionado) loves any and all Japanese food and the Bibimbap Beef because I can never get enough of that Korean fermented chile sauce flavor (I <3 u 4evah, gochujang!)
I busted out the bibimbap beef first because, well, it was going on lunchtime and I was hungry! I chose to cook it using the stovetop preparation option (as opposed to the microwave option) because I love a few crispy bits in my fried rice. I don’t have a nonstick skillet, which is what the directions recommended using, so I used my trusty cast-iron (I think any decent skillet would do fine), which I figured could only add extra crispy deliciousness to the final dish. Boy was I right about that. After heating some peanut oil in the skillet, I added one bag of the frozen rice, and cooked it, covered but lifting the lid to stir frequently, for about 7 minutes. I got a really nice crispy crust along the bottom and the rest was perfectly heated through without being overcooked.
Here’s where this story gets good: The fried rice was truly tasty. I will definitely buy it again. I think it is because of Ling Ling’s special infusion cooking method, where the rice is tumbled in the sauce so that each grain becomes infused with flavor. The bibimbap has that characteristic Korean flavor that it gets from the fermented chili paste (gochujang) and has a little spicy kick (although, being the chili addict I am, I drizzled additional gochujang on top! Oh, and I also put an egg on it!) I also love that there are actual chunks of tender beef scattered throughout the rice. Plus, the ingredients are all natural and there are no preservatives or scary interlopers like HFCS or trans fats.
My son and I both had a similar reaction to the yakitori chicken. It was loaded with nice, tender chunks of chicken and brightly colored vegetables. And it had a distinctly Japanese flavor from ingredients like sesame oil, mirin, and soy sauce. It honestly tasted better than any of the takeout fried rice we’ve had in recent years (and even competes with my homemade version!) It got two thumbs up from the boy, and that’s not easy to do.
Ling Ling is offering my blog readers a coupon for $2 off any of the fried rice entrees, so you can try them for yourself. You can find out what stores carry Ling Ling Fried Rice Entrees on their store locator.
Next week I’ll tell you all about the fun time I had at a hands-on cooking event with Ling Ling in San Francisco, where chef Mike of Parties That Cook taught us how to make some easy and delicious sides to serve with Ling Ling Fried Rice. I’ll share one of those great side dish recipes next week, too! Comment below and let me know which of the following you’d most like to see:
• Crispy Roasted Kale Salad with Miso Dressing, Toasted Almonds, Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms, and Raisins
• Japanese Style Cucumber and Pickled Ginger Salad
• Hand-Rolled Crispy Pan-Fried Scallion Pancakes with Chili Oil and Tamari Dipping Sauce