The Happy Home Cook: Low Carb, Low Sugar Fried Rice

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Low carb, low sugar fried rice (Photo courtesy of Richgail Enriquez)

Low carb, low sugar fried rice (Photo courtesy of Richgail Enriquez)

Every once in a while, I would get requests for low carb recipes. Admittedly, low carb is not my forte. I just need to have my heavy comfort food. But when I visit my parents and plan to cook for them, I realize I do have to mind what I put on my pots and pans (aside from cruelty-free).  A healthy lifestyle is a serious matter, not just a vanity fad that people either obsess over or roll their eyes on. Over time, what we put in our body accumulates. I’m not just talking about fat. Too much sugar and carbohydrates, and carcinogenic properties could destroy our health if we don’t watch what we eat -whether we’re vegan or not.

My parents have given up rice because they have “borderline diabetes”. When I cook for them, I try to cut down sugary and carb-heavy ingredients as much as possible. As I was perusing the aisles of a neighborhood grocery store,  I spotted pearl barley -a grain that’s chewy, nutty, and has no sugar. I thought it would be a great substitute for rice. I also found a package of julienne coleslaw mix: carrots, broccoli stems, and purple cabbage. Lastly, I saw a beautiful head of cauliflower. I learned that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, are highly nutritious and recommended for people with inflammation health problems. Needless to say, I bought these items. Now what to make of them?

I learned through my certification from Rouxbe that cauliflower could be seasoned, baked, then seared instead of plain old steaming (which could be bland and uninteresting). The three-step process could take a while especially if using the oven so I eventually decided to cook the cauliflower on the stove instead of baking it. I use the method of stewing then searing (pretty much reverse braising). And every time I do, my family and friends couldn’t get enough of the cauliflower. They somehow forgot that it was cauliflower, like how they would forget that my food is completely vegan. This time, my parents also forgot that the dish was low carb!

Serves: 3 servings


1 tablespoon cooking oil*
2 cloves garlic, minced
seasoned cauliflower florets (see recipe below)
¼ cup julienne carrots*
¼ cup julienne broccoli stems
¼ cup julienne purple cabbage
½ cup cooked pearl barley*
3-5 Thai basil leaves for garnish, optional

Seasoned Cauliflower

4-5 cups vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 dried bay leaves
salt to taste
1 head cauliflower, leaves and stem trimmed, cut to florets


Preparing and Cooking the Cauliflower

  1. Combine all ingredients except cauliflower in medium size pot. Season to taste. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil.

  2. Add cauliflower florets and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until slightly tender*

  3. Turn off heat and remove cauliflower from broth and place onto a plate lined with paper towel.

  4. Dry top part of cauliflower by blotting with paper towel.

  5. Heat medium size pan over medium heat and pour oil.

  6. Once oil is hot, add cauliflower and fry both sides until golden brown. Set aside.

Cooking the "Fried Rice"

  1. Using the same pan, heat over medium heat. Pour more oil if desired.

  2. Saute garlic until fragrant.

  3. Add carrots, broccoli stems, and cabbage. Cook until vegetables are tender.

  4. Add cauliflower and pearl barley. Season with sea salt.

  5. Mix well and adjust seasoning to taste.

  6. Turn off heat and serve hot.


*For no-oil cooking, use vegetable broth instead of oil to saute the garlic.

*To cook the pearl barley, combine ½ cup pearl barley and 1½ cup water. Put to a boil over high heat then cover to simmer for 30-40 minutes until soft and chewy. Tip: To cut down cooking time, soak pearl barley overnight in water. 

*For no-carb cooking, use cooked quinoa instead of pearl barley.

*A package of ready-made coleslaw mix (julienne carrots, broccoli stems, cabbage) at the supermarket will dramatically cut down the prep time. 

*When cooking the cauliflower, run a knife in the middle to see if it's tender enough. If it is, you're done. You don't want your cauliflower to be too firm or too mushy.

With the wonderful colors from the vegetables, the pearl barley fried rice is not only nutritious and delicious, it’s also pretty to look at. Presentation does help especially because the eyes eat first. Sometimes to a fault, when a delicious looking dish laden with fat, sugar, and animal products becomes irresistible. But this time, the presentation did help with getting my parents (and myself) to eat healthy. It also didn’t hurt that the food tasted delicious despite low levels of carbs and sugar. Just like an omnivore learning how good vegan food can be, I am amazed by how healthy food can be hearty too.

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(Photo courtesy of RIchgail Enriquez)

(Photo courtesy of RIchgail Enriquez)

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