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Stir Fried Rice w/Nopalitos and Sonal’s Curry Masala

June 8, 2016

Rice nopalitos curry stir fry

Who doesn’t like stir-fried rice? It’s easy to prepare and lends itself to endless delicious variations.  As a vegan (going on 1 1/2 years) stir fried rice is a meal I find myself going back to very often.  It makes for a quick and easy lunch at my restaurant job. Cooked rice is already set aside.  Prepping  the veggies and stir frying is done in a matter of a few minutes.   My vegan diet forces me to try new flavors all the time so I’ll different styles for variety.  Indian stir fries are one way I am learning how to blend curry spices. I usually start with coriander, ginger and turmeric, and add one, two, maybe three other spices.   Eventually I’ll learn how to add 5 or more but for now I’m ok with my simple versions.   I always take notice when someone can whip up a complex blend of curry spice.  Enter Sonal from simplyvegetarian777.  She was so nice to send me some of her incredible Masala curry blend.  I knew I wanted to post something featuring it, but I didn’t want to do a strictly Indian dish, there are plenty of top-notch recipes, including those from Sonal.   I enjoy a Mexican style rice stir fry often,  usually lightly spicing up the dish with a ground chilles, serrano pepper, oregano, cilantro or comino for example.   In fact,  nopalitos rice stir fry has become one of the most tasty and satisfying meals I’ve eaten in recent times.  It finally occurred to me to use Sonal’s blend.  I made a quick sample of cactus stir fry with a very simple spice mix and immediately knew this would work nicely to feature her blend.  Let me tell you, the combination of cactus and Sonal’s masala curry spice makes for a most memorable tasting dish.  I can’t tell you what spices she used, I think there is a bit a cinnamon in there that gives it a kind of warm sweet flavor.  Correct me if I’m wrong Sonal! I never would have thought of adding that type of spice in my cactus stir fry.  It works fantastically!  So delicious and aromatic! Thank you Sonal!!  I must also mention that her fusion of Indian and Tex-Mex  ingredients and techniques that she has presented on simplyvegetarian777 has been inspirational and the first I’ve seen anywhere!

For the side condiments I made Thai style pickled baby carrots, Mexican pickled red onion, and fresh sliced small red radishes.  In case you were wondering,  those are fresh arbol peppers on the cilantro at the very top of the 1st photo. Those are traditional flour tortillas and turmeric, cilantro and chilli flavored flour tortillas. I was all over the map today.

Curry masala

Finding fresh nopalitos in your area might be a problem for you.  They are sold with the spine still on or cleaned and packaged in plastic bags either diced or whole.  If not, look in the “Latin American” aisle for nopalitos diced and brined in bottles.  Though not as good as fresh cactus, they are not bad at all.  You may decide to wash off the brine before using.  I use them if I don’t have time to prepare fresh cactus pads. Cleaned cactus will last just a few days in the refrigerator before they start to turn brown and slimy at the scraped off parts and edges.



Hijole! Handle with care!



This recipe will feed 2 or 1 with good leftovers for later.  I have to admit the quantities for each ingredient are a rough estimate.  Adjust to suit your taste.

Use your favorite curry spice blend.

If you don’t have a wok, substitute with a large non-stick pan.

I like using brown rice, but any long grain white rice will do. The rice in these photos is long grain white. I rinsed the raw rice in several washings to remove some starch. This helps prevent it from sticking together during cooking.


For 2 people: 

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or other mild oil with a high smoking point)

2-3 tablespoons diced onion

3 medium size cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons curry spice mix

3 tomatoes, juice squeezed out, and diced

3 nopalitos pads (or a 8 to 10 ounces bottled cactus)

about 3 cups long grain cooked rice (previously refrigerated)

About 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt to taste


To prepare nopalitos:  Be very careful with spiny cactus.  I recommend using protective gloves when handling.  Trim off the outer edge with a knife,  then carefully scrape off the spines.  No need to dig them out, just kind of slice them off.  Dice the nopalitos into 1/4 inch by 1 inch pieces.   Our local international grocery store often has 1 or 2 “representatives” scraping off the spines in a small display stand encouraging the customers to buy fresh cactus which was imported from farms in Mexico. It’s amazing to watch them deftly clean a pad in a matter of  seconds.  They all seem to be very adept at it.  A slower worker would probably not be tolerated in that situation. Put your diced cactus in a pot with about 2 quarts of water.  Add a heaping teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.  Some cooks add a 1/4 teaspoon baking powder to help maintain a greener color.  I’m not sure it makes a difference. Keep them at a good rolling simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Besides tenderizing and cooking, this will remove the mucilegeous part of the cactus.  After the simmering, they should be crisp yet tender. Drain from the pot when done and set aside.

Many of you must surely have your personal rice stir fry method which you can adapt to here.  I start with moderately heated oil to fry the onion and garlic so as not to burn them.  Add the curry spice blend and stir fry briefly.  Push the ingredients to the side of the wok or remove them while leaving the oil if things start getting to the burning point. The idea is to flavor the oil.  Turn up the heat to high and get your wok or pan vey hot.  Add the nopalitos and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato and stir fry briefly. Return the onion and garlic if you had removed them.  Add your rice and fry for a bit keeping things constantly stirring around to blend all the flavor together.  Add the fresh cilantro and incorporate. Season with salt to taste.  Serve immediately.

Stir frying nopalitos

You may need to add a little more oil during the stir frying process.

Nopalitos rice stir fry


Nopalitos curried stir fry

I hope you can try this someday!







14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2016 1:28 pm

    Great post!!! If I may, I usually pour oil in the pan first and then cook low and slow whatever powder (even fresh) spices I use. I like this first because it flavors the oil so that when I add the ingredients the flavored/colored oil evenly coats the ingredients. I think it is good as well for activating the chi in the food. This slow infusion of the spices in the oil should be over low heat. No charring. Thank You!

    • June 9, 2016 12:02 am

      Thank you very much Roberto, Yes, I noticed in many recipes, they start with high heat right away. I’m always leery of burning the garlic, onion, shallot and spices. Maybe in a fast food restaurant, where quicker technique is needed for busy nights it makes more sense. Thank you for the comments! You might be interested in books by Grace Young on the tradition of wok cooking.

  2. June 8, 2016 8:28 pm

    What an excellent share Gerard! I am
    humbled with this post. You are an attained chef and very good with experimenting. I can see that this dish went well for a stir fry and looks amazing!
    Thankyou so much for this special post! 😀🙏

    • June 8, 2016 11:53 pm

      Thank you Sonal! Your spice blend is what makes the dish work so well. I’m so glad to have finally been able to work it out….Actually, you’ve been inspirational to me with your fusion of Indian and Tex-Mex! I meant to note that in the post and now have updated. See above. All the breads and flatbreads you make have been an education to me as well! I’m humbled by your beautiful work and the stories behind it.

      • June 9, 2016 8:11 am

        You are a dear friend Gerard and I get inspired by your posts all the time.. The epiphany of the similarities between the cultures, through our posts, tickles me with delight 🙂

    • June 9, 2016 7:27 pm

      Much appreciated Sonal! It’s part of what makes cooking fun and interesting!

  3. June 13, 2016 9:26 pm

    Oh yum! I adore fried rice and this one sounds delish. Love all the ingredients and flavors you used, Gerard!

  4. August 6, 2016 10:17 am

    This fried rice sounds very delicious!!

    • August 6, 2016 7:14 pm

      Thank you very much! I’ve made this a few times already. I’d say curried cactus stir fry is in my repertoire!

  5. January 14, 2017 11:25 am

    Where you been, Gerard?! I hope you’re still reading the comments left on your blog! Just wanted to let you know we’re having Fiesta Friday Healthy Recipe Challenge and I would love for you to participate! Remember you were one of the winners the last time we had a challenge? The Yeast Beast Challenge? 😄😄 Maybe you’ll get lucky again this time and win again! Anyway, I hope you’ll consider participating!

    • January 16, 2017 11:39 pm

      Hi Angie! I don’t know why your message got sent to spam. Thank you for encouraging me to participate in your Healthy Recipe Challenge! Our blog community is the greatest. I hope that I will be able to submit something. Winning a place for the Yeast Challenge is one of my all time fun highlights in my blogging. It’ll be interesting to see what others do for this one. I’ve committed my next post to an interview. It’s taken me a while to get it moving! I hope to get back to posting more regularly soon. Have fun with the Challenge!

      • January 17, 2017 12:34 am

        Sometimes it does that. Maybe your blog stopped recognizing me 😄 I’m glad you found the comment, though. And I really hope you can participate. I look forward to that interview. Who with? So suspenseful! 😄

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