One of the staples of chinese cooking is fried rice. Unfortunately, what we get in
American restaurants when we order fried rice is dreadful stuff. The real thing is
absolutely wonderful – and very different from the American version.
The trick to getting the texture of the dish right is to use leftover rice. Freshly cooked rice won’t work; you need it to dry out bit. So cook some other chinese dish one night, make an extra 2 cups of rice, and then leave it in the fridge overnight. If you can, take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you’re going to cook, to get it to room temperature. Then when you’re ready to start preparing all the ingredients, use your hands to crumble the rice – that is, break up the clumps so that the grains aren’t sticking together.
What I found surprising about real fried rice was that you don’t put any soy sauce into the rice. The rice is the heart of the dish, and you don’t want anything as strongly flavored as soy sauce to disturb the fine, delicate flavor of good rice.
I generally start with around two cups of uncooked rice to make a large portion for four people.
- 2 cups rice (uncooked measure), prepared the day before, and left to stand
- 1/2 large onion, finely diced.
- 1/2lb ground meat. (I use ground chicken thighs; ground pork is more traditional.)
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
- Vegetables (quantity to taste); something like snow peas, green beans, broccoli
florets, etc – something nice and crisp.
- 1 tablespoon finely minced pickled turnip. (You can get this in a chinese grocery
store. If you can’t find it, just leave it out.)
- Salt, to taste. Approximately 1 teaspoon.
- Green parts of two scallions, finely chopped.
- Mix the soy sauce into the ground meat, and let it marinate for a few minutes.
- Heat your wok on high heat, then put in the ground meat and stir-fry until nicely
browned. Then remove the meat, leaving the drippings in the wok.
- Add the onions to the pan, and stir-fry quickly until they start to soften.
- Add the vegetables and turnip, and stir around until the veggies just start to cook.
- Lower the heat to medium, add the rice, sprinkle with the salt, re-add the ground
meat, and continue to stir until the rice is hot and just barely starting to brown.
- Add the scallions, stir one last time, and serve.
This is a recipe that you should feel free to fool around with. It’s pretty versatile. After thanksgiving, I make leftover turkey fried rice; if we buy a roast duck and have leftovers, I make duck fried rice. It also supposedly comes out very well with smoked ham as the meat. One chinese chef even suggested adding finely diced tomatoes to it, which
surprising worked extremely well!
My favorite fried rice is the Thai version which includes diced pineapple.
Alas, I’m violently allergic to pineapple, so I’ve never gotten to taste that.
Try Au Mandarin on Vesey Street. I like their fried rice; all their food is good. Expensive for Chinese food but very good.
I do take out every Friday from them.
I think I’d like this without the pineapple better than with it, anyway. Pineapple is too strong of a flavor for something like this.
On a related note (not), any posts about music anytime soon, Emcee Cee? I’ve been in the mood for something different, but all I’ve got on my is my Clutch music and my remixed game music. Who should I check out?
Shouldn’t 1 be boiled rice prepared the day before and left to stand?
Tomatoes, especially fresh off the vine go well with most anything salad like. Finely chopped in rice and/or noodles with butter makes a pleasant dish on its own.
I would normally add sage as well, pineapple if you like it (I do) and, strange to relate as I like meat, I would forgo the meat.
Fried rice in Japan most often includes a beat-up egg. Pour it in at the same time you add the rice and you’ll “granulize” it to the right size pieces as it sets when you’re stirring the rice and other ingredients.
Of course, the best kind of fried rice I know is what you get in ramen joints, where they use the fried pork (chashu) for meat and the thick ramen sause-base for the flavouring. Hmm, time for a ramen meal tomorrow methinks…
Listen Mark, if the fried rice I have at any number of my usual chinese restaurants is “dreadful stuff”, then I want some of what you’re pushing. I’ll see if I can make it. The rice I usually get is good stuff. Tastes great. I will give it a try. Thanks.
Refrigerate the rice overnight (as Mark says in the text but doesn’t mention again in the recipe) rather than just leaving it to stand, if you are at all concerned about food poisoning.
Rice often contains spores of Bacillus cereus, which survive boiling; if the rice is then left at room temperature the bacterium can grow and produce a toxin, which survives stir-frying. So the end product of the boil-wait-fry process can have the toxin in it even though there are no live bacteria. Refrigerating the rice between boiling and frying stops the bacteria growing.
We tried this meal yesterday. Quite awesome, as always. I like the lighter, delicate flavor. It was far superior to what is normally served in restaurants around here. My wife’s normal version is usually a little bit saltier and has less rice flavor due to the fact that she puts the soy sauce right into the rice. Still, I am suggesting this to my parents as a healthy alternative to the garbage they normally eat. Thanks for posting it, and for the music.
Glad you liked it. I was amazed when I first tried a real fried rice. The stuff I grew up with, and the stuff I made before I learned to do it right both had soy sauce in the rice.
What I didn’t post here is actually my favorite fried rice. Every time we order it in a restaurant, the waiters always talk to my wife in chinese, pointing at me and asking “He’ll eat that?”
It’s not that strange. It’s a chicken and dried fish fried rice. There’s a chinese salted dried fish – similar to the Portugese bacalao, except dried even more. When you get it, it’s hard as a rock, and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. For the fried rice, you take a fairly small piece of it, soak it in water overnight, pick it off the bones, mince it, and fry it. So you have these little pieces of browned very salty fish. Other than that, you do the fried rice recipe pretty much as a described it above, and add the fish at the same time as the cooked meat. It’s amazing stuff, one of my favorite dishes. The problem with it is it’s hard to get the fish – the local chinese grocery doesn’t sell it, so we can only get it from chinatown. Bacalao just doesn’t come out right.
Just so you know Chinese salted fish is carcinogenic.
I concur that this recipe is pretty authentically Cantonese. I normally see it with eggs fried in as well.
Mark in Vancouver BC
I accidentally found out a few months ago that the fried rice is much better behaved if it is “leftover”. Our family’s rice consumption alternates between fresh white-rice meals and day-old fried rice meals.
Thanks for pointing out that the soya sauce should not go into the rice. I am (was) still doing that.
Incidentally, refrigerating the rice is a bit of interesting food chemistry and history:
The starch in the raw rice is “as nature made it,” non-crystalline, and when you cook it, it partly dissolves, forming a sticky gel. Then, when it cools, it does crystallize, binding the grains together, but even if you cook it again, it won’t go back into a sticky state. That gives you the separate texture you’re looking for in the fried rice.
Commercial “converted” or “instant” rice is also cooked, then cooled, then dried. When you re-cook it, it doesn’t stick together, and massive advertising campaigns were needed to convince Americans that this deficiency was actually a FEATURE, and that that’s how rice OUGHT to be. I remember, as a kid, noticing the difference between restaurant rice and my Mom’s.
My favorite version of this is a Thai style (without pineapple). The differences are:
use jasmine rice
squirt some thai fish sauce in your marinade
just before serving, stir in: chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh coriander, a squeeze of lime juice
garnish with chopped peanuts
to really gild the lily, serve with a fried egg on top
one of my favorite meals!
Pretty much anything you like can be added to make fried rice. At home we like fried rice for breakfast so there is always extra steamed rice the night before. The simplest fried I could whip up is just sauteing it in salt. Or just lots of garlic. Just add anything else to make your version.