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!