Fried rice is pretty delicious. It’s cooking process allows the rice to be a nice nutty flavor and is one of the best dishes that can utilize a bunch of leftovers, and feel like a whole new dish. My family was really resourceful when it came to cooking rice, so we didn’t usually have any left over. Plus, my mom would always tell me that I had to eat every grain of rice that was in my bowl or my future partner would have pockmarks all over their face. Yeah, old school scare tactics to raise a child. In the off chance that we did have some left over rice, my mom would always make it into a wonderfully fluffy fried rice dish with whatever leftovers, or simple things, she could find in the pantry.
After a couple of years, I started watching how she would make the fried rice. I also discovered the amazing joy of Benihana’s fried rice, and tried to bring some of the fatty goodness techniques in to my own cooking. After years of making fried rice, I’ve learned a few secrets and tips that I felt like I should share. I know, it may seem so simple sometimes, but fried rice is really about balance. You need to make sure there isn’t too much rice, filling, or salt. Each bite has to be perfect, with the right amount of ingredients. Holy cow, I sound like Mr. Miyagi to Daniel Larusso. Yes, you all are my Fried Rice Kids.
Oil: You want to use oil that has a high smoke point and a mild flavor or really intense flavor. Essentially you want to tap into the polar opposites of oils. So no olive oil. Use vegetable oil or canola oil. You can also use some meat fats (the intense flavor oils); lard, rendered Chinese sausage fat, so on. One secret that I learned with Japanese fried rice is that they use butter. If you do, which I recommend trying, mix a little oil with it. It brings up the smoking point, and allows you to have a hotter pan without setting off the smoke alarm or dealing with burnt butter.
Rice: Really, you can use any type of rice as long as it has been cooled completely, like day old rice. You want the grains to be hard and separated easily because you need take a fork to it to loosen up the grains. Long grain rice is probably the standard white rice that most people have; my favorite rice by far is Japanese rice or Jasmine rice. It’s a short grain that just gives it a nice texture. Don’t use sticky rice. Fried sticky rice is something else, and a future post.
Filler: I’ve never had vegetables in my rice. I always thought it was weird when I went to a Chinese fast food place and I would see carrots and peas in my rice. Carrots and shelled peas are not a Chinese vegetable. Just FYI. Usually when I have fried rice, it just has some sort of meat and egg in the dish, nothing else. I like it that way. Use whatever left over meat you have. My mom would also use whatever we had in the pantry. My favorite was this dried pork you get at the Chinese supermarkets. It’s essentially pork jerky but then shredded up. Traditionally it’s eaten with a meal over rice. But I’ve seen my roommate sneak in a few bites from the pantry. It comes in various sizes. Rousong is what it is known as. Wikipedia it or google it to see what it looks like. Then get some. It lasts a while. My mom also sometimes used anchovies or left over fish from the day before. The world is your oyster-but I don’t think you should use oysters-!
Egg: cook the eggs first then mix them in later. Use half the fat/oil and onion or scallion to cook the eggs and give it some extra flavor. This way you ensure flavorful fluffy eggs in you rice. You don’t want your fried rice to be individually coated in egg. It’s not the purpose of the egg.
Ratio: This is important. Many times I have had fried rice at restaurants or at friends houses (you know who you are) where I was eating a stir-fried dish with rice flavor, or just some oily rice. The ratio is key in order to really have great fried rice. Now this is probably not the proper way to write ratios, but…meh…. So for every 1 cup of rice: 1 egg: 1/8 cup filling: 1/8 cup onion/scallion: 1 tbs oil: ½ tbs soy sauce. Ok wait, look at the recipe below and you will figure it out. Obviously the ratio changes when you use things like garlic instead of onion or scallions and if anchovies are used, which my mom does. It’s good. Soy sauce is used for flavor, but mostly for the color. It gives the nice tan/brown color to everything. So it may seem like a little, but you can always add salt to taste.
Have fun with fried rice. Take these tips, and build on them. Come back and comment and tell me what your favorite filling is. I’m looking to try out more.
2 cups of leftover rice, separated with a fork.
2 eggs, scrambled
¼ cup of scallion, minced
¼ cup of rousong
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
cook eggs in a wok or large pan with half the scallions in 1 tbs of oil, transfer to a dish when cooked
heat oil in the same pan on high and lightly sauté scallions
add rice and toss until heated through and nutty aroma is given off, 2 minutes
stir rousong and egg into rice until full incorporated
toss soy sauce into the dish
season with salt to taste