|Don't know what to have for dinner? Take a look in your refrigerator and you will probably find the ingredients to make fried rice, an Asian staple that is both delicious and simple to prepare. This popular dish is the perfect way to use up old leftovers. In fact, day old rice is preferable to fresh. The firmness and dryness of cold rice makes grains easier to separate and prevents your dish from becoming a mushy mess. The preparation is easy: just combine rice and egg with any meat and vegetables you have sitting in your fridge and season to taste. You'll have a tasty dish in minutes! Since the beginning of rice cultivation around 4,000 BC, rice has been an important part of Asian culture.
In the Chinese language, the word for “cooked rice” and “meal” are one and the same. In China, particularly in the southern regions, rice is usually served with every meal and is always included in lunch and dinner. While fried rice is a common dish in China, the pork fried rice we are familiar with is much more popular in Chinese-American restaurants. The American version includes more soy sauce, as well as a larger proportion of meat. In China, pork would be used sparsely, almost as a seasoning, but in America, it is a main component of the meal. Home cooked Chinese fried rice may have some light soy sauce, but the main seasoning is salt.
While fried rice is a relatively simple meal, there is still much debate over what constitutes the “perfect” fried rice. The ideal result would be light and fluffy, so that it is easy to eat with chopsticks. Most would say that leftover rice is better, but some still prefer fresh. Many Chinese maintain that Americans add far too much soy sauce. While the majority of recipes call for long-grain rice, some favor medium or short-grained rice for its richer, sweeter flavor. The ingredients of fried rice also differ by region. Northern regions tend to include ham and green onions, while Cantonese versions often have more exotic ingredients, like shrimp or barbequed pork. There are also Thai and Vietnamese adaptations.
*Rice should be thoroughly cool, preferably cold. Leftover rice works best, since excess moisture has been removed and grains are easier to separate. Dryer grains means the oil can coat their surface more easily, so rice becomes less sticky. Fresh made rice can cause your dish to be mushy.
*Make sure your wok and oil are hot. If the oil is not hot enough, your rice may become saturated. Fried rice should not be greasy; it should have a light, smoky flavor.
*Make sure your ingredients are not too moist or saucy. Having dry rice is not enough. If you add vegetables or meat covered in sauce, your dish can still become mushy.
Browse Mrs. Lin's Kitchen to find many of the tools and ingredients you will need to create your own fried rice dish. Need a pan? Try our 14 Inch Non-Stick Carbon Steel Wok Set. We also have a variety of cookbooks, such as Healthy Wok and Stir-Fry Dishes.
Below are several recipes for fried rice, all with subtle variations. Pick your favorite, or combine them for your own special take on this traditional dish:
Traditional Mandarin Fried Rice (from Blue Ginger: East Meets West- Cooking with Ming Tsai)
4 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 la chang (Chinese sausage), cut into 1/8-inch dice, or 4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts chopped and reserved separately
5 cups cold cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon white pepper
Salt, if needed
Heat wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the eggs, which will puff up. Allow to set, about 5 seconds, and using a wok spatula or similar tool, push the sides of the egg mass toward the center to allow uncooked egg to reach the pan and solidify. Flip the mass, allow it to set, about 5 seconds, and slide it onto a dish; do not overcook. With the edge of the spatula, break the 4eggs into small pieces. Set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the la chang, the white parts of the scallions, and the rice and toss thoroughly until heated through. Add the soy sauce, pepper, and reserved eggs and toss. Correct the seasonings, adding the salt if necessary, transfer to a platter, and garnish with the scallion greens. Serve immediately.
Tasty Pork Fried Rice (from Ken Hom's Easy Family Recipes From a Chinese-American Childhood)
3 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
½ pound pork shoulder
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup bean sprouts
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Keep rice in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Cut the port into 1 inch long by 1/8 inch thick strips. Mix the pork with the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the sesame oil and salt, and set aside.
Heat wok or deep frying pan until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. When hot, toss in pork and stir fry for 1 minute. Remove pork with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil. When hot, pour in egg mixture and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the cold rice and stir fry for 5 minutes over high heat. Add the scallions, lettuce, bean sprouts, and pork. Continue to stir fry for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
For a more modern take, try the recipe below:
My Favorite Fried Rice (From Susanna Foo's Chinese Cuisine: The Fabulous Flavors & Innovative Recipes of North America's Finest Chinese Cook)
Serves 4 as main course or 8 as side dish
2 cups medium- or short-grain white rice, washed and drained
5 tablespoons corn or olive oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup diced red onion
1 cup diced Canadian bacon*
½ cup cooked fresh or frozen, thawed, peas
½ cup fresh or frozen, thawed, white or yellow corn kernels
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup diced, seeded tomato (1 large)
2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Cook rice in rice cooker, set aside.
Heat 4 tablespoon of oil in a large, nonstick skillet until hot. Add eggs and cook over medium heat until lightly set. Stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break the eggs into tiny pieces. Continue to cook, stirring, until the eggs are lightly browned and their aroma is released, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a small bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the same skillet, add the onion and cook over high heat until soft and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the bacon, peas, corn, and scallions and stir-fry until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomato and sprinkle with the salt. Stir in the cooked rice and the egg, breaking up any lumps. Mix well and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper and stir in basil.
*Chicken, shrimp, or ham can be substituted
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