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Recipe

Create Your Own Fried Rice

It’s easy to find fried rice at your local Chinese restaurant, but in my opinion, making it at home takes it to a whole new level. The method for preparing it is the same every time, but by mixing and matching ingredients, you can customize the flavors to your taste. Plus, it’s the ideal dish for using up whatever leftover tidbits you have in the fridge.

What’s more, fried rice doesn’t have to be Chinese. By simply using different aromatic and condiment combinations, you can give your fried rice a Thai or Korean spin. I’ve included some examples here. Use these as inspiration, or go ahead and improvise some versions of your own. Once you get the hang of it, you may never order fried rice in again.

Before you start, read through all of the steps and be sure to have your ingredients prepped and ready—this is a stir-fry, so the cooking goes quickly.

 

Master Fried Rice Recipe

Yields about 7 cups; serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish

Cook the aromatics

You can use any neutral oil (corn, canola, peanut) to cook the aromatics, or try using pork fat (lard), leftover bacon drippings, or chicken fat. The most common aromatics in Asian cooking are ginger, garlic, and scallions, so I always include them, but don’t be shy about adding others, like minced cilantro stems, galangal, or even chiles.

2 Tbs. neutral oil or fat
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (3 medium)
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 Tbs. minced fresh garlic
Extra aromatics of your choice (see below)


Heat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Add the oil, swirl the wok to coat, and then add the scallions, ginger, garlic, and extra aromatics of your choice. Stir-fry with a metal or wooden wok spatula until fragrant and light golden, 30 to 60 seconds.

 

Extra Aromatics (choose 1 to 2)

 

Minced fresh lemongrass
(1 to 2 Tbs.)

Minced fresh hot red or green chiles
(1 to 2 Tbs.)

Minced fresh cilantro stems (1 to 2 Tbs.)

Diced yellow, red, or white onion (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Add raw proteins

Egg is the most popular protein added to fried rice, followed by chicken and pork, as well as shrimp. You can also skip this step and add cooked meat or poultry. Or skip the meat altogether, and make vegetarian fried rice (with or without tofu, which is another option).

6 to 8 oz. raw proteins of your choice, ground or cut into small dice or thin slivers (1 to 1-1/2 cups)

Add the raw proteins (except the egg, if using) to the wok and stir-fry, breaking up ground meats with the spatula, until almost cooked through. If using egg, push the rest of the ingredients to one side of the wok, and pour the beaten egg into the empty side, stirring until you have large curds of scrambled egg, about 45 seconds.

 

Raw Proteins (choose 1 to 2)

Pork loin or tenderloin

Chicken or turkey breasts or thighs

1 large egg, lightly beaten
Whole small to medium shrimp (up to 41 per lb.), peeled and deveined, halved lengthwise if larger

 

Add long-cooking vegetables and condiments

Dense vegetables take longer to cook, so add them first. Bold condiments go in now, too, to infuse their flavor into everything.

1 cup long-cooking vegetables of your choice
Condiment of your choice

Add the long-cooking vegetables and stir-fry until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the condiments and stir-fry until all of the ingredients are coated, about 30 seconds.

 

Long-cooking vegetables (choose up to 3)

 

Carrots, small dice or thin strip

Green cabbage, shredded

Celery, cut into small dice

Green or Chinese long beans, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

Winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice

Fresh mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced or cut into bite-size pieces

 

Condiments (choose 1)

  • Chinese XO sauce, up to 1 Tbs.
  • Sambal oelek (chili-garlic paste), 1 to 2 Tbs.
  • Sriracha chili sauce, up to 1 Tbs.
  • Nahm prik pao (Thai chili jam), 1 to 2 Tbs.
  • Gochujang (Korean red chili paste), up to 1 Tbs.
  • Chinese black bean garlic sauce, up to 2 Tbs.

Add cooked rice

Any cooked medium or long-grain rice will do, but no matter which type you choose, it must be firm and cold. When cooked rice grains are refrigerated, the starches go through a process called starch retrogradation, which toughens them and helps the rice hold together.

4 cups cold cooked white or brown medium or long-grain rice (from about 2 cups raw rice)

Using your hands or a fork, gently break up any clumps in the rice until the grains are separate. Add the rice to the wok and gently stir-fry, stopping occasionally so the rice has a chance to brown a bit, until it has some crispy edges and is heated through, about 3 minutes. You should hear sizzling during the last minute or so.

White rice

Brown rice


Add seasonings and quick-cooking vegetables

Most traditional Chinese fried rice is seasoned simply with salt, but you can experiment with other seasonings, too, such as pepper, a splash of soy sauce, or a touch of oyster sauce; just don’t make the rice too wet. Since vegetables such as tender greens, crisp snow peas, or sugar snap peas soften quickly, they go in toward the end of cooking.

Seasonings of your choice 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking vegetables of your choice

Sprinkle or drizzle the seasonings over the fried rice. Add the quick-cooking vegetables and stir-fry until softened and brightly colored, 30 to 60 seconds. Taste and adjust the flavor as necessary with more condiments or seasonings.

 

Seasonings (choose up to 3)


Kosher salt
Asian sesame oil (1 tsp.)

Light or dark soy sauce (1 to 2 tsp.)

Fish sauce (1 to 3 tsp.) Freshly ground white or black pepper (a pinch) Finely grated citrus zest (1 to 2 tsp.)

 


Quick-cooking vegetables (choose up to 2; 1-1/2 cups total)
Corn kernels, raw or thawed frozen Peas, raw shelled or thawed frozen
Bok choy or choy sum, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

Snow or sugar snap peas, cut into 1-inch pieces

Sweet bell peppers (any color), cut into 1/4-inch dice

 

Add finishes and serve

Now that the rice is hot and seasoned, the last step is adding any ingredients that just need heating through.

Add your choice of finishes and gently stir-fry until heated through, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer the fried rice to plates or bowls and serve right away.

Finishes (choose 1 to 3)

Cooked meat (pork, chicken, turkey, or duck), diced, cut into small, thin strips, shredded, or thinly sliced (1 to 1-1/2 cups)

Fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, or persimmon), diced (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, or mint), whole or chopped (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Tofu (extra-firm, pressed, baked, or smoked), diced (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Tender vegetables (diced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes) (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

 

Asian flavor boosters

Much of the flavor of your fried rice comes from these delicious condiments. Look for them in well-stocked Asian groceries or online.

Chinese XO sauce: Created in the 1950s at Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel, this sauce’s name, XO, pays homage to Cognac’s designation of “extra old” as a mark of quality. There are many versions today, most containing some or all of the following: dried scallops, dried shrimp, dried chiles, aged ham, shallots, garlic, and oil.

Sambal oelek (chili-garlic paste): Named for the Indonesian word for pestle (ulek ulek), 3 this simple, coarse paste is usually made with raw fresh chiles, garlic, salt, and sometimes lime.

Sriracha chili sauce: Originally hailing from the town of Sriracha on the Gulf of Thailand, this traditional hot sauce is a combination of fresh long red chiles, garlic, fish sauce, salt, water, and vinegar that’s fermented and puréed until very smooth.

Nahm prik pao (Thai chili jam or chili paste in soybean oil): This sweet and salty condiment contains roasted ground dried chiles, dried shrimp, palm sugar, tamarind, fish sauce, shallots, and garlic.

Gochujang (Korean red chili paste): Thick, deep red, sticky, and wonderfully sweet and salty, this Korean chili sauce’s main ingredients are dried chiles and glutinous rice flour; it’s sweetened with rice malt syrup and gets an extra dose of umami from fermented soybean paste.

Chinese black bean garlic sauce: Cooked black soybeans, inoculated with a special strain of rice mold and fermented, are combined with garlic, soy sauce, and a touch of sugar in this tremendously flavorful sauce.

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