Five secrets to fabulous fried rice
Fried rice is a favorite Asian staple, but did you know it works best with cold leftover rice? Here are some helpful hints for making this crowd-pleasing meal at home.
Everyone loves fried rice!Skip to next paragraph
Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Patricia Tanumihardja writes about food, travel, and lifestyle through a multicultural lens and has been published in numerous national and regional publications. Pat is also the creator of the “Asian Ingredients 101” iPhone and Android app, a glossary on-the-go that’s the perfect companion on a trip to the Asian market. Her first book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens, will be available in paperback in September 2012.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
I know, I know, it’s a bold statement to make. I don’t think it’s a stretch though. Just think about the infinite permutations worldwide. Examples include: Indonesian nasi goreng, Thai pineapple fried rice, Filipino garlic fried rice (siningag), and that’s only in Asia! Fried rice is also wildly popular at Asian restaurants, often served with lunch specials and always ordered by my friend, X, who shall go unnamed.
I have a confession to make. Fried rice is the last thing on the menu I’d order when dining out (unless it’s chicken and salted fish fried rice, yum!) for one reason – it’s so very simple to make at home. A quick dig in the fridge for cooked rice, last night’s leftovers and whatever treasures are lurking in the back, and everything comes together in the wok in less than 20 minutes!
Making fried rice is easy in theory, but getting it right does take a little know-how. I don’t know about you but I’ve dished up my fair share of burnt fried rice, clumpy fried rice, and simply not very good fried rice.
After years of experimenting and watching, however, I have to say my fried rice is pretty good. So here are my 5 secrets anyone can pick up and you’ll soon be on your way to making fabulous fried rice.
5 secrets for perfect fried rice
1. Use cold, leftover cooked rice. Left in the fridge overnight, the rice grains will firm up, making it easier to separate and decreasing the chances of your fried rice turning out mushy. If you can’t wait, air freshly cooked rice to remove moisture and refrigerate the rice for a few hours before cooking.
2. Use medium to long grain rice, not short grain sweet/sushi rice or glutinous rice. Medium grain jasmine rice is my choice for fluffy, sturdy grains that don’t clump or fall apart when fried. Short grain rice tends to be softer and to stick together.
3. A blazing hot wok (a wok is ideal but a large pan, skillet, or Dutch oven will do) and an adequate amount of oil will ensure your ingredients don’t stick to the surface. That’s how restaurants achieve the smoky, “burnt” flavor in their stir-fried dishes. Your home stove probably doesn’t have the same BTU strength (unless you have a commercial Viking or Wolf range) but just remember to preheat your wok before adding ingredients.
4. Use the biggest pan available in your kitchen and don’t crowd it with ingredients. Don’t try to cook for your spouse, son, twin daughters, and grandma and grandpa, too. You’ll have rice and peas flying everywhere! Ideally, you should cook one to two servings at a time. My recipe below makes enough for three moderate appetites. When you have too many ingredients, the wok doesn’t get hot enough and your ingredients will get soggy causing the rice to clump together. If you prefer, cook each ingredient individually (raw vegetables or meat, egg) and remove to separate plates. Return all the ingredients to the pan at the end for the final mixing and seasoning.