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Fried Rice is the result when steamed or boiled rice are fried in oil or animal fat. For practical reasons, the Chinese first used this method to preserve and recycle leftover steamed rice for consumption. Nowadays, several varieties of fried rice are enjoyed throughout the world.
Making fried rice seems simple and easy. When asked as to how this is done, you might say “heat some oil and fry the steamed rice then add the other ingredients that you have”. While this statement is true, there are more things to consider that may help you make the best possible outcome out of what you have.
A friend approached me a week ago asking for some advice on how to make fried rice similar to the ones bought from Chinese take-outs. He tried making one the night before but the outcome was not satisfactory; the rice was clumped and it had a soft and sticky texture. So, I gave him some pointers which I learned from my past mistakes (sometimes we need to commit mistakes to be able to understand the right thing; it’s okay as long as we learned something from it). Here is what I told him:
1. Choose the appropriate rice variety
The variety of rice that you will use can make or break your expectations. Can you still recall how the fried rice that you ordered in the Chinese restaurant looks like? Notice how loose each grain was? Determining the texture of each rice grain is one way to examine the quality of your fried rice. Based on my experience, sushi or calrose rice, Jasmine rice, and other rice with soft and sticky texture when cooked do not make good fried rice. Using rice varieties with firm texture will likely give you good results. The two varieties that worked well for me are Mexican rice (the one used to make burrito) and Sinandomeng. You may want to check my post on Garlic Fried Rice recipe wherein I used day-old Jasmine rice. The recipe was superb though the rice was sticky (even if I followed the next pointer #2). This mistake lead me to experiment more and come-up with this article.
2. Prepare the rice before frying
Making the rice ready before frying is a smart move. The ideal rice that we need to use should have a firm outside texture. Using day-old rice is a good idea but it will be better if the rice is placed in a Ziploc or similar plastic container and refrigerated. You may also put the rice in the freezer and thaw it before frying. Since making fried rice involves cooking oil and other liquid seasonings (depending on the recipe), having a firm textured rice means less liquid is absorbed. This avoids the possibility for the rice to soften and become sticky. If in case you want to make fried rice from newly steamed rice, you don’t need to wait a day pass by. One proven technique is the use of baking sheet or aluminum foil. Simply place the hot rice on a baking sheet or aluminum foil and set aside until room temperature is achieved then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Also, make sure to loosen the rice before frying. This can be done by lightly pressing the plastic container until clumped is loose.
3. Ensure that your wok or frying pan is hot enough
It is important that heat is well distributed in the wok or frying pan that you are using. Since frying rice requires the maximum heat available, having enough heat on the pan makes the grains equally cooked.
4.Perform the proper stirring/tossing technique
Frying rice requires the proper stirring technique (or tossing) to preserve the shape and texture of the grain; this also prevents the rice from sticking. The proper way of stirring the rice is to push the spatula downwards (45 degree angle) until the bottom of the pan is reached. You need to scrape the rice that is stuck on the bottom of the pan and toss so to evenly mix all the ingredients. Do not press the rice with the spatula.
5. Prepare other ingredients beforehand
The ingredients that you will use depends on the fried rice recipe that you are doing. Here are the rules that I practice:
- Meat – This pertains to pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, scallops, and even tofu (if required). When using raw meat, make sure to first cook the meat before putting-in the rice. Through this method, the rice won’t get overcooked and excess liquid from the meat (that may soften the rice) will evaporate before the rice can absorb it.
- Vegetables– Raw vegetables also need to be cooked beforehand for the same reason as raw meat. If you are using packed frozen vegetables, you need to thaw them first and drain excess water.
- Eggs – There are different ways to prepare the eggs. You may cook the eggs separately then dice or shred it before adding to the rice. The best time to add this is when the rice is almost done. Another way is to use the egg as binder. Beaten eggs are cooked while the rice is fried; eggs are usually placed in the middle of the cooking process.
- Seasonings – There are some fried rice recipe that require the use of liquid seasonings such as soy sauce. I usually pour the liquid seasoning on the side of the hot wok so that it will be enough when then bottom of the pan is reached. This also helps loosen stuck rice on the bottom of the pan.
Do you have other pointers to add? Please let me know.