Fried rice is not rocket science, it is not that difficult to go wrong unless you’ve never picked up a wok and a spatula in your life. I was watching Masterchef last night to see the contestants cooking fried rice was hair-pulling frustrating. I was gobsmacked to see so many people still can get it wrong. If you want to make a good fried rice, here are a few points that I think will help you to wok up a mean fried rice in no time.
1. Day-old steamed jasmine rice
For Chinese style fried rice, best to use fragrant jasmine rice. It is important to cook the rice a day ahead and store in the fridge overnight and use it the day after for frying. It is because fresh cooked jasmine rice will be fluffy, soft and sticky because of its high starch content and too much moisture. So leave the cooked rice in the fridge overnight and it will dry out a little, you should now be able to separate each grain of rice easily without them sticking to each other. It will probably set in a big clump of rice overnight, just use a wooden spatula to break them apart before cooking.
2. Mise en place
Like cooking anything really, it is important to have all your ingredients prepped and ready. Chinese cooking style of “stir fry” is all about fast and furious, once you heat up the wok, it is a matter of chucking everything in one after another within a short timeframe and have everything cooked and mixed within minutes. So make sure to have all lip cheong sliced, carrot chopped, sauces all lined up on the bench and everything to go. For fried rice, I also prefer to chop my vegetable like carrot a little smaller and all in same sizes for even cooking, it can be unpleasant to crunch on big cubes of raw carrot.
3. Wok Hay
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about the “breath of wok” all the time. The flame from the gas has to be fierce like Beyonce, the wok needs to be smoking hot but honestly, most household gas hobs will never achieve that result, but we try our best. While you may not able to get that “wok hay” aroma/flavour infused into your fried rice, but a hot wok does prevent a disaster to happen. Since the day-old rice is going to be cold out from the fridge, the temperature of the wok will drop significantly when you dump the cold rice into it. Hence, you want the wok to be as hot as possible to compensate the sudden temperature drop. Usually you can tell whether your wok is hot enough or not by looking at how the “rice dancing”, you should be able to see a few grains of rice dancing up and down, that means your wok is still coping and you may continue with the stir fry by start adding soy sauces.
4. Never add water
When you start stir frying the rice, all just seems a bit dry and everything starts to stuck on the wok and burnt, so you start to add water hoping to stop it from burning further and try to scrape the charred bit off the wok. Well, don’t. You will just make it worse by adding water, remember there are already liquid content in the fried rice from the soy sauces and also the steam and condensation from the cold rice when it hits the hot wok. Best thing to do is to lower the heat immediately, scrape off the burnt bits ( I particularly love the burnt bits) and give it a quick stir. I tend to push the rice a side in the wok, drizzle a bit more oil then crack an egg straight into the wok, and cover it up with the rice and let it cook. The egg and the extra oil will lubricate the rice eventually and hopefully it will stop the rice from sticking to the wok. If you must, splash a few more sloshes of soy sauces or put your hand under running water from the tap then flick the water onto the rice and let it cook.
5. Your own signature fried rice
It is difficult to say what you can or can’t put in a fried rice. You can add as little or as many ingredients to your fried rice, depending on how you going to eat it of course. Personally, I keep my fried rice simple with just egg, peas, carrot and soy sauces, if I am going to have it as a staple to compliment the other dishes at the table. If on a lazy weekend and all I want is a big bowl of fried rice, then yes, I will add as many of my favourite ingredients, tsjuzes it up and call it a meal on its own. Nasi Goreng for instance, love adding a fried egg on top and let the yolk oozes out and coat the fried rice beneath, heaven. As you can see my version of fried rice below is tsjuzed up with fancy ingredients like scallops and tobiko roe, I can already see Kylie Kwong is rolling her eyeballs behind them black frame glasses and the frown on her forehead now resembles the Chinese character of number 8 – 八.
I hope my little insights on how to make a good fried rice will inspire you to heat up the wok this weekend and hopefully no more sad soggy fried rice!
Billy’s special fried rice
(Recipe from “Have You Eaten?” cookbook, order here)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 lap cheong (Chinese sausages), thinly sliced
6 scallops, roe removed, cut into small cubes
2 eggs, mixed with 3 tablespoons water, lightly beaten
750 g (1 lb 10 oz/4 cups) cold cooked jasmine rice (see notes)
150 g (5 oz/1/2 cup) frozen peas
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy caramel
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
20 g (3/4 oz) tobiko roe (see notes)
1. Heat half of the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the lap cheong and scallops and stir-fry for 1 minute until the sausages are slightly crisp and the scallops are just cooked through. Remove and set aside.
2. Heat the remaining oil in the same wok over high heat. Pour in the egg mixture and leave to fry on one side. While the egg is still a little runny on top, add the rice, peas and carrot to cover the egg, then turn the heat down to medium. Give everything a gentle stir with a spatula, so that some of the rice will be coated with fried egg. Add the soy sauce, dark soy caramel, sesame oil and white pepper, and stir-fry until the rice is well coated. Return the lap cheong and scallops to the wok, toss to combine, then remove the wok from the heat.
3. Place the tobiko roe in the bottom of a large serving bowl, then fill the bowl to the brim with the fried rice. Place an upside-down serving plate over the bowl, then carefully pick up both the plate and bowl and flip it over. Remove the bowl.
Note – cook the jasmine rice a day early. Let it cool then store them inside the fridge to let some of the moisture dry out overnight.