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what's the secret to making great fried rice

  • l

i love fried rice at thai and chinese restaurants, but can't seem to make it right at home -- either too mushy (too much moisture) or burned on the bottom (if not enough moisture). need help:
- anyone have a great fried rice recipe?
- what kind of wok should i buy? i currently have the thin carbon steel type that's clumsy for me (moves around too much if i don't hold it w/ one hand and bottom burns easily), so am considering purchasing le creuset cast iron or all-clad stainless w/ aluminum core. any thoughts?

the following ingredients produce good flavor (but if only i could get the moisture/texture right):
cold, at least day-old cooked rice
scrambled egg (or substitute)
shrimp, char siu (pork), chicken, or duck (or vegan substitute)
sugar snap or snow peas
onion
mushroom
garlic
soy sauce
oyster sauce
chili pepper flakes
toss in at the end: chopped fresh green onion, cilantro, chives

thanks!

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  1. d
    DodinBouffant

    Without a 140,000 BTU Commercial wok burner it will be difficult at best to make a great restaurant style fried rice. Home burners probably aren't heating up much more than 8 inches or so of the bottom of that wok and once you add any of the cold ingredients it takes far too long for the temperature to recover therefore leaving you with the texture you are not happy with.

    I have had success (granted with small amounts/probably enough to feed four) by lighting a wood fire in my grill with coals deep enough to spread out and then cover 2/3 the surface area(of the bottom) of my wok. I'm guessing I can have hardwood charcoal surface temps of somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 degrees F. for around 10-15 minutes...it's a pain in the ass but it was as close to anything good as I was going to get without installing a commercial wok burner on my porch :) Which still hasn't been totally written out of the picture.

    4 Replies
    1. re: DodinBouffant

      hmm, interesting... thanks!

      1. re: lemonginger

        the simple secret is to use COLD rice

        1. re: beaumont
          d
          DodinBouffant

          Cold rice is definitely an element to success...but let's just say it goes a bit beyond that...

      2. re: DodinBouffant

        I have very good results with a big cast-iron skillet using the slightly oversize burner on my cheapo GE stove. I use, of course, the Joy of Cooking recipe. Plenty of peanut oil -- i use organic cold-pressed because when you open the bottle it makes the whole kitchen smell like roasted peanuts -- scramble the eggs hard first, then remove them and heat up the cold leftover rice, 50/50 brown and white, for about three minutes, stirring. Then add the eggs and maybe a little fresh ginger except the wife won't eat ginger, plus any neat or veg, then scallions in thin diagonal slices. A little soy sauce, and serve. Great every time.

      3. Here are the ingredients to my mom's fried rice, which I think is better than any restaurant's. (also, she makes it in any kind of pan)

        oil for the pan
        day old rice
        chopped shrimp
        scrambled eggs
        char siu
        dark soy sauce for color
        light soy sauce for flavor
        peas
        chopped fresh green onions at the end.

        Good luck!

        1. You have most of the process just right. But if you are not using long grain rice then that may be a problem. Long grain rice is not sticky when cold and is the type used by the Chinese. Also you will need to cook small batches since you stove at home does not have same heat as Chinese restaurants.
          Also you should get the wok really hot before adding the ingredients so that so the wok will not lose it as much heat during the cooking process. Use peanut oil since it has a higher temperature before it starts to smoke. Also expect for the rice the other ingredients could be at room temperature if not warmed.
          Lastly if you have a gas burner on your stove that will help. Electric stoves in the most part are not good for stir frying.

          1. To this non-asian cook, the essentials (in addition to yesterday's cooked rice) are: green peas, and raw carrot - diced approximately pea-sized; one or two eggs, each scrambled raw and quickly cooked like a crepe and rolled up for cutting into shreds; and of course green onion stirred in at the end.

            I saute the carrot in a little oil and it ends up with a marvelous taste. Then add the peas for a quick stir. Remove and continue by sauteeing the meat. If I'm using leftover pork or chicken, I give the little pieces a quick bath of asian BBQ sauce (whatever I have) before sauteeing. Then I add more oil, dump in the rice and the peas and carrots and stir away. If it needs some moisture, I add it near the end. Can be gravy, broth, or some kind of soy-based dipping sauce. The egg and onion get stirred in at the end.

            I think the peas and carrots are the best veggie option for fried rice. They are an appropriate size and shape, tasty, and they add a good color hit.

            BTW, I have a flat-bottom wok since it's the only kind that works on electric burners.

            1. For what it's worth, I get pretty good results making fried rice without a wok. I use a heavy, cast iron skillet, heated sizzling hot, with a coating of peanut oil in the bottom.

              Your ingredients list sounds just right.

              - er

              1. I suspect it's largely a matter of technique. My wife makes decent fried rice with a cheap rolled steel wok on an ancient home gas range. The thin-ness helps the heat transfer, and she will hold the wok with one hand (sometimes manipulating the orientation in synsc with the stirring), so it's good if it's light. One tip is to never use a wok ring, as it keeps the wok too far from the heat. If you have a two-handled wok (as most are) it'll balance just fine on the burner insert.

                Restaurants will sometimes use flaxseen oil (lingan)for that slightly browned effect, but most Chinese home cooks I know eschew it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gary Soup

                  I can't change from an electric stove yet, but I turn the heat up high & keep the ingredients moving. Personally I like to add some chili oil and the sesame oil to the egg and add that when the rice has been thoroughly heated through.

                2. Most of the advice below is right on. Two more suggestions...when you cook your rice intended for fried rice, cook in chicken broth with oil or chicken fat. This coats the cold rice with some fat. Tends to keep the grains apart. Secondly, I use thai fish sauce to add a finishing touch and some moisture at the end of cooking. Skip if you can't take the smell, but it sure adds a lot. Use soy sparingly.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jim H.

                    I'll try that fish sauce tip sometime. Usually I finish with a dash of sesame oil, which also adds welcome fragrance. I'll second your advice on the soy sauce. Go easy on it.

                    Often I'll soak a couple of dried mushrooms, slice them and toss 'em into the wok fairly early on. Save the soaking water, and sprinkle some in later if the rice is getting too dry.

                  2. I don't think the other posters posted this tip. But you would get better result if you use old rice that's been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days.
                    The moisture conent in old rice makes it not as sticky when you stir fry. Make sure you use enough oil to coat the grains, and try to move it around constently.
                    If you want to add eggs (which I think adds better flavor) you need to stir fry the rice until the eggs are throughly incorporated and dried out. It might look mushy at first, but don't worry, keep stirring and eventually the mixture will dry up and be more fried-rice-like.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Wendy Lai

                      Your first suggestion is right on the mark. Fully cook your rice the day before use, spread out the grains on a cookie sheet that fits your fridge, this will remove the excess moisture.

                      1. re: Letsplay1

                        Absolutely. The rice must be cooked a day or two before frying it. Otherwise you will assuredly haave gummy fried rice.

                    2. Stir fry the ingredients separately. I use a flat-bottomed non-stick wok and follow the following steps:
                      - Scramble the egss (maybe with some green onions)
                      - Stir fry the raw veggies until "al dente" (green peas or broccoli florets)
                      - Add cooked diced meat/shrimp (I tend to use diced ham and/or shrimp)
                      - Stir fry cold day-old rice until softened with a dash of soysauce, then stir in other ingredients. Cook for another few minutes.

                      1. I take cold leftover rice and toss it with some oil, salt, white pepper, and chopped scallion before stir-frying. I think this helps keep the grains separate and gets all of the rice seasoned evenly. (Since I store my leftover rice in ziploc baggies, I just dump oil, s&p, scallion directly in that and squish it all together directly in the bag.) It takes too much soy sauce to make the rice taste seasoned enough for my tastes and by that point I have added too much liquid and darkened the grains undesirably so I generally only use salt. If I do use any soy sauce, it is for flavor only, not seasoning.

                        I think your carbon steel wok is probably fine, but do very small batches at a time; I probably max out about 2 cups per batch. Pre-heat the pan to smoking hot FIRST, then add the oil, and then the ingredients. A little sear on the rice is fine, desirable even. I constantly alternate between tossing the rice around and pressing it against to side of the wok to get a good balance of sear without burning.

                        Other ingredients are negotiable, though I almost always put in some egg. I stir fry the egg separately first, since I like to see bigger chunks of yellow in my fried rice. The other ingredients are pre-cooked too, though for me fried rice is a vehicle for leftovers so it does not usually involved that much prep of the other ingredients. One combo I really like is chinese sausage (the mildly sweet kind) with slivers of bok choy.