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What's fried rice to you?

Just bought a plate of fried rice and I got to wondering how many different kinds are represented on Chowhound. The one I just bought was cooked on a street cart in Beijing, with a good inch of oil in the bottom of the wok. It has finely chopped egg and carrot, shredded cabbage, cucumber, and scallion. Other seasonings are chili oil, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and some brown powder which I *think* is 5-spice. The whole thing ends up being a toasty brown-orange color and the flavor comes more from the wok hei and hot oil than from any of the ingredients.

Our family Taiwanese fried rice is very different because it's made in a skillet on a home stove. The rice is fried separately from the egg, carrot, scallions, peas, and char siu pork and everything is combined at the end so you get larger chunks of scrambled egg and more distinct ingredient flavors. Also we never use any seasonings but salt and pepper; soy sauce never touches it so stays pretty white.

So just for fun describe your typical fried rice and where it comes from.

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  1. Sorry to say this, but the Beijing street cart version of fried rice sounded disgusting. I usually liked all kinds of fried rice, and your family recipe sounded close to the Yangzhou fried rice which I absolutely adore.

    My personal fave recipe was from Thailand - the main ingredients are eggs, very fresh de-shelled shrimps, spring onions, shallots and fresh crabmeat (optional).
    First, you scramble-fry some eggs in vegetable oil in a hot skillet. Remove the eggs, then fry the shrimps before removing & setting aside for later. Add more oil to the skillet (to supplement the flavored/scented oil used earlier), then fry the rice. Season with salt & pepper - just like you, I NEVER add any soysauce. A bit of sugar is also added. Finally, add finely-chopped spring onions, and the cooked eggs & shrimps. Steamed de-shelled fresh crabmeat and be added lastly. A good fried rice, IMO, should never be oily, and should be fluffy, with a nice subtle fragrance.

    The Thais also use a similar recipe for fried rice with pork, where you subsititute the shrimps with thinly-sliced pork, and slices of fresh tomatoes to be fried with the rice,

    3 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Yeah the street cart rice is not my favorite. They have good wok technique but the ingredients are sometimes... questionable.

      Your Thai version sounds pretty great. Can you share the Yangzhou recipe?

      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        The Yangzhou fried rtice recipe I used is almost exactly like your family Taiwanese family, except that I don't use carrots, and shrimps plus soysauce are also added.

        1. re: RealMenJulienne

          Yangzhou fried rice is the standard of all standard fried rice. Search it online and you will see. It is actually invented in Canton not Yangzhou.

      2. All that's technically needed for fried rice to be fried rice is...rice stir-fried in oil. The rest is just personal preference or ingredient availability for me.

        I almost always put these three ingredients in my fried rice: garlic, soy sauce, egg, ground white pepper, sesame oil, onion, at least one other vegetable, some sort of meat.

        Sometimes I splash a bit of shaoxing wine near the end along with the sesame oil. Gives it a nice depth of flavor. My mother likes splashing a bit of fish sauce at the end. Meat is basically anything I have available (including Spam), but I prefer chicken of any kind. Vegetables...peas are a favorite.

        Just a basic fried rice, not from any region of China, really. Very peasant-based, I guess you can say? In the sense that I'm usually just trying to use up a few ingredients/leftovers and not actively shopping and planning on making it most of the time.

        1. This may sound strange, but the best fried rice I have ever eaten was at a Chinese buffet on the outskirts of Pamplona in Spain.

          It was made with Spanish rice, Spanish ham, peas, carrots & onions all fried in good Spanish olive oil. It was so, so, so good. The best of 2 worlds. Once I discovered it I totally ignored the rest of the buffet and regretted all the other things I had already eaten because they left less room for the fried rice. I want to go back to Spain just to eat this again.

          7 Replies
            1. re: Ferdzy

              Eating at a Chinese buffet in Spain? I like your style.

              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                Sounds risky to me. The WORST Chinese food I have ever had in my entire life was in Liverpool, England. A much raved about (by the locals) Chinese restaurant where every vegetable was boiled for an hour before reaching your plate. Caveat emptor indeed!

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Couldn't have been as bad as the Chinee food I once had in Silver City, New Mexico. Boy, that was BAD.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Well, we were desperate. The Spanish are not great at serving green vegetables in restaurants, and so we thought, "Chinese food? The Chinese do green vegetables. We could get some!" But just as you found that the Liverpool restaurant had adapted their vegetable cookery to the local taste, so had the Pamplona restaurant adapted their cookery to the local taste. For example, they served zucchini but it had all been carefully peeled to be devoid of the slightest hint of green. Most of the buffet consisted of big heaps of nicely grilled pork products.

                    Later on in our trip we found a health food store and it had BROCCOLI! We took it back to the kitchen in our hostel, and when I pulled it out of the bag everyonr in the room inhaled... I thought for a moment I was going to be mugged for my broccoli, but then people remembered they were supposed to be pilgrims and decorum prevailed.

                    1. re: Ferdzy

                      Ha ha ha. That is a good story. I didn't know greens are not popular in Spanish restaurants.

                      1. re: Ferdzy

                        The food items from home that you can develop wild craving for while abroad can be puzzling and amazing. When I lived in Turkey, I developed a serious need for glazed donuts. When I lived in Greece, it was a cheapie Happy Meal McDonald's hamburger with the little diced onions. When I got back to the U.S. one glazed donut was the perfect cure. And I went to McDonald's and bought a BAG of those little burgers. Taking them home and freezing them was all I needed for that cure. Now I'm thinking if I ever go to Spain, a couple of small cans of spinach or green peas in the corner of my suitcase might not be a bad idea... '-)

                2. Your Taiwanese fried rice sounds close to what I like in an ideal fried rice: large chunks of vegetables, eggs and char siu and a balance between salty, smokey and sweet. Of course more typically I make Filipino fried rice by sauteeing leftover jasmine rice in hot oil with garlic and eggs, occassionally augmenting it with soy sauce, vegetables, scallions, leftover meat and sesame oil.

                  Your topic was also the source of much conversation earlier this year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7324...

                  1. I don't usually like restaurant fried rice- it's always too oily for me. I make it at home with leftover white or brown rice and a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil. I use frozen shelled edamame or peas, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Sometimes I add in shredded carrots or scallions.

                    1. Your second option is far closer to what I prepare, but I do use a substantial amount of soy sauce. And no peas for me, please. Bamboo shoots instead.

                      1. My local Chinese does a terrific Ten Ingredients fried rice....nice and greasy, tons of flavor and, according to my nutritionist, extremely healthy.

                        1. Rice, diced pieces of Chinese sausage, flakes of dried scallop, threads of egg, finely chopped scallions, oil - maybe a hint of toasted sesame oil and ginger. No soy sauce, please (I like soy sauce, but not in cooking fried rice to any noticeable degree).

                          1. when i lived in korea the little restaurant downstairs delivered. they made the best kim chee fried rice. the rice was fried dark, with soy sauce, a variety of vegetables depending on what he had on hand (carrots, onion, peas, green beans, mushrooms, you never knew), scrambled egg, garlic, and chopped up kim chee. Great hangover food.

                            Japanese fried rice, at least that I have seen is more gently fried, and the egg is mixed into the dish in a way that it coats the grains of rice, rather than being in pieces. Not as good to me, but I suspect if I had spent a couple of years in Japan instead of Korea...... Indonesian fried rice is really good too.

                            1. I consider mine Irish fried rice, not because it has any Irish ingredients, but because it's how my mom would make it. Oil in pan..fry up scrambled eggs then remove. Add minced ginger and garlic to the oil, add whatever meat is available, handful of frozen peas, heat through. Toss in the leftover chinese takeout rice and enough soy sauce to turn it a light beige color. At the end stir in sliced green onions, chopped egg, and garnish with dark seasame oil.

                              1. Here's a previous discussion with a similar theme.

                                But to answer your question, I have two current favorites.

                                1. Made with scrambled eggs, peas, carrots, diced Spam and ketchup.
                                2. Made with Chinese pork floss and drizzled with raw egg whites just before plating.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  My favorite is a variation of your #1. Peas, carrots, onions, spam, potatoes and ketchup topped with an omelet.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    SPAM fried rice is a favorite around my house. My kids have figured out just how easy it is to make, so they're self-sufficient on that front. Instead of scrambled eggs, a sliced-up omelet goes in at the end. And no ketchup - Sriracha! Be sure to brown the SPAM chunks 'til they're nice and crispy, too...

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      ketchup? in fried rice? perish the thought
                                      sriracha, sure (or tabasco in a pinch)

                                      and yes, spam should definitely be treated like bacon. cook till crisp.

                                  2. It would probably be better if I just went to another thread and talked about something else, but since you asked... I have ALWAYS been puzzled over the attraction of and to fried rice. I know people who go to restaurants and only order fried rice. I do on occasion make it at home for guests. I include ham, sliced green onions, water chestnuts and probably sliced celery. A strong preference for celery in Chinese food is a sign of age. It was standard fare in Chinatown, San Francisco up through the mid 1950s. Oh, and a bit of red and green bell pepper in my fried rice for color. I have NEVER had restaurant fried rice worth writing home about, even as a kid in SF Chinatown's best restaurants.

                                    For me, it's a problem of what you do with the fried rice once you get it. I never ever go to a Chinese restaurant or cook Chinese food at home and just order/serve ONE dish. To me, that's about as Chinese as a bowl of borscht. I like plain white rice with my meal. EVERYTHING goes with it! Even fried rice, if it's forced on me. And it helps cut the oiliness.

                                    See? I told you I should go chat in another thread! |-(

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      I agree that fried rice isn't part of a sit-down-with-friends type of meal. But it makes a great brunch or late-night snack for one or two people. Quick, easy, tasty - what's not to like?

                                    2. i love fried rice, but i never order it in restaurants. it's funny that this was posted recently- i was going to make some and had everything ready to go and then realized that the egg lady was sick yesterday and we didn't get eggs before the weekend. and after read 'eating animals' i am on a poultry strike. but i digress...
                                      the first time i visited maui, i fell in love with hawaii fried rice. for me, that's white rice, spam, longaniza (not necessary) green onions, carrots peas and corn, and shoyu. with egg.
                                      in alaska, i love it with the following subs- no spam, no sausage, instead dungeouness crab and fresh shrimp...
                                      i have such a craving:(

                                      1. Big debate in our family. I grew up w/ chunks of eggs and whatever leftovers there were. My husband grew up w/ the egg mixed into it so it coats the rice and it always has spam. What kind of Chinese family uses spam, if they didn't come via Hawaii??? But then again, my mom makes ketchup fried rice w/ a round thin egg crepe topped over it. In other words, there is no standard.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: chowser

                                          A Chinese family that realizes that Spam is pretty cheap and tasty and the perfect meat to put into fried rice, or just eat with regular jasmine white rice because it cuts the saltiness?

                                          It might not be super popular on the Mainland, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it's very common for the Chinese diaspora (esp. in the Euro-influenced areas) like it was with my Chinese family.

                                          The great thing about "Chinese food" outside of China is that there is always the use of local ingredients that aren't common in China itself.

                                        2. My favorite version is my grandmother's which is very simple but brings back memories; she fries egg, scallions, onions,maybe some garlic before she adds day-old rice, then some soy sauce or ketchup, the latter being my favorite.

                                          The only time I've brought myself to ordering fried rice at a restaurant was at a Thai place and it was pretty tasty: it was jasmine rice fried with Thai basil, garlic, fish sauce, pineapple, marinated beef, and I vaguely feel like there was a subtle keffir lime flavor in there too.

                                          1. thats funny Caroline1 - as Chinese as borscht because in Hong Kong a tomato cabbage soup referred to as borscht is a common soup of the day offering and shows up in home kitchens too. Nina Simonds refers to luo song tong, Russian style soup, in her Classic Chinese Cuisine.
                                            My favourite fried rice in Hong Kong was a specialty of one of the outlying islands, fresh diced chicken and salt fish with shredded lettuce. Peas and green onion in there too, if I remember. Never oily. Only an anchovy lover could go for this one!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: brap

                                              I was thinking of beet borscht, my favorite kind. And that just triggered another thought. I don't recall ever tasting, seeing or hearing of any classic Chinese dishes that contain red beets, including fried rice. So I googled "Chinese beet recipes," and it immediately assumed a type-o and asked if I meant "Chinese beef recipes." A deeper search brought up some promises of Chinese beet recipes, but other than something by Heloise (not exactly a renowned Chinese chef) the promises went unfulfilled. Or maybe I caught Google on a coffee break? Curious. Beet red fried rice, anyone? We can start a new trend.

                                            2. Any rice fried in oil is fried rice. However, in my mind, the standard fried rice dishes are 1) high heat fried rice 2) fried using long grain rice, 2) egg goes into wok before the rice, 3) the finished fried rice to be fluffy and separated, not stick together.

                                              Yangzhou Fried Rice, and Salty Fish and Chicken Fried Rice are examples of what I consider as standard fried rice.

                                              1. Generally depends on what I have available and/or on my mood.

                                                For stuff I make, eggs are always a component; garlic sometimes, usually NOT. Meats range from shrimp (rare) to chicken/pork/roast duck leftovers; seldom beef; but ground chuck or sirloin goes in sometimes. Usually only one kind of meat at a time. The eggs can be scrambled in together with the rice (fry the meat, veggie, toss in the rice, toss around, break the eggs straight onto the rice, 'scramble & toss'; at other times the eggs are broken into the wok/pan after the meat/veg is stir-fried (more oil as needed), scrambled lightly then the rice dumped in and tossed) or beaten separately in a bowl and fried with plentiful oil to give a plain 'omelette' which is then chopped up and added to the fried rice (with other stuff in it) at the end. Veggies range from chopped scallions or celery to shredded cabbage to kale to collards to lettuce (yum! but you need to be quick and careful w/ that last one because it can turn into a soggy mess) etc etc. Peas on occasion. Carrots - I've never used it in my fried rice. Seasoning is simply salt and the 'wok hey'. Soy sauce - NEVER EVER. Pepper, rarely.

                                                A simple version I like when I'm feeling under the weather or when I want a very clean tasting one is simply hot oil, salt, chopped celery, scrambled eggs, rice.

                                                I generally stay away from "fried rice" in most Chinese-American restaurants in the US, except for places which I know will serve me proper stuff rather than the Americanized soy-sauce drenched rubbish so common here - and even then it is only on occasion. Stuff in proper Chinese restaurants is OK, but also rarely ordered.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: huiray

                                                  I agree. I never use soy sauce in my fried rice. Well, I should never say never. I will say I have yet to put soy sauce in my fried rice. In fact, there are several fried rice dishes which you should not put soy sauce. Salt and white pepper.

                                                2. This caucasian's notions of proper Chinese food were formed starting in 1960 in SF's Chinatown, which was within walking distance of my pad for when I wanted something fast, cheap, and exotic.

                                                  So -- proper fried rice must contain scrambled egg, diced carrot (sauteed from raw), peas, green onion, and meat (preferably Chinese BBQ pork) or shrimp. Other stuff is welcome, too.

                                                  1. The fried rice recipe many of us on the COTM threads loved was a Vietnamese version which did not incorporate egg. The ingredients are: chopped onion & garlic, ketchup, fish sauce, salt & sugar, cooked rice, and scallion with a garnish of cilantra/coriander. The stir fry medium is... butter. Some folks would order a take-away of Chinese rice just to make this. It comes from Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table"... pg. 137

                                                    Here's a link to the reports. Good & bad.