tips for asian style rice
I'm assuming you're talking about fried rice?
I attempted it many times, all without much success until I followed this recipe: http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-m..., which turned out to be a super winner and the video was perfect for me.
I learned one other thing, don't skimp on the oyster sauce. The oyster sauce is what adds the perfect flavor.
There are huge differences in the rice varieties and the cooking techniques used in Asia. You might want to look at the threads from the June COTM, Seductions of Rice, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/787689, or get the book, it is a great primer on the different rices of the world and how they are cooked.
Very roughly speaking, the rice typically served at a Northeast Asian (i.e. Japanese, Korean) restaurant in the US is likely to be a short or medium grained Japanese style rice, the rice served in a Southeast Asian Restaurant (i.e. Thai, Malaysian, ) is often a long grained Jasmine rice, the rice in Sub-continent (i.e. Indian, Pakistani) style restaurants is often a long grained Basmati. Chinese restaurants in the states vary a lot with some serving Jasmine and others medium grained rice. Laotian and Cambodian restaurants will tend to offer sticky rice. Each type of rice has different cooking requirements, not to mention lots of variation in the cooking depending on personal taste, equipment available and etc.
Anyway, next time you have rice that you like at a restaurant, why not compliment them on it, and ask what type of rice/brand they use? And then take it from there.
:) Unfortunately, there isn't one style of Asian rice. Now, I read that you said Chinese restaurants. Cantonese restaurants tend to use long grain rice, and Jasmine rice is very popular. They are not what you describe. Well-made Chinese style long grain rice is on the dried side compared to American style cooking, and they are more individual and less sticky. So I am guessing that you mean more of shorter grain and slightly sticky rice. There are few brands which you can buy in the USA.
The popular ones are: Kokuho Rose and Nishiki:
Before cooking, the raw rice looks like this:
Having a rice cooker help, but not necessary.
If you can, use a rice cooker. That right there will get you 90% of the way. It is a silly gadget to have unless you make rice more than a couple times a week, but that's what most East Asian folks I know do, and it's what restaurants do. Of course, it can be done on the stovetop too, but it may take a bit more practice.
As others have said, use a short or medium grain rice. Unless you're running a restaurant, spring for the good quality stuff, but not super high-grade sushi rice, which may be polished a bit *too* much. Korean markets tend to have good quality rice at reasonable prices, here at least. We have been using the 'haiga' style rice recently, which has the bran milled off, but has most of the germ left intact; it doesn't have as much fiber as brown rice, but still retains more nutrients.
Rinse the rice (unless it's no-rinse). Even though you want the result to be slightly sticky, you want to rinse off a lot of the starch. So rinse it in 3-5 changes of water, stirring with your hand, pouring out the water, and re-filling, until the water runs nearly clear.
One trick for getting the ratio right is to fill the water to your first knuckle of your index finger, assuming the tip of the finger is touching the top of the rice. Of course, you may have to adjust slightly depending on the size of your finger.
I'm a little surprised you love it, as most restaurants I've been to seem to use cheap rice. You might try Nishiki brand, it's readily available and has a very nutty aroma. It's a longer grain Japanese rice so it's not too sticky but holds together well and goes well with Chinese food as well as Japanese. Buy rice at an asian store because it will be fresher, and keep trying brands until you find one you enjoy the flavor of.
You can get a very cheap small rice cooker for around $12 on sale (Target, Walmart, etc.). You can also steam rice on the stove or in an electric steamer in a bowl, which I'd recommend because cooking it in a pot requires a little practice (it's easy, you just have to pay attention). A rice cooker is foolproof, which is why I use one.
Making jasmine rice without rice cooker is not that difficult. I do it quite often when I want to make a small quantity. The ratio should be 1 cup of rice to 3/4 cup of water. The jasmine rice that is available here is labeled 'new crop' which means high water content. With old crop or softer rice, you can use ratio of 1:1.
Bring the rice and the water to a boil. Then let it simmer until almost all of the water disappears. Close the lid and lower the heat to the lowest setting. If it boils over, you need to let more water out (keep the lid ajar until most of the water is gone). Let it sit on low heat for 10 minutes. Keep the lid closed until you need to serve it.
Actually, don't rinse the rice too much. Once or twice is sufficient and check for any loose pebbles - every once in a while you may find one. Do more and you will remove whatever nutrients there all. As for the amount of water, it also depends on when the rice was harvested. If it's new rice, you need less water, just a bit. If it was harvested some time ago, you will need a bit more water. I actually use the same amount of water to rice and I, of course, use a rice cooker. Cooking it in a pot on a stove is hard and you risk burning the some on the bottom while having soupy rice in the middle. It's an art form I haven't acquired. Fyi, this is for rice served in Korean homes and restaurants.
I'd go with fragrant rice, like jasmine. Use 1 part rice to 2 parts water if you're cooking less than a cup, otherwise 1 part rice to 1.5 parts water. Bring to a boil covered, lower the heat all the way down, add a pinch of salt, stir, and replace the lid. In 15 min or so, perfect steamed rice. If you don't like how it turns out, try a different brand. Some seem to be better than others.