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Fried rice like the old days

frelca Jan 27, 2014 10:43 PM

When I was a child Chinese fried rice was delicious. Now I can't find even one Chinese restaurant that produces this dish well. Any suggestions in Manhattan?

  1. ttoommyy Jan 28, 2014 03:54 AM

    Not really a fried rice authority myself, but I'll offer up this observation: Could it be that your memory of fried rice is more "delicious" than it really is? Maybe your tastes have changed, not the fried rice? But who knows, maybe someone will have an answer for you about some really good, old school fried rice. :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy
      mwhitmore Jan 28, 2014 07:10 AM

      I think there was a distinctive Chinese-American fried rice back when I was growing up. Hard to describe, but browner, saltier. Haven't seen it in decades, and I can understand a craving for it.

      1. re: mwhitmore
        coll Jan 28, 2014 07:13 AM

        Definitely was not as dry as now.

        1. re: mwhitmore
          ttoommyy Jan 28, 2014 08:03 AM

          "Hard to describe, but browner, saltier."

          Could it have anything to do with the rampant use of MSG back then? Just thinking out loud.

          1. re: mwhitmore
            Amy Mintzer Jan 28, 2014 10:44 AM

            I think there's a fairly simple explanation: soy sauce. Lots of soy sauce. If you make fried rice at home from the recipe in any reputable Chinese cookbook, you'll get something light-colored and flavored primarily by the "bits," as I think of them--a little leftover roast pork or shrimp, the egg, the vegetables--along with onion and the flavor that comes from contact with the hot wok. Delicious, but not what you remember. But if you imagine taking that preparation and then pouring in a large quantity of soy sauce near the end, you'd get something "brown"..."salty...wetter."

        2. s
          Stuartmc910 Jan 28, 2014 07:24 AM

          I would guess most of the Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown would meet your criteria.

          Incidentally, I agree with you. Most of the fried rice today is a sad excuse for fried rice. Have you tried making your own? Not difficult.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Stuartmc910
            ipsedixit Jan 28, 2014 09:13 AM

            Have you tried making your own? Not difficult.

            That's right, it is not difficult to make fried rice.

            It is difficult to make good fried rice. Especially at home, where even when using a "wok" or wok-style pan, it's hard to get the necessary wok hei and temp to do a quick flash of the veggies, rice, etc. without overcooking. Plus, something about restaurant grease just makes fried rice in restaurants all that much better.

            And I don't know about the "old days" but even today it's really hard to find good fried rice in restaurants.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              joisey al Jan 28, 2014 11:13 AM

              ipsedixit is correct when it comes to cooking, the most important part is the temp. of the wok. My family owned several Chinese-American restaurants. Here's a roast pork fried (or chicken, beef, shrimp) rice recipe. In a hot wok, couple of teaspoons of veggie oil. Add the roast port, chopped Spanish onions, bean sprouts. When the first three ingredients are hoping in the wok, add rice (ideally, day old white rice) then add scramble egg yolk, bit of soy sauce (for color) and green scallions at the end. The roast pork, chicken can be made ahead of time, as well as the scramble egg yolk.

              1. re: joisey al
                Ttrockwood Jan 28, 2014 01:09 PM

                Just the yolk....?

                1. re: Ttrockwood
                  joisey al Jan 28, 2014 02:30 PM

                  You can use the entire egg. In the restaurants
                  we used egg whites for egg drop soup. Hence, the yolks in our fried rice dishes.

          2. Silverjay Jan 28, 2014 09:38 AM

            Try the gomoku chahan at Saburi on Lex. It's a Japanese style Chinese eatery. They use a shorter grain rice and it's not as oily as some Chinese places.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Silverjay
              Lau Jan 31, 2014 12:58 PM

              saburi's fried rice

            2. s
              swannee Jan 28, 2014 09:45 AM

              The chicken and salt fish fried rice at NY Noodletown as well as at Yogee is excellent. In Cantonese it sounds like Ham yu gai lap chow fan. It is written 鹹魚雞粒炒飯.
              strangely enough, Saigon Grill on Amst. had really wonderful vegetable fried rice. I miss it.

              1. princeofpork3 Jan 28, 2014 10:27 AM

                As strange as this may sounds, the Fried Rice at Benehana is closest to what I remember fried rice being about 25 years ago. Its much saltier and wetter that what you get in most places these days.

                1 Reply
                1. re: princeofpork3
                  nycguy20011 Feb 3, 2014 08:27 PM

                  Benihana's chefs add Garlic Butter to the fried rice. Ever wondered why the Garlic Butter tastes so "yummy"? It has MSG.

                  Does old-style fried rice have MSG?

                2. l
                  lacitoyenne7 Jan 28, 2014 11:27 AM

                  Not Chinese, but I can personally vouch for the fried rice at Terakawa Ramen and Naruto Ramen (same owners). It is delicious and a generous portion.

                  1. p
                    peter j Jan 28, 2014 12:03 PM

                    Personally I think that fried rice is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Here are some ideas if you're open to new interpretations.


                    My personal favorites include the bacon fried rice at RedFarm and the lobster fried rice at Ma Peche.

                    1. f
                      foodwhisperer Jan 29, 2014 09:24 PM

                      The fried rice when you were a kid, was loaded with soy sauce and msg. Some restaurants even used the left over white rice from the tables to make the friend rice ( that is a fact). Gross though. The fried rice today especially in Cantonese places doesn't have the soy sauce , is lighter in color and fresh made and IMO tastes much better than the one from years ago. You can still get the old style in the boroughs i.e. King Yum

                      21 Replies
                      1. re: foodwhisperer
                        Chandavkl Jan 30, 2014 01:27 PM

                        Yes, day old white rice makes the best fried rice. Hard to get away with that today.

                        1. re: Chandavkl
                          ipsedixit Jan 30, 2014 02:35 PM

                          Surprisingly, just-cooked, but cooled, Uncle Ben's Converted Rice works almost better than regular, day-old white rice.

                          Don't ask me how I found out ...

                          1. re: Chandavkl
                            Lau Jan 31, 2014 06:58 AM

                            yes you are actually supposed to use day old refridgerated rice bc it more dry

                            also ipsedixit is right that its a) difficult to make great fried rice and b) impossible to make at home bc you need a wok cooked a very high temperature far hotter than your stove at home is capable of creating to effectively smoke the rice which creates the wok hay flavor that really really makes great fried rice

                            btw ipsedixit, i love the fried rice at seafood village...best one i've had in the US

                            1. re: Lau
                              ttoommyy Jan 31, 2014 07:12 AM

                              "the wok hay flavor"

                              I never heard of that expression, but then I am no Chinese food aficionado by far. I think I know what flavor you are talking about, but I would love a bit of a further explanation if anyone cares to elucidate. Thanks.

                              1. re: ttoommyy
                                ipsedixit Jan 31, 2014 07:14 AM

                                This is a good readers digest version.


                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  ttoommyy Jan 31, 2014 08:52 AM

                                  Thanks Ipse,

                              2. re: Lau
                                ipsedixit Jan 31, 2014 07:16 AM

                                I like making fried rice using the leftover garlic bits from Seafood Village's house special lobster.

                                Have you tried the salty fish fried rice at Elite? Good stuff.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  Lau Jan 31, 2014 07:40 AM

                                  yah thats a good explanation, if you want to see what it actually looks like watch this video from a famous singapore food blog, watch how the rice is literally smoking, thats the flavor you get with really good chinese food

                                  no i haven't tried it, i shouldve ordered it last time i was there, i love salted fish fried rice...next time

                                  1. re: Lau
                                    foodwhisperer Jan 31, 2014 07:50 AM

                                    Happy New Year Lau,,,, and all other CH'ers that celebrate this holiday. Sorry, I'm not giving out the red envelopes to you guys. :)

                                    1. re: foodwhisperer
                                      Lau Jan 31, 2014 08:03 AM

                                      happy new years to you as well

                                    2. re: Lau
                                      ttoommyy Jan 31, 2014 08:51 AM

                                      "watch how the rice is literally smoking, thats the flavor you get with really good chinese food

                                      Very helpful; thanks. I found the caption, "basically you smoke the rice" enlightening. I never realized that before.

                                      1. re: Lau
                                        Silverjay Jan 31, 2014 01:10 PM

                                        Haha, that vid is awesome. I've seen similar things on Japanese tv. They'll do slo-mo and show flames actually licking at the rice.

                                        They make it look so easy but you actually need really strong wrists and forearms do that in a big wok like that.

                                        1. re: Silverjay
                                          Lau Jan 31, 2014 01:30 PM

                                          what you can't see that well in this video which is look is there is usually a handle or a peddle which they use to control the heat of the wok and they can turn the temperature way up or down with it

                                    3. re: Lau
                                      Chandavkl Jan 31, 2014 08:30 AM

                                      Tasty Garden's egg white scallop fried rice is better than Seafood Village--if you catch it on a good day.

                                      1. re: Chandavkl
                                        ipsedixit Jan 31, 2014 09:06 AM

                                        Yes, like when you go at a time they're using fresh day-old leftover rice.

                                        1. re: Chandavkl
                                          Lau Jan 31, 2014 10:59 AM

                                          oh yah? ill give it a whirl next time im in the SGV

                                          1. re: Lau
                                            swannee Jan 31, 2014 11:57 AM

                                            Happy New Year to all---恭喜發財!
                                            I really don't like fried rice with soy sauce--it only tasts salty and one dimensional. The salt fish fried rice at NY Noodletown is really good.

                                            1. re: swannee
                                              Lau Jan 31, 2014 12:59 PM

                                              my favorite kind is the one with egg white and dried scallops and stuff when thats done right, its super fluffy and the wok hay flavor wow...unfortunately as i said earlier its difficult to find

                                              1. re: Lau
                                                ipsedixit Jan 31, 2014 01:02 PM


                                                Not a fan of conpoy in my fried rice but I do like a bit of mullet roe (烏魚子) mixed into my fried rice sometimes.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  Lau Jan 31, 2014 01:29 PM

                                                  i think i like most seafood stuff in my fried rice generally such as conpoy, salted fish etc

                                                  1. re: Lau
                                                    foodwhisperer Jan 31, 2014 03:25 PM

                                                    young chow fried rice for me

                                  2. f
                                    fourunder Feb 1, 2014 10:15 PM

                                    Chinese restaurants back in the day (60-80s) were mostly Cantonese or Polynesian Style....they all made their Fried Rice with the addition of Dark Soy Sauce, not regular Soy Sauce. The exception was Young Chow Fried Rice, which did not have Dark Soy Sauce added...it was served white, only colored with egg to look yellow.

                                    This is how it was done in NY/NJ...and Boston.

                                    1. c
                                      chigirl2014 Mar 30, 2014 02:05 PM

                                      I know EXACTLY what you are talking about, I recently went to Saint louis and got that old fried rice back. I found out that they use mushroom flavored DARK soy sauce. The rice you find theses days don't have any flavor, but I've found that Vietnamese fried rice is good but the rice in Saint Louis was exactly how you'd remember as a child. There is a guy in YouTube that makes some if you Google saint louis style fried rice. I went to the Asian store and purchased the soy sauce OMG rice is delicious. Tasty and flavorful

                                      1. s
                                        sockster Mar 30, 2014 03:26 PM

                                        Red Farm's Bacon and Egg fried rice is to die for!! Their soup dumplings aren't world class, but quite good. I would like to try Red Farm's BBQ Pork fried rice on my next visit. But, the B&E fried rice was amazing! Even better the next day!!

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