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Monday, January 3, 2011

Chinese Fried Rice

There are so many ways to make fried rice. So many cultural influences and ingredients that can make it amazing, spicy, complex, and enjoyable. My fried rice is probably more of family-style, simple, yet flavorful arrangement. It's perfect for the days when you want a quick meal and have a few things on hand: cooked rice, eggs, onions, meat/shrimp. You really don't need anything else, but you can add many other things.

So here's the rundown.

Cook 2 cups of rice according to instructions. I use a Japanese rice maker by Zojirushi. It makes perfect rice. I used to refrigerate my rice before making fried rice, but I'm starting to like fresh-cooked fried rice. Try it both ways (cooked and cooked, or fresh cooked) and see which you prefer.

The other thing about making fried rice is you need all your ingredients chopped and ready to go in bowls/plates beside your cooking pan. This will keep you from burning one thing while you're getting something else ready to go.

And now onto the ingredients. I'm going to list my basic requirements, but you can substitute some or pretty much all of them. I'll drop in some reasons and alternatives as we go.

Yellow onion, sliced. You can't really replace the onion. I don't think shallots would do the job. You could use white or sweet onions, that's not a problem. You could also dice or chop the onion, that's fine too.

Chinese sausage. This imparts a significant component to my fried rice. It's sweet and savory, hearty, yet not overbearing. I use a Taiwanese brand, but you could use a Chinese or even Vietnamese brand. I suggest going into an Asian market...Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese, and trying a few different brands. Pick the one you like and go with it. If you don't want to use sausage, or you're scared to shop for it, opt for some chopped ham.

Corn. If you use frozen, defrost it and get rid of the liquid. If you use canned, drain it well. Fresh is best if you want to cut it. Some people use small chunks of carrots or peas, or even green beans. I think many people use the bagged frozen kind, which is ok. I will use a Trader Joe's bagged white corn for this dish sometimes.

Shrimp. This is up to you, because it doesn't so much impart flavor to the rice as it is just a nice addition to the dish.

Green onion. Chop this up and leave it for the very end, uncooked. You toss this over your rice when it's done, or during the last 20 seconds of cooking.

Egg. Scramble 2 eggs with a bit of milk and sugar. Eggs are a must, but you can also just scramble them without milk and sugar.

Fish cake. Go into any Asian market and you'll find fishcake. You can try just about any type, and all are good...I've tried fried rice with every type, including the pink and white, and everything else. The fish cake isn't an absolute must, but I think it's a great addition that keeps you from going too American on this dish.

Flavoring. I prefer a bit of soy sauce mixed with oyster sauce, but I've tried it many, many different ways. Here are some thoughts. You want can use salt, or even granulated chicken bouillon . I've used that with great results. I also like to add crushed red pepper. You can make a quick and easy fried rice with just soy sauce as your flavoring. You can also add a bit of ketchup, which I've seen in a handful of Japanese-style recipes.

Once I have all my ingredients ready to go, I put them all in bowls and plates near my pan. I heat oil on high and cook each thing on high at a time. I start with my scrambled eggs, and keep them soft, just cooked and drop them into a large bowl. Then onions, corn, etc. As you cook each one, add it to your bowl. Then you fry your rice on high for a minute or two, add your flavoring, mix well, then add in all your cooked ingredients and mix well. Pour out back into your large bowl, sprinkle green onion. You're ready to go.


~ Brock

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