One of the icons of Chinese cuisine is probably fried rice or “Chaofan”. “Chao” stands for the Chinese cooking method of stir-frying and “fan” pertains to “rice” in Chinese. And that’s what it is, it simply rice stir fried in a wok, mixed with other ingredients like small pieces of meat, vegetables, and egg.
It’s great enough to eat on its own and actually that was one of the reasons why it was invented aside from that, it was also a creative way of upcycling left-overs. Yup, nothing goes to waste!
Each Chinese region will have their own version of fried rice depending on ingredients popular and available in their area. Yangchow fried rice is probably one of the more iconic Chinese fried rice versions. In Szechuan, they also have their Szechuan fried rice which as expected is spicy and a bit tangy. In Fujian, they have Hokkien fried rice, which is basically egg fried rice topped with meats and vegetables cooked with sauce. So, unlike the usual Chinese fried rice which is dry, it offers you a saucy delight which is really good on its own.
Different Types of Chinese Fried Rice
Chinese homes all over the world would have their own versions of fried rice from leftovers or whatever is available in the refrigerator. Some would use spam, bacon, artificial crab meat, left over steak, together with the staples of fried rice like egg and vegetables. It makes for a fast meal and is usually paired with a vegetable dish or soup.
Components of Chinese Fried Rice
Sometimes the simpler the dish the more iconic it becomes. Chinese fried rice is primarily composed of 3 parts:
- Rice – rice used is usually day old white rice.
- Oil – usually vegetable oil is used, but some recipes may suggest to use sesame oil, peanut oil, or even fat rendered from actual animal fat.
- Aromatics – for fried rice the usual ones used are scallions, garlic, chili peppers, and leeks.
- Vegetables – this can be any vegetable chopped into small cubes or strips like cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, carrot, or mushrooms. Green peas are also usually used in fried rice.
- Meats – small cube sized chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, salted fish, hams, preserve/barbequed meats, or sausages.
- Egg – eggs makes it look more appetizing but it also gives flavor to the rice coating each grain.
- Seasonings – usually salt, pepper, cooking wine or soy sauce are used to flavor the rice.
Tips on making Chinese Fried Rice
- Make sure to use day old rice. You can opt to use healthier options like brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice.
- Place day old rice in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out then crumble it with your bare hands. Lay them on a flat baking sheet so they don’t clump back together.
- Pre-cut ingredients in advance.
- Make sure your wok or pan is hot before adding the oil. This is a basic for stir-frying.
- You can use two spatulas to squeeze rice clumps while cooking so you avoid squishing the other ingredients.
Fried Rice Recipes you can try
Now that you know the fried rice basics, here are some recipes you can try if you’re not confident to wing it yet.
- Yangchow Fried Rice Recipe from ChinaSichuanFood.com
- Easy Chahan (Japanese fried rice) Recipe from CookingWithDog.com
- Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe from MyKoreanKitchen.com
- Tomato Fried Rice Recipe from NyoNyacooking.com
- Hong Kong Fried Rice Recipe from HungryForever.com
What To Do With Left-Over Fried Rice
If you have left over fried rice, put it in the refrigerator right after it cools to room temperature. Letting it sit long at room temp, creates a cozy environment for bacteria to grow.
How to pre-heat fried rice
In your joy of mastering the art of fried rice, you may have gone a bit overboard on how much you made. Fret not, because you can pop your left-over fried rice in the fridge and reheat it the next day.
A public service reminder: Smell it before you re-heat it. Depending on the ingredients in the fried rice or the temperatures it was exposed to, it’s possible that it may spoil easily. If it smells funky, sadly, you need to throw it out.
Before anything else, let your rice thaw for a few minutes before reheating using any of these methods.
Put your rice in a heat proof bowl and steam it in a steamer for 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t have a steamer? Here’s how you can make an impromptu steamer from FoodandWine.com
Put butter or oil in a pan or wok. Once hot, add in the fried rice, and stir fry for 5 to 10 minutes. If you’re rice is too dry or hard, add a few tablespoons of water and let it steam a bit. But taste before serving in case it’ll need some seasoning.
You can add volume by stir frying more ingredients with the oil or butter before adding the rice.
Option 1: Butter it up then Microwave
Put a little bit of butter into a heat proof bowl, then add in your fried rice. Pop in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then take it out, mix and pop it back in for another 30 seconds.
Option 2: Steam it in the Microwave
Put your fried rice in a heat proof bowl. Get a kitchen paper towel and dampen it with water. Squeeze out excess water. Put the damp paper towel on top of the bowl then pop it in the oven for 1 minute.
Put your fried rice inside the rice cooker, add a few tablespoons of water. Turn on rice cooker placing on “keep warm” mode for 10 to 15 mins.
Put fried rice in an oven safe dish. Top it with additional ingredients or egg and a few tablespoons of water, put a foil or the lid on top, then bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.