Subject: How To Make Fried Rice. Correctly.
Okay. I'm *not* going to do a recipe, because I don't cook that way...
and it's not demonstrative of the style, which is what I'm trying to
demo. Stream of consciousness fried-rice cooking, here we go.
The biggest secret to fried rice is to use... *drumroll*
old rice. The rice *must* have been cooked at least a day ago, and
should be left out on the bench, mostly covered, but not covered enough
that it doesn't get fairly dry. Ah. There needs to be at least a cup
of rice, before cooking this is viable.
Now... chop a silly amount of garlic finely. If you want to put in
onions, dice them into smallish bits.
At this point, you need to decide what veges are going in it. IMO,
anything that has a lot of fibre is not appropriate... fried rice's
texture is disturbed by having real veges in it.
And, ideally, the veges you want to throw in it don't actually need much
cooking at all. Frozen peas, snowpeas, lettuce, shallots,
these things are good. If using frozen peas, soak them in boiling
water, and drain. If using snowpeas, peel the edges off, by breaking
off the tip, and pulling down one edge, then grab the other end, and
break it off and pull down the other edge. If using lettuce, chop it
across the leaf. If using spring onions, wash them of dirt, pluck off
any ratty looking tips and leaves, chop off the root ends, then chop
into small pieces. Yes, that includes the main green bit!
Okay... the last component is, ideally, some sort of meat
substance... but you don't need a great deal of it. Either that, or
fish-cake stuff. Slice that into smallish triangles. If using fresh
meat (pork neck is best. Chicken next. Beef is weird.), then lightly
sprinkle some cornflour and a bit of soy over the slices, then mix
thoroughly. You want the resultant mess to have a *really* thin coat
of sticky cornflour over all bits of meat. Oh, and using both meat
*and* fishcakes is kinda nice. BBQ pork (that stuff with red coating)
is good too.
If you don't want to use meat at all, and you do use egg, then take a
couple of eggs, put some soy into them, beat them thoroughly, and put
them aside. If you don't want even eggs... then just leave out the
meat bits. It'll work okay, but not anywhere near as well. Do *not*
attempt to substitute tofu of any kind. It will *not* work.
Now, arrange your ingredients conveniently accessible near the wok.
You need also a good quality soy sauce. Pearl River Bridge
good... and get the *light* soy sauce, not the dark one not the
mushroom one and not the really thick sugary one.
Have the bottle of light soy sitting out next to the wok
If you want the dish to be really low salt (which, IMO doesn't work as
well, but hey) then have the dark soy too.
Oh! Wups. Nearly forgot the broken up egg. Have one or two eggs,
cracked open and *briefly* stirred into a bowl. The idea is to break
the yolk open and stir it a little into the white, but not much.
Oh. And, just in case, have a cup of water sitting there too. Why?
See . Temperature change during the cooking process is *important*.
Water has a really high specific heat of vapourisation. This makes it
*good* for chewing up lots of heat quickly, if necessary.
Pour some water into the rice, break it up as much as you can, mixing it
around. Nuke it uncovered until it's warm. Not really cooked, just
Ack. Nearly forgot. Need some salt.
Right. :) Now we're prepped to start actually cooking.
If we're doing eggs instead of meat/fishcakes, then start with this.
Turn gas on full. Pour oil into wok. Pour well beaten eggs
(they should look bubbly) into the oil. Turn the gas down to low-ish.
Wait 'til egg is cooked mostly through, and brown on bottom. Flip.
Turn gas up a little. Wait until egg is brown on bottom. Remove from
wok. Slice into thin strips, set aside. Uhh... I'll call this
"omelette", for lack of a better name for it. It's not much like what
western cooking terms an omelette, but I need to call it *something*.
Okay. Sprinkle some salt into the wok. We're going to be adding soy
later, for actual main taste purposes. The salt now is to change the
cooking temperature of the garlic and meat a little. It's going to be
pretty swamped by the rice, so don't get massively concerned.
Set the gas on full.
Pour a liberal amount of oil (olive is good, peanut is good too. Canola
is fine, if you're living on knife-edge finances. Basically, a light
oil, ideally with a little bit of taste, but not overpowering.) into the
wok. Ideally, enough to cover the garlic when you throw it in.
Wait for a short time for the oil to get hot. Toss in all the garlic,
and stir it about a bit.
Turn the gas down to low-ish. The reason we had it high to start is to
heat the oil quickly, but we now lower the temp so that the garlic
Wait 'til the garlic starts to brown... but not actually get brown.
Turn the gas back to full, and throw in the meat/fishcakes. If you're
using eggs, or no meat at all, then proceed straight on to the frying
of the rice. Stir the meat/fishcakes about every so often. You want
it to be pretty much fully cooked. Remove the meatstuff and set it
aside, ideally leaving as much oil in there as possible.
Pour some more oil in... how much? Uhh. Enough. It's damned hard to
describe. Enough that the rice will all get a *slight* patina of oil
once fully stirred, including the residual oil that's left in the
meatstuff that you've set aside.
Wait for the oil to get *hot*. Don't worry if you get burnt
cornflour bits coating the surface of the wok. They're tasty, and
add a lot to the flavour.
Throw the rice in at this stage. Stir it around, and splash soy (dark,
if you're only looking for colour and some flavour) in, until the rice
attains a light brown-ish colour.
Uhh... this is the tricky bit. You want the main bulk of the rice to
be *very slightly* steamed, while the rice in contact with the wok
should be being cooked at oil temperatures, not water temperatures.
You will need to keep mixing the rice with the stirrer thingy
(skillet?). This may be some effort, and can be quite tricky to do.
The basic motion is to insert the flipper on about a 45 degree angle
down to the bottom, and twist outwards with a slight upward lift, sort
of. Um. Experiment with this. It's a very important mixing motion,
and is kinda critical to good chinese cooking.
If you haven't added enough oil, then add more. If you have too
little water (the soy itself *should* be almost enough, especially if
you used light soy, rather than dark) then add a splash of it, around
the edges of the wok. Why around the edge? So that it picks up the
heat in the wok edges and boils on the way down, resulting in boiling
water once it gets to the bottom.
Do *not* add too much water. This is critical. If you add too much,
you will get a gluggy non-tasty mess. Too much oil just means you have
an oily dish. Not ideal, but it'll still taste nice. Too little water,
and the dish will be crunchy, but still sorta edible. And it's easy to
correct that by adding more water and nuking after.
Anyway. :) Now, once the rice is sufficiently cooked... it should start
to burn a little. This is good, and the right timing to proceed to the
Okay. Here's a trick. Scrape all the rice up against one side of the
wok. What? Yeps. That's what I said. Clear at least half the bottom
of the wok. If you can't do that, your rice isn't quite wet enough, or
is too wet, and it's not at the right cookedness either.
Pour some oil into the wok. Pick up the egg(s) with the slightly
broken up yolks. Pour them into the oil. Turn *down* the heat to
quite low. Wait for the whites to become mostly cooked, and the yolky
bits to start to harden. Do *not* let the yolk actually harden. Stir
the egg bit about a little, if really necessary. Try not to do that
though. If it starts to burn, turn the gas down more.
Once the yolk bits start to harden... start folding the whole mess back
into the rice, with the same motion as above. This should result in
small stringy bits of white and yolk mixed consistently through the
rice. Return the meat (or the omelette) to the wok during this stage,
and ensure an even distribution of such.
You might need/want to add some water or more soy during this stage,
in order to help the mixing process, if the rice has gone completely
dry. The feel of the mix should be pretty light, and not gluggy or
oily. If it's still exuding a really slight steam, do *not* add
The purpose of this final stage is to almost dry out the rice.
Wait until this is nearly achieved. If using peas and/or snowpeas, fold
them into the mix now, wait a short while, then turn off the gas, and
serve. If using shallots/spring onions, throw most of them in, mix them
in, wait, turn off the gas. Serve, and sprinkle the onion bits on top.
If using lettuce, turn off gas and serve. Place the chopped lettuce on
top of the fried rice, or even on the table next to the fried rice, to
be served on top of individual bowls.
Voila. :) Flied lice!
 Oh, and don't boil rice. It's difficult. Use technological
solutions. Rice cookers are available. Electric rice-cooker is
fine... Microwave rice cookers are even better. The one I use
is a microwave rice cooker thingy. White plastic pot thingy,
translucent concave first cover with a hole in the centre,
yellow upper-half-toroid lid with a flat surface where the hole
should be and vents in the inner toroid surface. The lid clips onto
the side handles. Put whatever quantity of rice desired into
cooker, noting that it will expand by about double after cooking.
Repeatedly wash rice with hot water until water becomes clear-ish.
Fill with hot water to about first thumb-knuckle depth above the
level of the rice. Set microwave to 10 minutes on high, 8 minutes
on medium, or thereabouts. There's only a couple minutes variance
in this, regardless on whether you're cooking one cup or four of
 Electric is *not* good. It doesn't behave right. You *need*
able to vary the temperature of the wok a *lot* during the cooking
 Ah. You need a wok. A *good* wok. If it's got a non-stick
surface, it's evil. If the wok metal itself is not at *least* 2
millimetres thick, it's evil. If the wok doesn't rust if you
leave it sitting wet-ish, it's evil. If it has a flat bottom,
it's *slightly* evil, but not a big problem. Whenever you use the
wok, rinse it out with warm water, dry it by sticking it back over
the gas, and then dribble a bit of oil back into it, and rub it
over the surface, then cook it into the wok. If your wok doesn't
turn black as a result of this, it's *very* evil.
 If you're really stuck, go to the local chinese grocery,
and ask the
proprietor what they use at home. If you don't *have* a local
chinese grocery, then you are doomed to not have good soy-sauce.
And good soy-sauce is *important*. The main secret to chinese
cooking *is* in the sauces. <ACCENT TYPE="bad-fu-manchu">The seclet
is in the sauce!</ACCENT> Good quality soy sauces, oyster sauce,
plum sauce, chilli sauces, etc, all allow you to add complex
flavours to dishes without requiring complex ingredients. This is
 You can tell the difference by shaking the bottles. Light
settle immediately, leaving the top of the bottle clear. Dark
will stay there for a while and drip off slowly. The thick sugary
one will not move when you shake it. Mushroom soy behaves
*mostly* like dark soy, except that it's usually labelled mushroom
soy. It also has a slightly grainier texture.
 Oh. You do have a steel object to stir with, right? At
the temperatures we're playing with, wooden stirrers burn, and
plastic ones *will* melt. And make *sure* the handle is
heat-resistant. It's too easy to leave the thing resting on the
edge of the wok, and melt the handle. Ah. And we want the stirrer
thingy to have a slightly dented mostly trapezoidal shape.
 What on earth are they called? Not an eggflip.
<a href="http://www.tertius.net.au/~thorfinn/">[email protected]</a>
A new koan: If you have some ice cream, I will give it to you.
If you have no ice cream, I will take it away from you.
It is an ice cream koan.
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Author: Will England ([email protected])
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Updated Thursday, March 07 2002 @ 10:27pm