Of course it was the fried rice. It was always the fried rice.
July 16, 2013 10:18 AM   Subscribe

How do I make restaurant-quality fried rice at home?

So I asked this question a while ago. I now have a kickin' seasoned wok, and still don't have restaurant level heat.

What I've determined is that I don't really chow down on chinese food. I think I "sample" a lot of my friends' plates. What I actually love is the fried rice. How do I make excellent fried rice at home?

Also, no need to be healthy. This is going to be a once in a while indulgence, so I don't really need to use tofu or brown rice.
posted by karathrace to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
I posted some stir fry recipes in reply to a recent ask, which included a decent fried rice recipe. You can find it here.
posted by gudrun at 10:27 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

ok first, read these 10 steps to better wok cookery. this is mostly geared toward stir-frying. we'll get to the fried rice in a second.

then read these general guidelines to fried rice cooking. it's pretty helpful!

finally, this is one of my favorite fried rice recipes because bacon.

source: this is my cousin, and she makes amazing chinese food for a white girl born and raised in west virginia.
posted by kerning at 10:27 AM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

I've found that the four golden keys to an excellent batch of fried rice are:
1. More oil than you think you need (~2-3 tbsp of peanut oil, which has a delightfully high smoke point)
2. Not just cool, but cold rice: cooked well in advance, chilled for several hours or overnight, used straight out of the refrigerator
3. A very hot pan/wok
4. Sweet, sweet MSG
posted by divined by radio at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

The below is my recipe for veggie fried rice. If you want meat, you'll want to add it BEFORE you add the onions and garlic.

You start with cold leftover cooked white rice. Or, if you don't eat enough white rice for this to be a factor, you can cook white rice and then cool it down.

Get some vegetables. Dice them into small pieces. You can stick with the standard Chinese restaurant carrots, peas, onions, and baby corn. Or you can improvise.

Add oil to a pan. When it's hot enough, add onions, garlic, and any other fresh raw aromatics you want. If you're doing raw carrots as opposed to frozen, you'll want to add them here, too. When the onions are translucent, add your cold rice and a few glugs of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, maybe a dash of fish sauce, really any liquid you like. White wine also works, and in a pinch you can also use water. The key here is to keep the whole dish lubricated so that everything cooks and the rice doesn't go hard and dry. Add liquid in small squirts and glugs over the whole cooking period, sort of like making risotto (but much LESS liquid than risotto, you're not going for porridge here).

At this point, you can start adding frozen vegetables. This is also a good point to crack an egg into the pan and stir it around so that the egg cooks. (You can also get fancy and add a poached egg on top of the finished dish, if you want.) After the egg cooks, any frozen vegetables have come to the proper temperature, and the liquid has cooked down, you can add raw vegetables and garnishes.

Then you eat it. My work here is done.
posted by Sara C. at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's oil, baby, it's all about oil.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2013

Oyster sauce!
posted by fox problems at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2013

Just coming here to agree that you must start with cold rice.

(and kerning, I love the Tigers & Strawberries blog. I'm so jealous that you get to actually eat her food!)
posted by insectosaurus at 10:33 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's what I do. No measurements, but the basic idea is:

Make some white rice (I like jasmine). I make mine day-of, but many prefer to make it the day before.

Cut up some bacon into pretty small pieces and cook it in in your wok along with some green onion, garlic and chopped carrots. (Some recipes use peas. I skip the peas. Because, peas.)

Crack an egg or two in the wok and scramble it in the delicious resulting bacon grease.

Add your rice and start frying. Add some soy sauce, sesame oil, and a little Five Spice. I usually also add some Mr. Yoshida's sauce, which adds some sweetness, which I prefer.

Mix the rice while frying.
posted by The Deej at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2013

First off, you need to use cold, leftover rice. (**That said, scroll down for a shortcut, if you absolutely have to have fried rice right now but don't have any in the fridge.)

I use carrot, scallion, and frozen peas in mine. What I do:

Get wok very hot. Pour in peanut oil. Add carrots, stir fry for ~30seconds to a minute. Add rice and scallions. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes. (It helps to break up the rice clumps with your fingers before adding.) Add approx 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of white pepper. (The white pepper is the key to tastes-like-a-restaurant.) Remove from heat. Add frozen peas. Grate fresh ginger on top. Mix, let peas defrost.

[** Rice shortcut: Make a pot of rice. Use less water than you normally do -- about 1:1-1/3 ratio. When the rice is cooked, spread it out on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. Check it every 10 minutes or so. When it starts to freeze, remove it and let it come to room temp. This is as close to leftover rice as you're going to get.]
posted by mudpuppie at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cold rice, eggs, and I use garlic and onion powder in mine.

Basic process:

1. Store leftover rice in ziplock bag. Place bag in fridge.
2. Once cold/the next day, take bag out of fridge and smoooooooooosh it until you've broken it up into grains and small chucks.
3. Put oil in a pan, heat for a minute or so. I use a not stick pan so i use less oil then some people. YMMV
4. put rice in pan, stir it a bit and let it sit to heat
5. Stir as it starts to get hot
6. shove all the rice off to one side and pour in beaten eggs.
7. Cook eggs about half way before stirring in the rice
8. Add spices, such as my garlic and onion powder. Stir.
9. Add soy sauce, stir.
10. plate and eat.

that's the basic process to be modified for extra add ins like chicken or veggies.
posted by royalsong at 10:39 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and contrary to what some say, you can TOTALLY make fried rice in a regular old saucepan. I mean, you still need high heat of course. But don't feel like you have to go out and buy a wok for this. Fried rice is really just a way to use up leftovers.
posted by Sara C. at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2013

nthing the fact that the rice has to be COLD. Straight from the fridge. It has to do with how the starches cool and solidify.

Use peanut oil with a dash of sesame.

A bit of fish oil never hurt anything.

I don't use MSG, but most chinese restaurants do.

Then it's mostly frozen mixed veggies, bean sprouts, meat of your choice (my very favorite is cubes of barbecued pork) and a scrambled egg. Soy sauce, some garlic and a grind or two of white pepper.

Nom away!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2013

For me, the key is really the sesame oil.
posted by wintersweet at 11:03 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding sesame oil for the flavor and aroma I associate with the best fried rice.
posted by jsturgill at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like this recipe. To translate:

* saute pork and green onions in pan with some sesame oil and salt/pepper

* add a beaten egg, and then add one cup of rice. Fry over high heat.

* when the rice is nicely separated, add a teaspoon each of oyster sauce and Chinese chicken broth, and a half-teaspoon of soy sauce.

Obviously, you can play with the seasonings to taste. This recipe is for one person, so you can scale accordingly. Fried rice is definitely something where you can get quite creative. We make all sorts of it at home.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2013

I lived near the best ramen/chinese restaurant in Japan and their fried rice was really amazing (although a little different than American style Chinese). On my last day in town, I went there for ramen and fried rice and asked if they would let me watch them make the fried rice. These instructions are the result of my note taking that day:

Ingredients (serves 1-2):
cooked rice (cold or warm, but not piping hot)
cha-shu (simmered pork, can be homemade or purchased. char siu would be fine as well)
green onions
garlic, minced
soy sauce
oil (as others have noted, more than you think)

And the secret ingredients: lots of fried garlic (available in most asian markets) and some msg.

Finely chop green onions, separating white and green parts.
Cut cha-shu into chunks, combine in a bowl with the minced garlic, fried garlic and the white part of the green onions.
In a small cup or container, mix salt, msg and pepper (in a 1:1:2 ratio).
Scramble the egg in a bowl.

1) Heat oil in large frying pan or wok on the highest heat you have. Add in a tiny bit of green onion and garlic, just enough to flavor the oil.
2) When the garlic and onions start to seriously bubble, add in the rice and egg in quick sucession and keep it all moving around quickly with your spoon.
3) Add in the chashu/onion/garlic mixture and keep it moving.
4. Pour in some sake and soy sauce, a glug or 2 of each, it should evaporate/be absorbed quickly) and... you got it, keep moving it around the pan vigorously.
5) Add in the salt, pepper, msg mixture and keep it moving.
5. Take it off heat and mix in the green part of the green onions.

This is my method for fried rice, which approximates my little ramen shop's pretty damn well. Hopefully there's something in here that helps.
posted by Muttoneer at 11:17 AM on July 16, 2013 [26 favorites]

Boy, can I not count. I can make fried rice, though.
posted by Muttoneer at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

So like most everyone here, I used cold leftover cooked white rice to do my kimchi fried rice. Sometime so super cold and super leftover that it comes out of the fridge in a giant container-shaped lump. I noticed I got closest to restaurant fried rice when I used chicken broth in addition to my regular soy sauce / kimchi juice to soften up the big hunks of cold cold rice. Not so much so you make porridge instead of fried rice, but enough that the flavor permeates everything. Delish!
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2013

A variant on actual rice: Here's the recipe I use when I make shirataki fried rice. I think the two main flavorings that really make it shine are the sesame oil and chinese five-spice powder. I usually make like a quadruple recipe of this at a time, since it keeps well for eating cold out of the fridge.

- half an onion, or two shallots
- bacon-grease or lard
- 3 eggs
- 14 ounces of rice-style shirataki noodles
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 cup chicken broth
- .25 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- .5 tsp garlic powder
- .5 tsp Chinese five spice powder
- .5 tsp red pepper flakes (or a dash of hot sauce, optional)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- .25 cup carrots, chopped
- 3 green onions, finely-sliced

1. Chop onion. sautee onion in lard until lightly browned. Remove
onion from pan and use the fat to scramble 3 eggs. Set onion and egg

2. rinse 14 oz shirataki, cook in large
pan/pot/wok until all excess water is gone; if not using a nonstick
pan, use a dash of sesame oil to keep it from sticking.

3. Finely slice chicken breast. Poach chicken breast in 1 cup chicken
broth mixed with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder,
chinese five spice powder, and pepper/hot sauce. When chicken is
thoroughly cooked through, try to get it as shredded as possible; I
usually just use a potato masher to crush it until the fibers

4. Pour liquid and chicken over rice and mix. Stir-fry together until
most of liquid has disappeared.

5. Add onions and eggs, stir-fry for a minute.

6. Add peas and carrots, stir-fry for 2 minutes.

7. Add green onions, stir fry for a minute more.

posted by Greg Nog at 11:40 AM on July 16, 2013

Eggs and tamari sauce are the "secret". You hit all the taste sensations in one dish: The rice is sweet, the eggs are savory, and the sauce adds salty umami.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2013

To me, the type of rice used makes a difference. We keep a bag of Calrose in our pantry for the times we cook Chinese/Korean food, and often use the leftovers to make fried rice, but it doesn't have the right texture for me. Calrose rice is medium grain and a bit sticky--it can be used to make sushi after all--but the ideal fried rice texture for me should be loose and a bit dry, and for this reason I prefer jasmine rice.

The classic Chinese fried rice recipe is Yang Zhou fried rice, and this one is as authentic as it gets. Note that in this recipe, you actually have to prepare a separate sauce to add with the rice. Probably no different than adding dashes of soy and sugar directly to the wok, but most Chinese recipe books add this step.
posted by peripathetic at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

My mother always taught me to use day-old, cold rice. Fresh rice just doesn't fry up as well.
posted by ohmy at 12:41 PM on July 16, 2013

Others have covered the basics (repeatedly) very well. But they get the egg completely wrong (i.e. not the way I do it).

Get the wok smoking hot with your couple glurgs of oil. While it's heating beat your egg or two very well with a small glurg of cooking soy sauce or tamari. When the oil is smoking, pour the egg into the wok by itself. It will inflate and look cool. Let it cook for about 20 seconds, then flip it and cook for another 20 seconds. Remove the egg to a plate and reserve it.

Then go ahead and follow any of the above methods for making fried rice. Add the egg back at the very end of the process and break it up with your cooking utensil as you mix it in. You'll be glad you did.
posted by bluejayway at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I find it works best for me when I keep fried rice simple - when I've tried to make it 'special' with complicated sauces it never tastes quite right.

I never really cook it the same way, but the general path I follow is:

- Use cold rice (there seems to be a consensus here!)
- Any old saute pan will work
- Cook the egg ahead of time. Make a simple one-egg omelet, just egg plus a splash of water. Roll it, let it cool, and slice it thin. I always get a gloppy mess when I try to cook the egg with the rice.
- A small touch of fish is nice: fish sauce, a rinsed anchovy, or fish paste can lift the flavor. Cook it at the beginning, with the garlic.
- Bacon = yes.
- Kim-chee = oh my yes.
- Use less soy sauce than you think.
- Add the scallions at the very end.
posted by kanewai at 12:55 PM on July 16, 2013

Nthing cold rice and hot peanut oil, but only add the egg to the wok at the very end. It needs about 20 or 30 seconds to cook, so if you add it before the rice or vegetables, you'll end up with grey, rubbery egg. Bad, bad, bad. You can also try dressing it with walnut oil as an alternative to sesame (but don't use either of these during the cooking process).
posted by ZipRibbons at 1:32 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Filipino version of fried rice as per my mother (also posted in a previous AskMe about what to do with bacon fat):

Heat up leftover bacon fat in skillet.

Add onion and lots of garlic (both chopped really fine). Stir.

Add cold leftover rice. Stir.

Add whatever meats you have left over from dinner such as chicken or steak, or, cholesterol be damned, bacon, Spam, or corned beef (from a can). Stir.

In another pan, I make simple scrambled eggs and add that to the pan (but some people crack an egg straight into the mixture and scramble while everything is still cooking). Stir.

Add frozen peas. Stir.

Dashes of soy sauce and fish sauce (or patis, if you are Filipino) to taste and until the rice takes on a slightly brown color and everything is cooked through.

Serve as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
posted by HeyAllie at 2:20 PM on July 16, 2013

Benihana is a chain teppanyaki restaurant (sorry, can't link from my phone). See if there's one by you and go there for dinner. They make good fried rice and do it right in front of you so you can see how they do it and what ingredients they use.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:53 PM on July 16, 2013

The teppanyaki places generally make their fried rice with butter. This is absolutely delicious, but it changes the whole flavor profile of the fried rice. Not recommended for the fried rice experience the OP is looking for.
posted by bluejayway at 3:22 PM on July 16, 2013

Ditto recommendations of scallion/green onion & oyster sauce.
Add: chopped up cilantro stalks, some grated ginger, and it's not really Chinese, but sriracha.

Dissenting opinion on the egg: cooking it with the rice at all is for chumps. Fry it up separately like a breakfast egg so the yolk is still runny. Sit the egg on top of your cooked rice and bust open that yolk.
posted by juv3nal at 5:28 PM on July 16, 2013

I make tasty fried rice from an old Chinese recipe book I found somewhere.

- cold, long grain rice from the fridge. Add a bit of cold water or water and a dash of fish sauce to the rice, and separate the grains from each other with your fingers (a few remaining lumps is good)
- in a small bowl, make a sauce from sesame oil, soy sauce, chopped ginger, garlic, water, and oyster sauce with pepper and salt to taste, add chili spices if you like
- toss scallion and onion in hot peanut oil in a pan (doesn't have to be a wok, but it helps) fry it up until soft and translucent
- add vegetables and cook until tender (if you like your peas less cooked like I do, add them with the rice instead)
- Add thin slices of marinated chicken, beef, or pork and toss until almost cooked through
- Add the cold rice and fry up for a few minutes until cooked through
- Crack an egg on top, toss with the rest of the ingredients for about 20-30 seconds until cooked
- Remove from the heat, add the sauce from the bowl and toss until covered
- I bastardize it by adding kimchi as well at the end

Making it with frozen veggies and no meat works too, in which case I usually add an extra egg. It's a staple in my house - so easy, tasty, and filling.
posted by gemmy at 7:29 PM on July 16, 2013

I find that the rice gets a wonderful toasted mouth-aroma if you fry it by itself for a long time before adding any other ingredients. I fry cold rice until it is so hot that it must be constantly flipped before it burns. It usually does have brown toasted areas on it - this is lovely and not a cause for concern.

I then remove it and fry my other ingredients - first the vegetables, then the meat, then egg. I then return the rice to the wok, season it to taste with salt, add the vegetables and meat, season with soy and/or other sauces, then add the egg last (to keep it looking bright and golden), mix again, remove and serve.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:43 AM on July 17, 2013

Fried rice science:

To elaborate on the Calrose/jasmine rice difference, and why cold, day old jasmine, or, more generally, long grain rice makes better fried rice:

Rice starch (and, actually, plant starch in general) is a mix of two polysaccharides, amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is a linear molecule, a long string of sugars stuck together, while amylopectin is highly branched.

All rice contains starch, but the starch in different varieties of rice is composed of distinct amylose-to-amylopectin ratios. Short-grained "glutinous" (there is never gluten in rice) or sticky rice starch is almost all amylopectin, which gives it an unctuous, tacky, chewy quality that persists even at refrigerator temperatures--the huge, hairy amylopectin molecules, once unfurled by heat and moisture, remain messy as they cool. Long grain rice, on the other hand, can contain 30% amylose. Amylose, being a smaller, unbranched molecule, tends instead to reorganize itself into an orderly crystalline arrangement. This proceeds faster at lower temperatures.

As an aside, this is why you shouldn't store bread in the refrigerator. Reorganized amylose is what makes stale bread tough, so cold temperatures accelerate staling, even though the bread may not mold or dry out. It's better to freeze and then thaw at room temperature. This is also why stale bread is magically rejuvenated by the toaster: the heat temporarily re-disorganizes the starch.

Back to rice: It's much easier to fry long-grain rice, because rice with a high crystallized amylose content has a hard, easily separable, non-sticky grain. It's possible to brown rice like this without gluing it to the pan, and it's much easier to mix with sauces and other ingredients. High-amylopectin/low-amylose short grain rice clumps and sticks to itself (and the pan) even before it warms up. It's possible to fry meduim-grain rice, which also has an intermediate amylose content, but it sticks more readily than long-grain rice.
posted by pullayup at 4:06 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

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