Fried rice is a popular and readily available everyday food the world over generally coming in different varieties such as Yangzhou fried rice, sausage fried rice, tomato fried rice and so on.
The rice is often accompanied by stir fried eggs, vegetables or meat, and is simple and quick to prepare. Ease and quickness of preparation have made fried rice a convenient option for both breakfast or dinner in China and many other Asian countries.
Almost anyone can make fried rice, but not everyone is happy with their results. So, what is the secret to making such a plain dish awesome?
I have had many years’ experience making fried rice, and have had my share of failures: hard, dry rice, lumpy rice, soggy rice.
After much research and repeated practice, the secret of perfect fried rice is now burned into my psyche, and I will share my method with you today.
The first trick to perfect fried rice is to use good rice. This may not seem important at all, after all it is such a basic dish, but the quality of the rice determines the whole fried rice flavor and no matter what other ingredients you add, the rice is 80% of the dish’s flavor.
If you are struggling to achieve really yummy fried rice, then this is probably where you need to make a change.
Choosing The Right Rice
There are three kinds of rice: common short grain rice from the north, common long grain rice from the south (such as Thai rice), and Indian Basmati rice, which is longer than the common long grain rice.
All three kinds can be used to make fried rice, but there are some differences in traits and taste. Short grain rice tastes soft and waxy, but sticks together; long grain rice is a little harder and separates nicely, and several varieties have a lovely fragrance. Basmati rice is harder again and is nice and loose. However, it is quite bland, which is ok if you are serving it with curries.
Short grain rice is probably the most difficult to achieve a good fried rice, as it will easily clump together, however, in my opinion, it has the best flavor, and so I use short grain rice in this recipe.
So that’s a big introduction to a simple meal. Suffice to say the two main things to grasp are the correct ratios of water to rice, and a few tricks to perfect your method, then, everything else is a piece of cake (or rice!).
When cooking fried rice, the ratio of rice to water is critical to your success. Fried rice needs the rice to maintain its strength due to it being fried after boiling.
Too much water will produce weak and easily broken rice. For fried rice, the ideal ratio of rice and water is 1:1.6 (multiply the amount of rice by 1.6). 250 grams of rice will need 400 grams of water. Remember that the weight here is for dry rice, not cooked rice.
This is how I measure the rice and water: first, I put 250 grams of rice into the pot and wash it under the modern kitchen faucet until the water runs clear. Not everyone bothers to do this step, but it removes the starch attached to the outer surface of the rice, reducing the likelihood of the cooked rice sticking together.
I drain the rice and put the pot with rice in it on my kitchen scales, then turn on the scales so the reading is at zero. I add the water until the reading reaches 400 grams.
Add a little salt and peanut oil to the pot. Peanut oil will improve the taste of the rice and will not affect its color.
There are many rice cookers on the market but cooking on the stove is just as simple and produces great tasting rice. A good thick-bottomed stainless steel pot with a high degree of thermal conductivity (more than a casserole, wok, aluminum pan or cast aluminum pot) will achieve the best results.
Thermal uniformity is very important when cooking rice. If the bottom of the pot has hot spots, the rice will stick to these areas, and will not cook evenly.
If you do not have a good stainless steel pot, a good quality non-stick can pan also be used (at least rice will not stick to the bottom).
Place the covered pot of rice and water on the stove and bring to the boil. Transfer to the smallest hotplate, turn down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. You can open the lid occasionally and pick out a few grains with chopsticks to see if the rice is cooked to your satisfaction.
Turn off the stove while the rice is still a little hard and let stand (keeping the lid on the pot) for another 2-3 minutes.
There have been many people who have repeatedly stressed the need to cook rice overnight, and indeed, this was even given special emphasis in the opening scenes of the film “The God of Cookery.”
However, we live in a fast-paced society with our daily lives full of many cares, and devoting time to prepare so far in advance is just not practical. We cannot turn the clock back.
Secondly, cooling the rice before you fry it is key. I found this little trick makes the rice grains more flexible, and less likely to stick together. It’s a simple step that yields large benefits.
Rice shops keep their steamed rice in a large pan repeatedly turning it with a rice spoon causing the rice to come in contact with the cold air. The cold air shrinks the grain, improving its elasticity and integrity.
There are a few ways to cool your rice. You can use a fan, a hair dryer on the cold setting, or sit the rice near an open window. The rice will need to be stirred and turned over regularly to let the hot air out, cooling the rice more quickly.
While you are waiting for the rice to cool, prepare the other ingredients.
What I will teach you today is how to cook simple Basil and Egg Fried Rice.
Firstly, chop 2-3 green onions.
Remove the hard stem from the basil and chop the leaves finely.
Crack two eggs into a bowl and add a pinch of salt and white pepper to taste. Whisk evenly.
Here is my third tip for fried rice. Many fried rice recipes require the egg to be poured into the rice and fried together, which for the commercial kitchen is not a problem because they have higher heat on their stoves causing the egg to cook quicker than on a domestic stove.
On your home stove, it takes a long time to cook the egg when it is mixed with rice and requires constant stir frying, which can affect the shape and consistency of the rice. The easiest way to solve this problem is to fry the eggs first.
In a small flat non-stick pan, pour a small amount of peanut oil.
Preheat for about a minute and pour in the egg.
When eggs have solidified, stir and toss with a wooden spoon to ensure uniform heat.
Continue stirring the egg until it reaches a crumbly appearance. Once the egg is cooked, turn off the stove and put the eggs aside on a plate. Do not leave them in the pot or they will continue to cook making them dry and rubbery.
Take a relatively deep, non-stick pan (it needs to be deep so you can turn the rice without spilling) and add a small amount of peanut oil.
Preheat for a minute or so and add the chopped green onions, stirring quickly to release the aroma.
Add the cooled rice and toss to mix evenly.
Add salt and pepper and stir.
Toss in the fried eggs continuing to stir evenly and turn off the heat.
Lastly, stir in the chopped Basil. Basil must be added last, close to serving time, as the heat turns it black and affects its fragrance.
Serve and garnish with a few basil leaves.
Fried Rice Tips
- When cooking fried rice, remember the proportion of rice to water is 1: 1.6. Cooking rice in a pot on the stove will give you just as good results as a rice cooker.
- The cooked rice must be properly cooled to enhance its elasticity and strength.
- Cooking the eggs in a separate pan to the fried rice makes a better-fried rice.
- In addition to eggs, feel free to add diced cooked meat, carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, cucumber, chicken and even cashew nuts or peanuts. Use your imagination to produce a tastier and more nutritious fried rice.
- Always cook the additional ingredients first until they are semi-cooked, and then add the rice and spices.Stir fry quickly to ensure even heating and to bring out the best of the spicy aromas.
- Stir frying must be fast so that the rice is not over heated in one place for too long, causing it to become hard and dry.