Great Fried Rice At Home

By Nils Dahl

Date: May 31, 2002


You cannot duplicate Chinese cooking at home. The commercial gas stoves used with woks have blast burners that heat the bottom half of the wok to 600 degrees or higher - far hotter than is possible or safe for home cooking.

But you CAN make even better fried rice at home. It is easy.

I personally use a countertop steamer - Black and Decker/GE or some equivalent that comes with a rice insert - a solid tray with small loop handles.

Pick a decent brand of long grain white rice - store brands usually work just fine. I have only had poor results with Rico brand, a hispanic private label.

Do NOT wash the rice. Washing removes the dust that contains the added vitamins.

And so we begin. On the first day, measure 1 cup of white rice into the rice insert of the steamer unit. Fill the bottom reservoir with hot water - to the indicated maximum level. Now measure 1 1/2 cups of hot tap water and add that to the rice in the rice insert. Jiggle a bit to level the rice. Drop the rice insert into the steamer, cover, and cook for about 40 minutes. The rice should be fully cooked and very tender. It can sit for a while with the top on.

When convenient, uncover the steamer and remove the rice insert. Using a large metal serving spoon or whatever, move the warm cooked rice into a plastic bag that has plenty of room. Drop the bag of warm rice into the refrigerator - with the bag open. When the rice has chilled down, twist and tie the bag closed. Leave it until Day 2.

On Day 2, the rice will be firmed up nicely. It will be in a big lump. Untie the bag and massage the outside to break up the lump into individual grains. No need to be thorough. Walnut sized hunks or smaller will separate into individual grains during reheating.

I usually prepare 1/2 cup each of finely chopped scallions, tips of broccoli, and chopped onion plus 1/4 cup of finely chopped sweet red pepper. About 1/2 cup of good quality ham, sliced thin and then chopped serves as the meat. You can substitute packaged turkey slices, also chopped. for best flavor, you really want 1/2 cup of finely chopped smoked pork shoulder, but smoked pork shoulder needs 2-3 hours of boiling, lots of cutting to separate out the meat, and refrigeration overnight. Gwaltney is a local brand of a Canadian made shoulder that is superb. Of course you could use white meat chicken, real turkey breast, barbequed or smoked meats of all kinds, etc. And I usually open and drain one can of sweet corn.

In a wok/frypan (T-Fal is my favorite - I own three of their wok/frypans), pour 1/4 cup peanut oil and heat up until water quickly steams away when dropped onto the hot oil.

Using a very large plastic fork to stir, dump in the chopped raw onion and stir fry a while - maybe 2 minutes. Next, dump in the broccoli tips and stir another minute. Next dump in the finely chopped meat and keep stirring for 2 minutes more. Dump in the drained corn and scallions last - and toss one minute or so.

Finally, dump in all the rice and toss until everything is thoroughly mixed and warmed up. this can take 3 minutes or more.

Add 1/4 cup of soy sauce while continuing to toss the mixture until the rice is all evenly colored by the soy sauce.

Serve immediately. If you want sweet/sour sauce, just take a can of sliced peaches or apricots, decant the liquid into a bowl, finely chopped the fruit, add back and simmer the mixture in a saucepan until hot. Add white vinegar to taste (try 1/4 cup at first) and resweeten with sugar if too sour. Then stir in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch thoroughly and stir while it thickens. Add a dash of citric acid powder to help keep it fresh(pharmacies can order food grade citric acid or buy Fruit Fresh in canning supply sections of stores). Commercial brands of sweet/sour sauce contain sulfites that produce a bitter aftertaste.

For heat, try a dish of finely chopped preserved hot peppers that each person can spoon into their own portion. I use hot cherry peppers since the local markets charge way too much for fresh hot peppers. You can also serve a dish of grated horseradish for a slightly different heat - and a tiny dish of freshly grated ginger root for yet another heat source. Wasabi powder is yet another option, but it spoils rapidly after it is mixed with water. Mix the powder with warm water, cover, and let stand 5 minutes, then use up immediately.

If you do want to use chopped up snow pea pods, add those first, before the chopped onion. Or you can try various other vegetables - canned sliced water chestnuts, bamboo shoots sliced up, chopped artichoke hearts, etc. Sometimes I slice and chop leeks instead of scallions.

The resulting dish will be a meal all by itself. Note that I do NOT bother making cooked egg but that is easy also. Beat 2 large eggs smooth, add 1 tablespoon of water, and spread out over a 12 inch frypan surface after the non-stick coating has been wiped with peanut oil and heated up. The ultra-thin egg cooks quickly and then can be chopped finely and added LAST to the fried rice mix.

A colorful, varied fried rice dish can also make a nice side dish for cookouts, a pleasant change from potato salad or similar items. This is a great way to use up leftover chicken or turkey also. You can get extra flavor by adding in chicken fat. The cooked rice keeps a week or more when bagged and refrigerated. And you can add local hot sauces to taste or use chopped shrimp and other seafoods if you like. Store fried rice leftovers only 1-2 days, covered and refrigerated.

One word of caution. All soy sauces are loaded with salt, so never add salt to this dish and try to minimize the amount of soy sauce used. If you try adding hot peppers to the cooking mixture, the heat will spread to everything quickly, masking all the other flavors. Chinese style pork is usually cooked light pork that has been simmered in a dark red sweet sauce made with cherries, sugar, orange, and other flavors. I prefer ham.

A wok/frypan has a small flat area in the center of the bottom and the classic curved sides of a wok. Cooking is best done on a gas burner, Coleman camp stove, or similar heat source. Electric burners tend to overheat areas of the cooking utensil and burn foods badly.




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