Fried Rice Paradise

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Countless recipes to make it with but a few techniques to get it right

Fried rice paradise, Nasi goreng very nice
That’s a speciality, 99 varieties...

You may have heard of this famous song by Dick Lee. Dare to hum the tune and it will be stuck in your head for the next 24 hours. (Ok. too late...there you go.)

Indeed we do live in a fried rice paradise in Southeast Asia. Thai, Malay, Indonesian, Indian or Chinese, this dish has been "wokked" out in every variety. There are probably more than 99: there are countless varieties actually when you think of what households will do with their dinner leftovers.

I have eaten this fried by my Mum as long as I can remember. It tasted best when she was working in the restaurant. Looking back, it must be the "wok hei." There was always leftover rice for her to cook it with.

It has the convenience of a one-dish meal. Cheap to make, especially when you are using leftovers. Quick to assemble. 

My mum's way of doing it is an open secret. Use leftover rice. It needs to be firm and separated. Not mushy and sticky please. If you like your rice wet and mushy, then it is hard to make good fried rice. The wok fire needs to be hot. If cooking at home, she would fry one plate at a time, to compensate for the lack of "wok hei" in the home kitchen. Her fried rice made at home was very decent. The egg was always fried first and cut into smaller pieces. 

That actually summarises what makes for good fried rice: dry separated firm grains of rice and a good fire (or cooking in smaller portions). So anything that can affect the two, you accommodate. Everything else you variate, especially taste. Understand this, and you can make good fried rice everytime. And you can experiment with different ingredients.

This is typically how the dish is done per portion:
The typical "mise en place." Leftovers!
  1. 2 Tablespoon of oil in wok. When heated up, add the meat (pork, chicken, prawns, Chinese sausage etc)
  2. After about one or two minutes, push the meat to one side, add 1 tablespoon of oil, heat up and add the egg and stir.
  3. Add veg (corn, diced carrot, green peas etc). Fry.
  4. Increase the fire. Add rice. If you have to, use your hand and separate the grains with your fingers as you drop it into the wok. Fry or stir vigorously to ensure rice separation.
  5. Add the sauces: soy sauce, black sauce, pepper, MSG etc. Taste and adjust.
  6. As you fry, if you prefer it to be less dry, add some water or chicken stock
The rice needs only 2-3 minutes in the wok. Dish out. Garnish with more veg (shredded lettuce, spring onions etc) and fried shallots. Serve hot.

As you can imagine, this "specialty has 99 varieties." Try adding chilli, dried shrimps, Chinese sausage, anchovies, salted fish, veg as you like (e.g. diced long bean) etc. Some can go into the wok or as garnish. You can even skip the dark soy sauce for a fairer paradise. I should add though, that MSG does wonders to fried rice.

Want it to go the Thai way? Fish sauce, coriander roots, peppercorn, basil leaves etc.
Indonesian? Add chili, crispy salted fish, tempe, garnish with fried egg and keropok (fish cracker).
Indian? Mutton, ghee, fried anchovies, cucumber and tomato ketchup.
Japanese? Why not? Soy Sauce, dashi stock, seaweed, bonito flakes etc.

Nothing less than a wok will do for a good plate of fried rice
Homestyle...what do you have leftover in your fridge? Or something that is approaching its due date? Be creative and waste not your leftovers.

Just remember the two principles for a good fried rice: Dry firm separated rice grains and hot fire. 

And did I tell you that the wok is best for this? Try using a flat pan to fry rice and you will appreciate the genius of the wok. And a good wok has no flat bottom. 

(Note: You can also check out this Ieat post on doing a good fried rice.)  

Check your fridge.
Don't waste leftovers.
Create your own.
Wok away.

Below are photos of some fried rice made in my own paradise on various occasions to feed my (sometimes) angelic daughters.

Thai way, coriander roots, fish sauce etc. Tasted great and it helped that the
leftover long grain rice was dry and not mushy.

Indonesian style with chilli, kind of. Garnished with a leftover and fried 45 min 62C egg!
Missing some keropok though.
The traditional Malaysian Chinese way. Turned out quite delectable.

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  1. Great post and pictures as usual!

    Regarding "black sauce", is this the same thing as
    brown sauce, and do you have any recommendations or recipes for making the perfect version of it?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Hi Kevin. Thanks.

    Black sauce = dark or thick soy sauce

    I will list out a few recipes in a revision of this post.

  3. Your blog is brilliant. Thank you. My fried rice is much better than it used to be now!

  4. Love the way you put up your blog! Thanks!
    Do you have any idea how many days can cooked rice be left in fridge?

  5. Caty - I suppose it depends on your fridge and how you store your rice. We have eaten rice that have been fridged up to 5 days. Even longer if you put it into the freezer.