Let’s start out on a positive note. The vegetables were crisp-tender, the eggs were fluffy, and the flavor was very well balanced (peanut oil + fish sauce + soy sauce). The problem? The rice was mushy.
The rice always turns out mushy. I’ve tried several techniques, but none have resolved the problem. Day-old rice. Check. Smoking hot wok. Check. More oil. Less oil. More stirring. Less stirring. Smaller batches. Check, check, check, check, check. My current theory is that I’m cooking it too long (10-15 minutes), but who knows. My dad told me to stir constantly over super-high heat until it felt like my arm was about to fall off. Who knows what that means in minutes.
I just want to be able to make that junky, crispy, smoky restaurant fried rice at home. My dad can. Can anyone else?
I don’t really follow a recipe, which is maybe part of the problem. Here are some things that have made a positive difference in my fried rice:
- Use a wok, if you have one. Otherwise, use your biggest, most heat-conducting pan. Heat the wok/pan until it’s really, really hot.
- Invest in some peanut oil. This will make the biggest flavor difference in all your Asian-inspired dishes. Use enough peanut oil to coat the entire surface of your wok and leave a tiny bit standing in the bottom.
- Use day-old rice. It gives your fried rice a better texture. Also, it’s a good way to repurpose leftovers.
- Have all of your ingredients ready to go. That means you have already chopped the veggies, beaten the eggs, and broken up the rice with a fork. I eyeball proportions, but I’d say you want about 1 part veggies and 2 parts rice.
- Think about the order you’re going to cook things in. You want to add the longest-cooking veggies first (carrots, mushrooms, etc.), then rice, then eggs (if you’re into that sort of thing), and finally stir in the veggies that just need to be warmed (peas, water chestnuts, green onion, etc.). It’s better to undercook veggies than overcook them.
- If you’re using eggs, here’s what you do: scoot the rice to one side of the wok. Then tilt the wok so that the rice is on the high side and the empty space is over the heat. Add a little more peanut oil and heat it. With the wok still tilted, add the beaten egg. Stir a little like you would scrambled eggs. Just before the egg is cooked, mix it into the rice.
- This is the secret ingredient: fish sauce. Just before you serve the fried rice, add two drops of fish sauce and about a teaspoon of soy sauce. Whatever you do, don’t smell the fish sauce.
- Work in small batches. Like most fried or sauteed foods, you don’t want to overcrowd the pan. I’m usually not patient enough to do this, but it’s probably best to fry it one serving at a time.
- Eat it with chopsticks. Seriously.