Fried rice is probably best recognized as a staple dish in Chinese restaurants throughout the world. It is a combination of leftover or precooked rice, fried in oil with a variety of other ingredients. Fried rice is also a staple dish in many different Asian cuisines, though ingredients from one country, or even one region of a country, to another can vary significantly.
In American Chinese restaurants, fried rice is often a combination of rice, peas or carrots, and small amounts of pork or chicken. You can frequently order the dish with only pork, or only chicken. Many restaurants include a bit of seafood in recipes and label fried rice with mixed meats as a house special. Recipes may additionally include a bit of scrambled egg. This convenient and delicious way of preparing leftover rice and meat is perhaps the most famous type of fried rice in the world, and is called Yangzhou or Yangchow rice.
If you prefer Cantonese cuisine, you’ll find this rice dish prepared slightly differently. It often is cooked in a gravy sauce or served with a brown sauce on top. Korea and Thailand have varieties of this staple, and these have influenced recipes in parts of the world you might not expect to find the dish. For instance, in Peru, a popular dish is chaufa, which incorporates South American common spices and seasonings with the Yangzhou version of rice.
In Chinese restaurants, many order this rice as a typical side dish, though white rice is the more traditional side dish accompaniment. If the rice is chock full of ingredients like eggs and meat, it may make a main dish too. In China, it’s common for fried rice to be served at the end of a meal, instead of with main entrees. Care is taken to cook rice that is not too greasy and remains light and fluffy, and cooks are frequently judged on the quality of their fried rice.
If you’re preparing the dish at home, it helps to have a wok, but you can use any good flat pan that will heat evenly. Use you imagination in adding ingredients. A bit of leftover roast or ham can make for great meat in fried rice, but feel free to add whatever cooked, or quickly cooked vegetables you have. Consider green onions, chard or bok choy, mushrooms, sweet peppers, diced eggplant or zucchini. For flavoring, have soy sauce on hand, and chili oil for extra kick to your rice. The dish is best served hot and fresh, but you can keep it warm in a chafing dish for a while if you’re making it for a large number of guests.