The only thing better than great Chinese food is great Chinese food I’ve cooked myself at home. I can control the quality of the ingredients and it costs so much less. I’ve made some headway into making a few dishes with confidence, but fried rice has always kind of eluded me. But I think I’ve finally figured it out. Or at least, I’ve got a recipe/method that I can reproduce that creates really yummy fried rice. And you can do it, too.
This all started with some stew beef that was getting old and I needed to use up. So I sliced it up into thin 1/4 inch slices after cutting off the gross bits (connective tissue, gristle, etc.) Then I tossed it into a zip-top baggie with a couple splashes of soy sauce, sesame oil, a little bit of rice wine, rice wine vinegar, and pinch of white pepper and corn starch. Zipped the top, mixed it thoroughly inside the bag (no mess!) and popped in the fridge to marinate during the rest of prep. All in all I think it spent maybe 30 minutes in the fridge and it was the most tender, delicious beef I’ve ever had in a homemade Chinese dish. I think I’ll marinate all beef like that from now on!
Also, having the meat marinating in the fridge gave me plenty of time to slice up the rest of the veggies and scramble three eggs. I cheated a little by using frozen peas and carrots, but they are yummy and fast, so I just microwaved a bag. Besides, I’m pretty sure Chinese restaurants use frozen peas and carrots in their fried rice.
Once everything prepped and sitting out for easy access, I heated up a little peanut oil in my wok and stir-scrambled three eggs. They cooked quickly and I put them off to the side.
Next was the beef. Just a little oil to keep it from sticking, heated until just smoking and then I dumped it all out of the zip-top bag. I moved it around a little to help it brown and not stick. Once it was mostly cooked through I took it out and put it aside. It will finish cooking at the end.
A little more oil back in the wok, heated until it’s just smoking and then the onions go in. I used one large onion, cut into medium sized slivers. You want the onion to cook down into little nuggets of golden yumminess, so slice small and they definitely go in first to cook the longest. Slicing them down on the small size helps them kind of disintegrate into flavor rather than big chunks in the final dish.
Once the onions are pretty well softened and translucent, I dumped in four cups of fresh white rice. I’ve read that leftover rice works well, especially if you put in a little water as it goes into the wok. I’ve never had great results with the leftover rice, so I prefer fresh. Stir the rice into the onion mix, adding a little water if you need to (you shouldn’t need to.)
After the rice/onion mixture has cooked together pretty well, like 5-6 minutes in a small wok like mine, then you can add the sauce. I prepared this ahead of time, of course:
3 Tbs high quality soy sauce
3 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 tsp sweet rice wine
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
chili oil and/or chili flakes to taste (more if you like it spicy)
–Stir together until well blended–
When you do add your sauce to the wok, definitely pull the rice to the sides and leave the sauce in the well in the middle for a while to heat up. My small wok on a residential gas stove has trouble heating up big volumes of food, so I always give it time to get back up to temperature, especially when adding liquids. Once the sauce had heated up, I tossed in the pre-cooked eggs and chopped them up thoroughly and stirred into the rice along with the sauce.
Once the egg and sauce are well integrated, let it cook a bit longer, stirring occasionally. Once it’s back up to temperature, you pretty much start dumping everything back in. Everyone in the pool! Add your sliced scallions, the beef, and the peas and carrots. Just be sure to drain the peas and carrots. Microwave veggies are notorious for being soggy when re-heated.
The big trick I learned recently happens after everything is in the mix and your letting it heat back up and crisp the rice a little. Once the mix is nice and hot, pour maybe 1-2 tablespoons of sweet rice wine around the edge of the wok in a big sweeping motion and let it dribble down into the mix. Stir it all together and cook just a bit more. This gives it an extra boost of sweet yummy flavor right at the end and I really liked the results.
So, for not much money and just a little work, you’ve got a really giant pile of some amazing fried rice. This stuff is delicious and it re-heats really well. You’ll be eating on this for a while. Unless you have kids, in which case you better dig in fast because it won’t last long.
If you try this recipe, please leave me a note so I can hear how it worked for you!