There’s nothing like having an expert show you how to do something to make you realise how you’ve been getting it wrong for years, as Justine Costigan discovers.
You can find variations of fried rice – one of our great comfort foods – in every Asian country, and the easy-to-cook and easy-to-eat dish has been adopted enthusiastically around the world.
Christine Yong, manager of Melbourne’s Red Emperor restaurant at Southbank, says fried rice is the dish you make when you don’t feel like cooking: you simply take some left-over rice, eggs, and cooked meat and vegetables, stir-fry them in a wok and you’re done.
For chef Hon Kau Hui, who came to Australia from Hong Kong in 1984 to work at the Flower Drum and has been at the Red Emperor since 1995, the key to perfect fried rice is dry fluffy rice and pre-cooking your vegetables and meat.
Photo: Paul Jeffers
Christine Yong says fried rice is traditionally made with the ingredients you have at home and is a good way to use up leftover cooked meats and vegetables.
The recipe below should simply be a guide – once you have mastered the technique you can play around with ingredients and quantities.
Yong says fried rice is a dish for when you’re “feeling lazy” – you shouldn’t have to go shopping, or go to too much effort.
She says in Chinese culture fried rice is considered a meal in itself, rather than a side dish, and can be eaten at any time of day.
Cooked rice should be spread out on a tray and cooled (but not left out of the fridge for more than two hours), then refrigerated. Refrigeration helps draw moisture out of the rice. If you don’t have any pre-cooked rice, Yong says you can slightly reduce the amount of water used in your rice cooker to achieve cooked but dry rice, ready for immediate use.
Meat and vegetables
Apart from the eggs, which are fried at the time of cooking, and the spring onions, which are left raw, all the ingredients for fried rice should be pre-cooked, as the frying process is only long enough to heat them through. All meats and vegetables should be diced – you want them all roughly the same size.
Hon Kau Hui’s Red Emperor fried rice
Chopping board, sharp knife, non-stick frypan or wok
- 500g cooked rice (about 2 cups raw rice)
- 300g char siew pork (from an Asian BBQ shop), diced
- 150g cooked shrimp
- 2-3 stalks spring onions, diced
- 1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
- 3 tblsp cooked peas
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
- 2 tblsp vegetable oil
(serves 2-3 people)
Heat your pan until it is very hot. Add your oil to the pan and swirl it around until the pan is coated. Pour out any excess oil.
Beat your eggs with a fork until the yolk and whites are mixed then pour them into the hot pan.
When the egg is cooked, add the rice to the pan and start moving the egg and rice around so that it is always moving and doesn’t have a chance to stick to the pan. Use your ladle or spoon to “beat” the rice so the grains start to separate and begin to be coated with egg.
Add the salt and chicken stock powder and mix well. It’s important to make sure these flavours are evenly distributed.
Add the cooked meat and vegetables and keep moving the ingredients around in the pan until they are all mixed well. Continue doing this for another minute or two until all the ingredients are heated through and the fried rice is hot. The rice should now have a lovely yellow colour from the egg. Toss through the spring onions and serve.
Replace pork with any leftover roast meats, such as chicken or beef, and use any combination of cooked and diced vegetables.
Vegetarian fried rice: Use a combination of cooked and diced carrots, beans, peas and corn. Christine Yong says diced fresh or tinned pineapple is delicious in vegetarian fried rice. Replace chicken stock powder with the vegetarian equivalent.
There’s nothing like having an expert show you how to do something to make you realise how you’ve been getting it wrong for years (note to self – no more soy sauce in fried rice). Hon Kau Hui’s recipe also proves once again that great food can be really simple. This is a recipe anyone can master at home, even without the high temperatures of a commercial kitchen, and once you have mastered the simple technique you will be able to whip this up in no time.