Chinese Fried Rice

Chinese Fried Rice

There was a time when every time I tried to make fried rice, it came out a sticky, goopy, greasy mess. Then I read a Cook’s Illustrated article in which it said their secret to good fried rice was to use day-old rice, rice that had already dried out from sitting in a tupperware in the refrigerator. As Gru would say in Despicable Me, “Light bulb!” My results with cold leftover rice have been much better than with fresh hot cooked rice. If you’re Chinese, you probably already knew to use leftover rice, but growing up I didn’t pay enough attention to my mom’s wonderful cooking (and now that she’s far away, I don’t get to ask her about stuff nearly as much as I’d like)!

The recipe below was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated as well as from a wonderful book called Chinese Cooking Made Easy, by Michael M.T. Lee. I highly recommend Lee’s book as it gives a good foundation of Chinese methods, sauces, and recipes. Thanks, too, to Ray Yau for his excellent tips.

Chinese Fried Rice
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 - 4
In my experience, the secret to good fried rice is to use leftover cooked rice that's been sitting in the fridge for a day or two. This enables you to crumble up the rice into the pot with your fingers, separating the grains and allowing them to get coated with the light sauce without sticking together. Adapted from "Chinese Cooking Made Easy" by Michael Mu-Tsun Lee and Cook's Illustrated. Special thanks to Ray Yau for his excellent suggestions and tips.
  • 2 - 3 TBSP oil, divided
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 TBSP minced green onions or onion
  • ½ lb. of any of the following: diced chicken, shelled shrimp, ham, ground pork, ground beef, crab meat, lobster (whatever you have on hand)
  • 3 cups leftover cooked rice, cold
  • Pinch salt
  • Couple pinches white pepper to taste (or black pepper if you don't have white)
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables, diced (use any combination you like: peas, carrots, green beans, corn, broccoli, etc.). If using frozen veggies, see special instructions below.
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce, added in stages to taste
  1. If using frozen vegetables, simmer them 3 -5 minutes so they get a head start on tenderness.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 TBSP oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add eggs and stir-fry until cooked. Remove eggs from pan and set aside.
  3. Heat another 1 - 2 TBSP oil in the same pan, add onions and stir-fry until fragrant.
  4. If your meat is raw, add it here and stir-fry until just cooked. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Crumble the rice into the pan with your fingers, separating the grains. Add pinch of salt and couple pinches white pepper. Stir occasionally and let cook until soft again, about 5 minutes. Add a little oil if needed.
  6. When rice is hot and soft, add vegetables (whether fresh or heated-from-frozen), sugar, and 1 TBSP soy sauce. Add meat, and return eggs to pan. Stir-fry and keep mixing it all together until the meat is heated through, the veggies are as tender as you like, and the soy sauce is evenly distributed, about 3 - 5 minutes.
  7. Taste the fried rice, and if it needs more soy sauce, add a little bit, stir to evenly distribute the soy sauce again, and then taste again. Keep adding a little bit at a time, stirring thoroughly to incorporate it, until you like the final dish. If you add too much soy sauce, you can remedy it by adding in more rice.


Chinese Fried Rice


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  • Kathy

    Often when I cook rice I make a bit extra and then freeze it. That way I always have rice available to make fried rice. Also, I was always told that rice goes “off” very quickly and can be highly poisonous even if it doesn’t smell, look or taste bad so I never leave rice in the fridge for more than a day.

    • TheSweetRoad

      Great idea to freeze it, Kathy! I’ve heard that it can be highly poisonous as well – it always looks so innocent, though, doesn’t it? :) Thanks for the tips!