Why Use Leftover Rice For Fried Rice?

Posted on 11 Apr 2017 22:56

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Fried rice can be a quick and satisfying meal, especially for those who love anything rice. Indeed, if you only equate fried rice with the soy sauce spiked stuff you get from carryout Chinese places, you have the wrong idea, entirely. Fried rice can be a quick and comforting meal you throw together, with nothing but leftovers, or it can be a bit more complex. Either way, it is not complicated to make. One rule you will always hear about making fried rice is to use leftover rice. Many think that this is just a bow to tradition since fried rice is a way to use leftover rice. Well, of course, that's true. But is this the only reason to use leftover rice?

I would venture to guess that many people attempt to make fried rice by using freshly cooked rice. When their rice turns out soggy and mushy, they wonder what they did wrong. This reveals the practical reason for using leftover rice, from the day before. Leftover rice begins to dry out fairly quickly. This is why when you store a take-out container of rice in the fridge, it becomes a hard, dry-ish block by the next day or so.

When you make fried rice, you will be introducing moisture back into the rice. If your rice has just been cooked, you are simply going to continue to introduce moisture to already moist rice. The result is over-cooked mush. So, it is easier, and the result is much better when you use dried out leftover rice. Note that when you use leftover rice, don't use if it is older than about a day or two, although Chinese cooks may keep it up to three days or more. And, do cook and heat it thoroughly. Rice, especially white rice, which is mostly starch, is a bacterial paradise. However, if you keep it cold and use it promptly, there is no need to waste it.

Since the leftover rice will have begun to harden and stick together, before you use it in your fried rice you should gently separate the grains with your hands or a fork. If you don't do this, you will end up spending a bunch of time trying to separate the hard chunks of rice while cooking, and this will slow you down and may cause you to overcook some of the rice and other components.


Can I Use Freshly Cooked Rice for Fried Rice?

Yes. If you really want some fried rice, but you don't have any leftover cooked rice, the trick is to cook some rice with less than the required amount of water. For instance, if you would normally cook one cup of rice with 1.5 cups of water, use about 1/2 cup less. Once all the water is absorbed, the rice should still be quite "al dente," or, in other words, hard.

Before you use this rice, though, let it cool completely. This will help, as the rice will lose a bit of the excess moisture clinging to the rice. Now, when you make fried rice with it, and add the soy sauce, along with any vegetables, the moisture will finish cooking the rice, hopefully without making it into a rice mush.

The problem is that this is not fool-proof. For one, it is hard to gauge exactly how much water to initially cook the rice with. And two, some of the rice kernels will be more cooked than others. A rice cooker may solve this problem, but even then it is difficult. The resulting fried rice can still be tasty and satisfying! And some people prefer their rice a bit mushy. For the best results, though, stick with leftovers.

What Type of Rice for Fried Rice?

You will want to use any good long grain rice. I love to use Jasmine, but Basmati is also great. Any long grain rice will do. Medium-grain rice tends to be more starchy and sticky, so is not as good for making fried rice.

What's the Minimum Ingredients I Need to Make Fried Rice?

To make a meal of fried rice with very little, the most you need is rice, some eggs, soy sauce, a little oil, and maybe some green onions or shallots (but regular onion will do in a pinch), and any other ingredients you want to throw in. You can even do without the eggs, but they give the protein that turns the dish into a meal.

It is best to make fried rice in a wok], A large pot will do in a pinch. Also, big dutch oven works well.


Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen 14-inch Excalibur Lidded Wok
Westinghouse Select Series Seasoned Cast Iron 5-Quart Dutch Oven

Most of us probably have soy sauce on hand but to make authentic Chinese fried rice I'd recommend using an authentic Chinese soy sauce. Look for "light" soy sauce as this is basically regular soy sauce. A few other pantry ingredients will allow you to make an excellent but simple fried rice. Below is a basic fried rice recipe from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. It features fresh or frozen green peas. You can add any optional ingredients that you like. For fried rice, one thing that is essential is mise en place. You MUST have all your ingredients chopped and laid out, because fried rice must be done quickly and continuously stirred, adding one ingredient and then another.

Simple Fried Rice Recipe




In a small bowl mix together the first six ingredients to make a sauce.

Place the cooked rice in a large bowl and use your hands to break up any lumps and separate the grains.

If you are using fresh peas, boil the peas in two cups of water for one to two minutes, or until the peas are tender. You can use the microwave for this as well, using the same amount of water in a microwave safe bowl or another vessel. If you are using frozen peas, let them thaw. If they are not tender enough, boil them until they are cooked enough to eat.

In a bowl, beat the eggs and mix in one tablespoon of the peanut oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the pinch of white pepper.

Heat a wok on high heat for 30 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil and coat the wok with the oil either by using a spatula or tilting the wok to spread the oil. Add the beaten eggs and scramble them with a spatula until they are medium firm, about 1 and 1/2 minutes. Turn off the burner, remove the eggs, and cut them into small pieces. Reserve for later.

Now, you will need to start with a clean wok so wash and dry your wok and the spatula. Heat the wok again over high heat for 20 seconds. Add the remaining peanut, 1 1/2 tablespoons and coat the wok. Add the ginger and the garlic, stirring briefly after each addition. Add the shallots 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 2 more minutes until the shallots are translucent. Add the peas and raise the heat to high, cooking and stirring another 2 minutes. Add the rice, stir to mix with the other ingredients, then lower the heat to medium. Continue stirring and cooking the rice for 3 more minutes, until all the rice is very hot.

Raise the heat to high. Stir the sauce you made at the beginning and drizzle it over the rice, stirring as you add it. Keep stirring constantly for at least 2 minutes or until all the rice is thoroughly coated with the sauce. Add the eggs and stir them in, cooking for another few minutes.

The rice if ready to serve.

Ideas for Additional Ingredients

Kam Yen Jan Chinese Style Sausage
Small cooked shrimp
Chinese ham or other ham
Any vegetable you like

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