Some aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallions). Some protein (egg, pork, shrimp). A hot wok (or a skillet). Fried rice doesn’t require much.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS USE DAY-OLD RICE…
Freshly-made grains of rice (short or medium grain, please) are bloated with water (read: mushy), which are nearly impossible to get as crunchy and crisp as good fried rice should be. Day-old rice, on the other hand, has dried out and is perfect for frying. The pro move: make a batch of rice the night before and chill it in your refrigerator.
…EXCEPT WHEN YOU USE THE FREEZER TRICK
There will be mornings when you wake up craving fried rice for dinner. If there’s no day-old rice in the house, don’t freak out—just turn to the freezer. Make a batch of rice and spread it in a thin layer on a sheet tray. Put the tray in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes (this keeps the grains from clumping), then portion out the rice into individual freezer bags. Freeze for a couple hours and BOOM—dry rice, ready for frying. (Note: You need to let the rice thaw before frying.)
BE A BOY SCOUT
You know that chef who works the wok station at your Chinese spot? The one who makes all that noise, banging his metal ladle and spatula against the sizzling steel as if he’s Art Blakey? That chef can work so fast because he’s prepared. His ginger, garlic and scallions are cut. His egg is beaten. His bacon is chopped. If you want to cook your fried rice perfectly, your ingredients need to be ready to go, too.
In Spain they call it the socarrat, the crispy, crusty, flavor-packed layer of rice at the bottom of a paella pan. Fried rice should have socarrat, too. Here’s how to get it: Once you’ve cooked your aromatics, protein, rice etc, fast and furiously over high heat, press the rice mixture down with your spatula. Your instinct will be to toss after 30 seconds. Don’t. Let the packed rice sit for 2-3 minutes, then flip, pat and repeat. The rice will not burn; instead, it will toast and char and caramelize. It’s how you want to serve fried rice. Anything less, and you’re not following the rules.
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