The last time I tried to make fried rice, I made a sad mess of rice pudding instead. I made a classic rookie mistake, scooping wet, just-cooked rice directly from the pot into a hot pan. It didn't fry, it steamed... and it stuck. Victory was not ours that night, my friends.
But I've just found the secret to fried rice in the new cookbook, The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes from the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau. (If you're not already familiar, Macau is a peninsula on the southern coast of China. It's where that casino scene from the movie Skyfall takes place. Americans know it as the Las Vegas of Asia, but I just made all of Asia cringe writing that.)
Fat Rice is a popular restaurant in Chicago, and it's also the name of an insanely complicated Macanese recipe from the cookbook. I'm not gonna lie — a lot of the recipes look way too involved for weeknight family dinner. But what I love about it are the comic book-style instructions (more of this, please, cookbook publishers!) and the drool-inducing flavors evoked on every page.
But back to fried rice done right: To start, you need the basic building blocks. So we begin with one of the simplest recipes in the cookbook, coconut rice.
The marriage of rice and coconut makes magic: They both grow in the same climates/areas (India, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, to name a few), many of which are influences in Macanese cuisine. That said, coconut rice isn’t widespread in Macau, but it is found in sweet baji (rice pudding made with sticky rice and coconut milk), the Macanese answer to rice pudding. Don’t be deceived by rice’s simplicity. Steamed rice is an integral ingredient to so many cultures, and it seems so effortless to cook. But to cook it right — resulting in light, fluffy, separate grains — can be extremely difficult. Be gentle handling the rice so it doesn’t break, releasing more starch than you want and resulting in a gummy end product. And measure carefully — the proper liquid-to-rice ratio is key.
So that's Fat Rice's recipe for coconut rice, which is the first step to fried rice glory. But you're not done yet. Next, you'll need to dry out that rice. We've paraphrased their instructions here.
How to prepare your rice for frying
Fat Rice has a killer fried rice recipe, but these instructions will set you up for just about any recipe you want to use. So now you know. Go make the best fried rice of your life.
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