The secret to making perfect fried rice just like at a Chinese restaurant
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.
Coconut rice recipe
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.
- 24 ounces (about 3 cups) jasmine rice
- 1 (13.5 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, shaken well
- 13.5 ounces water (use coconut milk can to measure)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Rinse the rice: Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and put that into a large bowl. Place under cold running water. Gently stir clockwise with a slightly cupped hand, taking care not to break the rice. Discard the water as it becomes cloudy, then repeat the process a few times until the water runs clear. Drain in the fine mesh strainer for at least 10 minutes prior to cooking.
- To cook the rice using a rice cooker, put the rice, coconut milk, water and salt in a rice cooker and stir gently to combine. Proceed to cook following your rice cooker’s instructions. When done cooking, leave the rice alone for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow it to absorb any residual moisture in the cooker. To cook the rice on the stovetop, put the rice, coconut milk, water and salt in a heavy, 3-quart pot and stir gently to combine. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover and decrease the heat to low to maintain a low simmer. Cook for 9 minutes without uncovering. Don’t open the pot! Don’t stir it! Turn off the heat and leave the rice alone for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow it to absorb any residual moisture in the pot.
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
- Spread the rice out on a cookie sheet and let it cool off.
- Put it in the refrigerator and leave it uncovered for 12 to 24 hours.
- Remove it from refrigerator and separate the rice grains gently, being careful not to smash or break the grains.
- Use immediately with your favorite fried rice recipe or cover it and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.