Ask Peter: Fried rice
I have a problem with fried rice. My method, which may be completely wrong, is to quickly cook thinly sliced veg in the wok, put aside then fry the rice and add the veg with some soy sauce, oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce then add leftover meat. I use a wok for this and I either cook the fried rice on the electric stove or on the barbecue side gas ring on pleasant days. My trouble may be the variety of rice. I use basmati? I try to half cook it so that it finishes off in the wok. It does not seem to work, it’s either mushy or half cooked. Maybe I use too much liquid. How long do you boil the rice for prior to putting in the wok? Should you boil it in the morning, drain it well and refrigerate? Can you give me a good recipe and procedure on how do it properly? Allan
I have to say, this is the first time I’ve heard of using half cooked rice to make stir-fried rice. I’ve only ever made it using left-over rice from the night before, or using rice I’ve cooked and cooled at least 6 hours before making it. Likewise I’ve not heard of rice being cooked last minute for fried rice as the grains will be too moist. It is my understanding, based on working with many Asian cooks over the years, that the rice needs to be slightly “dried out” for it to work, or you end up with damp, sodden fried-rice rather than single-grainy and light.
First of all, the variety of rice you use won’t affect the final dish at all apart from in flavour and texture. Basmati rice, though from India, not China, is a wonderfully firm textured rice and incredibly flavoursome. Likewise jasmine rice or even white or brown short-grained rice can produce a great stir-fry if cooked properly. If you’re making the fried rice at the last minute then do try to cook it at least a few hours before you need it (either steamed or boiled, or even boil in a bag varieties), then spread it out on a tray to cool.
The first step is to have the rice cooked and cooled.
Second step is the remaining ingredients, and I have to say egg should be one of them. I always beat 2 eggs with 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil and have at the ready. Finely chopped ginger, chillies and garlic are great additions to fried-rice but not necessary — although they benefit it enormously so, if using, have them ready.
Next are the veges, and possibly meat. Slice everything fairly thin and around the same thickness (ie, zucchini the same 3-5mm thickness as onions, capsicums and so on) as they’ll cook quicker and evenly. Meat can be sliced or diced, or even minced in the case of prawns, pork, chicken, lamb or beef. Meat can even be pre-cooked — sliced left-over roast pork belly, roast chicken or left over grilled steak. And sliced streaky bacon or lardons, though not traditional at all, can add a great smokiness and richness to a stir-fry.
Heat up a wok. If you are using raw meat, then drizzle in a little oil and when smoking, swirl it around, add the meat and fry until it’s just cooked through. Toss it with a large spoon or tongs without lifting the wok off the heat (woks cool down quickly off the heat and the food becomes moist instead of caramelising).
Tip the meat into a heat-proof bowl and bring the wok back to heat. Add more oil and cook the vegetables until coloured, tossing as you did the meat, without lifting the wok. Tip onto the meat. I must say that you should not overload the wok at any time as the heat lessens and everything stews instead of frying. If you have a lot to stir-fry, then do this in smaller batches. Keep the meat and veges warm.
Bring the wok back to heat, add oil and then add the garlic, ginger and chilli if using and cook briefly until just beginning to colour — be careful not to burn it. Quickly add the rice and toss the rice for a few minutes, as it heats up. Drizzle on the beaten eggs and leave for 20 seconds before tossing the rice again. The egg sets and then gets broken into smallish pieces as you mix it all up.
Return the meat and veges to the wok and toss everything together. Drizzle on soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin, or whatever takes your fancy, and keep tossing the ingredients in the wok until everything is piping hot. At this point add sliced spring onions, shredded mint, coriander leaves and crispy shallots (bought from Asian grocers) and mix it all together. You can add salt if it needs extra seasoning, rather than soy sauce which will make it moist.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.
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