Part of the popularity of fried rice is that it is one of the only foods that can be eaten be everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions. Gluten free eaters can use a gluten free soy sauce. Vegetarians can skip the chicken and go for tofu or tempeh. Chicken fried rice follows Jewish and Muslim diet restriction. And it’s yummy!
The first component is obviously rice. It was explained to me by a Thai chef that fried rice is a dish that was created to utilize the leftover rice from the previous day. Since most of us don’t make cooker full of rice everyday we have to start fresh. Or, you could plan on making extra rice and save the leftover for frying. Either way, I like to use cold rice to make fried rice. Using fresh, hot rice can result in a very gummy, mushy end result.
So, I like to make the rice a while in advance, or the night before, and let it cool before using. I usually make 4 cups, then dump the rice onto a cookie sheet and allow it to cool completely.
Cooling completely is very important as rice is what we professionals call a potentially hazardous food. This means that it harbors bacteria, and has all the ingredients to create food poisoning. A way to limit this is to get the rice cold quickly, eliminating the amount of time bacteria can grow, as bacteria needs to be between 40 degrees and 140 degrees to grow.
The next component is chicken. Chicken thigh meat is what restaurants use to make fried rice. The reason isn’t just that thigh meat is cheaper, it also has more flavor that breast meat. Thigh meat also has a higher fat content, allowing it to stay juicier than breast meat, which can dry out more quickly.
To prepare the chicken, start by cutting out the extra fat. You don’t have to remove all the fat, unless you want to, just the large amounts on the edges of the thigh. Next, cut the chicken into small pieces, about a quarter inch or smaller. You can marinate your chicken if you want to, I love spicy food, so I like to marinate mine in a chili sauce.
Don’t forget the veggies. I like to use a lot of veggies in my fried rice. A Malaysian chef I worked for told me that fried rice shouldn’t have anything but fresh vegetables, and should have a good contrast in flavor and texture.
To that end I like to use veggies like carrots, green beans, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. If cooked until they are just warm you get great contrast. And remember, heat kills nutrients, so the less you cook your veg, the healthier they are for you.
The sauce options are almost unlimited when talking about fried rice, and I could go on for days. To illustrate the variety, I’m just going to through some different kinds out there, but for the recipe I’m going to give you we will keep it simple, and after you get comfortable making fried rice you can explore. I’ve had a traditional Indonesian fried rice that used vinegar and pineapple juice in the sauce.
A spicy Thai fried rice uses a paste call mint chili sauce that gets really spicy ( one of my favorites). Malaysian fried rice uses paprika and sambal sauce. The important part is the soy sauce. I am one of those weirdos who have 4 different kinds of soy sauce in the cupboard.
I highly recommend that at least a light soy and dark soy find their way on to your shelf. Using a light and dark soy in your rice makes all the difference in the world. They hit your tongue differently, enhancing flavor.
Chicken Fried Rice Recipe
1 cup rice, cooked and cooled
8 ounces chicken thigh, diced small
¼ onion, sliced into sticks
¼ cup green beans, end removed
¼ cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tomato, cut in to wedges
1 ounce soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Heat a wok or large sauté pan to medium high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Add the vegetables and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice, using a spoon or spatula to flatten the rice so it doesn’t clump.
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Add the soy sauce and sugar, and stir vigorously. When the rice is hot and uniformly colored, taste. If it needs more salt add more soy, if it’s too salty add more sugar. I like to serve my rice with a fried egg on top and green onions, Enjoy!