Chinese Shrimp or Chicken Fried Rice
By David J. Stewart | Older Recipe, try my NEW IMPROVED RICE
The photo above is my own seafood fried rice (you're welcome to use the yummy picture). I bought a small frozen bag of mixed seafood with squid, crab, shrimp, mussels and others goodies in it for my rice. I just add a little of the bag and then put the rest into the freezer in a zip-lock gallon-sized baggy. I generally like just shrimp, but I wanted to try something different this time. The stir-fry is almost done in the photo, just a few more turns. Fried rice is an art.
Above is my Breville electric gourmet wok in action. I really like this wok, and it gets HOT! Fried rice is simple and fun to make. The hardest part is seasoning the rice just right. Flavor is everything. There are different brands of soy and dark soy sauce, which will change the flavor of your rice. You'll have to try the different brands to see what you like. I prefer that my rice not be too flavored with soy sauce. Some of the best Chinese restaurant fried rice that I've tasted was not smothered in soy sauce, but rather, you could taste the green onions, eggs and rice and a hint of soy sauce.
If you want more flavor when the rice is done and it tastes bland, add some salt. However, if you follow the recipe below, I think you will be pleasantly content with the flavor. The one teaspoon of salt gives a great flavor. If you like a sweeter tasting rice, you can adjust the sugar from 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. I like more of a salty essence to my flavor than I do sweet.
Before you start, let me say that you are going to ruin meals in the learning process. Please don't get discouraged. I've had to throw quite a few meals in the garbage because it wasn't edible. That's the only way you're going to learn to cook. Heck, I've eaten at some restaurants where I had to throw the food away because it was so horrible. I'm sure you have too. It's from your mistakes that you'll learn what NOT TO DO (which is as important as what to do).
2 cups cooked white rice (1 cup uncooked. I don't use Jasmine rice for the rice cooker, but it's my favorite by itself served as plain white rice.)
1/3 lb. of whole shrimp or shredded chicken breast (you can make combination rice of you want). I only had flank beef the other day, so I made beef fried rice. Fried rice traditionally uses whatever leftovers are sitting around. You can add just about anything to fried rice... spam, Vienna hotdogs, diced pork chops, turkey, et cetera.
1 egg (I add it right in the wok and then stir it up. I've learned to make my fried rice quickly, which is important when you cook for yourself. You can eliminate the major project syndrome by simple things like this.)
1/2 chopped yellow onion (you can use white onion too. I like yellow best though)
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots (put the unused portion in a gallon-size freezer bag and use a little as needed)
3-4 scallions (long green onions. be careful not to accidentally buy garlic stems)
2 Tablespoons corn or olive oil (be careful here, too much oil will ruin your rice and make it taste greasy)
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce (comes in a bottle. Different brands taste different. Watch out for .)
1 teaspoon soy sauce (I use Kikkoman brand. Be careful if you add more because a little bit is strong.)
1 teaspoon brown sugar (you can use regular sugar, I like the flavor of brown sugar)
1 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine or sherry (alcohol cooks off during stir-dry. Flavoring is very nice.)
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper (I use white pepper if I have it, but black is fine.)
1/2 teaspoon salt (salt is tricky. The more vegetables and rice you add, the more salt you need. Dark soy sauce is very salty, more than light (regular) soy sauce. You may not need any salt at all. It's best to cook your rice, then taste it and add salt to taste. DON'T add too much. If you do, you can fix it by adding more sugar to the rice.)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (I use robust dark sesame oil). Sesame oil is strictly for flavoring, not cooking. Sesame oil is strong, so don't add too much or it'll overpower your meal's flavor).
ABOUT RICE: You'd think that something as simple as fried rice would be easy, but it's truly an art. I've ruined rice before with too much pepper, too much salt, too much sesame oil, adding too much meat or vegetables (which drowns the taste, making it bland). So be careful. You'll learn as I have that everything you add changes the flavor. You need to have a basic recipe that you stick too, no matter what, so at least it will be edible. Too much flavor is bad. Too much soy sauce will ruin the rice quickly. I know that if I use the above basic recipe that it will taste good.
SALT AND SUGAR: If your rice is too sweet, add some salt. If your rice is too salty, add some sugar.
*Something Funny... I once added a bunch of salt to my corn flakes cereal and milk accidentally, thinking it was sugar. I will never forget the first mouthful... Blahh! So I added a bunch of sugar, trying to FIX my cereal. I must have added a half of a box of sugar. It didn't work. My cereal was ruined. It was so horrible. Ah, but thankfully, salt and sugar DO blend wonderfully for rice and most other meals. Since salt is never added to cereal (at least not mine), it didn't taste right. When I first started cooking I was amazed that you could mix salt and sugar in meals, but it really is a wonderful taste. God's creation is awesome!
Blanch vegetables for 30 seconds in large pot of boiling water. Just lower a strainer into the pot with the meat and veggies. NO MORE THAN 30 SECONDS!!! You don't want withered veggies when you're done. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water before boiling. I don't measure the salt, I just add a couple dashes to my water. You'll learn to cook faster as you progress. If you put a lid on the pot, the water will boil quicker. My electric stove (I hate electric ranges) doesn't boil water if I don't use a lid over the pot. One day I'd like to go back to gas or propane, Lord willing. I can see gas flames and know how much heat I have, but with electric it's a guess of the dial at best. Electric is effective, just synthetic and fake to me. I love cooking and don't cook anywhere near as much as I would like to. Hopefully one day if the Lord wills.
If using chicken, tenderize thin strips with baking soda (not baking powder) rub for 15 minutes. Just add a couple teaspoons of baking soda on top of your shredded chicken and rub it around and then allow it to sit and do its work. Make sure the chicken is shredded into thin slices, so the baking soda has plenty of surface area to break down the acids in the fibers. You don't need to tenderize thinly cut ribeye or flank, but tougher cuts of beef are tenderized the same as chicken. It works on shrimp too. Shrimp tends to get tough in a stir fry and should also be tenderized with baking soda. That's how restaurants prepare their meats, that is, with a baking soda rub.
Add 2 tablespoons of corn or olive oil oil (don't use seasoned stir-fry oils unless you want the entire flavor of your rice dominated by it). I bought some “Thailand On a Plate” brand Wok Oil with aroma and the ginger essence caused a horrible smell to ruin my rice. Personally I don't like ginger, but if you do, you can add a half-inch of peeled and shredded ginger root to your rice at the beginning of cooking in the oil. I would never use it, but some recipes call for it (I just leave it out). It depends on what you like. Ginger is a dominating flavor essence. So stick to plain corn oil, and don't go over 2 tablespoons or you'll be tasting grease. If you use less than 2 cups of cooked rice, then cut your corn oil in half.
Add the oil to a hot wok (watch out for splatter). Add garlic to the corn oil in the wok. Wait about 10 seconds and then add the egg. Work the egg around and break it up with the spatula. This should take about 15 seconds. Then add all the cooked rice, mix it up, breaking apart any clumps in the rice. Stir-fry it for a minute or two. I like to allow the rice to sit for about 30 seconds and then flip it and I see it has slightly browned a bit. I do this only once. Then add all your meat and vegetables. Stir-fry everything for a couple minutes, gently turning everything over and mixing it together. Add all your liquid flavorings at the end and you green onions, stirring well. It's easy to overcook and wither your vegetables, so don't overcook the meal.
As a general rule, I've learned that the food only requires about half the time my mind thinks it does. I have ruined most of my meals by overcooking everything. My vegetables wither until you can't even recognize them anymore. The moisture evaporates and the meal is salty. My meat gets tough like jerky. All I had to do was remove the food a long time ago. Your blanched vegetables are basically ready to eat before you even add them to the wok, so keep that in mind. If you blanch the chicken for a minute in boiling, then it's cooked too. It'll be tender if you you marinated it in baking soda for 15 minutes before blanching. So all you're really doing in the wok is giving everything a quick high temperature sear.
Adjusting Your Flavoring
Flavoring is a science in cooking, a true art. Only time and experience (or a great recipe) can produce a great tasting meal. Taste your work and find out how the rice came out. If it doesn't seem to have enough flavor, add a little salt. I use Kosher salt. If you want to add a little white pepper, that would be fine too, but be careful with the pepper as too much will quickly overpower the food (either white or black pepper is fine). Just add a pinch or two of salt and white pepper, or just salt. A “pinch” is as much as you can hold (which is not much) while gently pinching your thumb and forefinger together from a bowl or container (a pinch is the same as a dash). Learning to flavor foods with salt and pepper is scary at first, because it's an art, like painting a picture. Too much of any one color will ruin the work.
With rice I've learned NOT to add too much soy sauce because it will dominate your flavor and overpower the meal if you add too much. So avoid the temptation to add more soy sauce unless you want it really rich and salty. Light soy sauce contains a lot of salt; whereas darker soy sauce doesn't have as much. That's why the following recipe calls for 4 times dark soy sauce as light soy sauce. If you want to add more soy sauce, scoop a side dish of rice from the wok and flavor it to see if you like it. If you like the flavor, then do the same to the entire batch. This prevents ruing the whole batch. After cooking rice for the dozenth time or so, then you'll know what to do without being so precautious with flavorings.
The following recipe is classic. When finished it won't have a dominating flavor; but will be delicate and delicious with a great taste. You wouldn't think that sugar would go with this recipe, but it really brings out the flavor when mixed with salt (which is common in many recipes). You will taste the delicious blend of flavors. When done, taste your rice. If it is too bland for you, then add a LITTLE salt at a time and mix it up again until you like the flavor. I'd also add a little pepper.
If it's too salty, add a little sugar. If it's too sweet, add some salt. Be careful with the pepper, as there's nothing to counter it if you add too much. Again, be careful about adding more soy sauce after the rice is done, because it adds more than salt to the food, it changes everything. I'd stick to salt and perhaps a little white pepper to flavor your rice after it's done and you still think it needs more flavor. Always taste your food before serving it to others or even yourself. It's easier to adjust while still in the wok. Remember, 6 to 8 “dashes” equals a teaspoon.
All you need to remember to become an expert at flavoring foods is to add JUST A LITTLE at a time until it tastes great to you. Don't add anything to your rice except salt and perhaps some white pepper. If you are scared, then take a little rice in a bowl and mix some salt and pepper in there so you can taste how it will come out, that way you ruin a little bowl instead of the whole meal if it tastes bad. That's a little trick I learned a long time ago, that is, just flavor a little in a side bowl and see if it works (that way you don't spoil the entire batch).
Adding a little salt is safe, but too much salt will ruin any meal very quickly. When I make beef shank-bone soup, I wait until the end to flavor my soup with salt and pepper. I just start out with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and then keep adding at a 2-to-1 ratio of salt to pepper until it tastes right. If you are cooking for your family, give them a small bowl to see if they want more flavor or like it as is (since they're the one's eating it). Again, you can take a small side bowl and add a lot more salt and pepper just to see what a lot more would taste like. That's why I usually add extra water to my soups to make enough for testing at the end when I'm adjusting my flavor. Fortunately, if you add too much salt or pepper to soup, you can undo the damage by just adding more water and simmering it for awhile; but you can't do that with fried rice, so be careful.