The best fried rice I ever had was sitting at the bar of a tiny little ramen shop in Miyazaki, Japan. I told the chef as much and he was very proud to get the compliment, all the more so because I doubt he got many foreigners, if any, there. I asked him his secret and he smugly smiled and slapped his forearm. It's a Japanese thing which means "skill" as in it was all down to his skill as a chef.
I wasn't convinced and there had to be something that gave that fried rice such a distinctive flavour (not least because the Japanese tend to be very traditional with ingredients unless they're
trying to to highlight the uniqueness of the dish... he wasn't). I took another bite and put my tastebuds and memories to work.
After a few more seconds, it hit me, "Is there butter in this?" I asked. The smile fell off his face the same way it would if someone had called your bluff on a bad hand of poker. He mumbled a little and conceded it had a little butter and then he went back to cooking, not making eye contact with me the rest of the evening until I left, victorious in my attained knowledge.
Classic Fried Rice
Besides the optional butter, the remaining ingredients in this recipe are pretty standard. I use cooked brown rice to add a little nuttiness and more fibre, and lots of vegetables to add plenty more vitamins and minerals. The portion size is bulked-up by the grated carrot which also adds an amazing splash of colour.
On the ingredients front, there are a couple of things to remember:
- Soy sauce: I use Japanese soy sauce (like Kikkoman) because it has a much simpler flavour than most Chinese soy sauces which can have an added level of funk that I'm not a fan of. I'm probably biased because I lived in Japan but that's just my preferred soy sauce for this)
- Sesame oil: go with toasted and use it as a seasoning and not a main cooking oil as it has a very strong flavour.
- Pepper: you can use black pepper in this and it will be fine but the best flavour is using white pepper.
You don't need to use butter in this fried rice but you can add some at the end for a very unique flavour that you just might love. It's an amazing accompaniment to lots of Chinese or Asian-style mains or proteins.
It is actually possible to make this exact version using cauliflower rice instead of actual rice. BEFORE YOU TURN AWAY IN DISGUST, let me just say that cauliflower alternatives are the worst (ever had a cauliflower pizza?) but the seasoning in this dish makes it the only cauliflower alternative I ever eat. It's just delicious.
Try it and you'll be a believer.
Ingredients (makes 2 portions)
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- 2 cups cooked brown rice (about 100g uncooked rice)
- 1 large carrot
- 2 scallions (spring onions)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- White pepper (or black pepper if you prefer)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder/granules
- Pinch of salt
- 1 large handful of spinach leaves
- Cooking spray/olive oil spray
- 1 knob of butter (optional)
- A large wok (although a large frying pan will do)
- Prepare all your ingredients in advance as this will cook very quickly.
- Grate the carrot and finely chop the scallions into little rings (use the white and green parts and save some of the green parts for garnish)
- Break the egg into a cup, add a pinch of salt and beat until mixed.
- Roughly chop the spinach
- Have all the seasoning, sauces and oils at hand next to the stove
- Heat the wok over a med/high heat and add a spray of cooking oil
- Add the egg to the wok and tilt the wok to cover the base with egg like you're making a thin omelette.
- Once the egg has set, flip it (if you need to) and transfer it to a chopping board and chop it into strips for later.
- Add some more cooking oil spray to the wok and add the carrot and scallions. Cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes until the carrot has softened a little.
- Add the cooked rice and stir until heated through.
- All while stirring constantly, add the soy sauce and sesame oil and then add the pepper and garlic to taste. If you're using the butter, add it now and mix well.
- Add the spinach leaves and chopped omelette and stir well until the spinach has wilted a little.
Serve immediately topped with the remaining green scallion rings.
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