Start to Finish: 45 minutes Servings: 2 Difficulty: Easy
You'll find as many variations of fried rice as for curries, but they share a commonality: speed of assembly. You have to have everything to ready to go before you heat the pan, which, incidentally, should be a wok -- the width and sloped sides help prevent overcooking. Ingredients differentiate Japanese fried rice -- cho-han or yakimeshi -- from its regional cousins. A typical Japanese fried rice uses japonica rice. Medium-grained and starchy, it's integral to the Japanese variation of the dish. And leftover is better, if not preferred, as the grains resist clumping better than fresh rice. If you don't have a wok, use a regular saute pan at least 12 inches wide.
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- 1/2 cup japonica rice
- 3 cloud ear mushrooms
- 1/2 pound scallions
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 green bell pepper
- 4 shiso leaves
- 1/2 to 1 cup protein element, such as roasted pork, ham, beef or chicken, chopped
- 2 eggs
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon bonito tuna flakes
Preparing the Rice
Prepare the rice the night before. Cover the rice with a few inches of cold water. Swish the rice in the water until the water turns cloudy, drain and repeat. Continue rinsing until the water is clear.
Drain almost all the water. Rub the rice grains together in the palm of your hand. This is known as polishing, and is a necessary step in removing the sticky texture inherent to Japanese rice; for this recipe, you want the cooked grains to be separated. Drain the rice in a colander.
Boil 1/2 cup of salted water to a boil and add the rice. Stir the rice, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and let the water return to a boil. Boil the rice for 1 minute and lower the heat to medium. Cook the rice for 10 minutes and bring down the heat to low.
Cook the rice for 10 minutes and take it off the stove. Let the rice steam, covered, for 10 minutes and fluff it with a fork. Spread out the rice on a sheet pan or in a shallow dish and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the Other Ingredients
Take the rice out the refrigerator 1 or 2 hours before you want to start cooking and let it sit at room temperature. Cold rice lowers the pan temperature, slows frying and creates a gummy rice texture.
Soak the cloud ear mushrooms in warm water for 15 minutes. Rinse the mushrooms and trim off the stems. Slice the mushrooms in 1/4-inch slices.
Chop the scallions crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces. Slice the garlic into thin slices.
Peel the carrot and slice it in half lengthwise. Set the carrot on a kitchen towel when slicing it lengthwise for stability. Slice the carrot halves crosswise into slices about as thin as a nickel.
Roughly chop the green pepper into 1/4-inch pieces. Thinly slice the shiso leaves.
Chop your meat selection into 1/4-inch pieces. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and set them aside.
Putting Everything Together
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium-low heat.
Cook the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, just long enough to fragrance the oil. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a paper towel.
Raise the heat to medium on a gas stove and high on an electric stove.
Add the mushrooms, scallions and peppers to the pan. Saute the vegetables until they start to brown and add a couple shakes of soy sauce. Add the protein.
Cook the protein until hot, stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Add the eggs. Stir the eggs quickly to break them up.
When the eggs start to set, add the rice. Break up the rice with a wooden spoon and toss it with the other ingredients. Add the sugar, sake and mirin around the edges of the pan and stir the ingredients.
Stir in a few slices of the reserved garlic and tuna flakes. Slide the fried rice onto a plate and top with the shiso leaves.
- This version of fried rice uses common Japanese ingredients. It's a loose recipe and resourceful dish, though, so feel free to use any ingredients you have on hand and omit those you don't. If you have half a fresh onion in the fridge or a lonely zucchini in the vegetable basket, chop it and use it. One guideline: Only use vegetables that release little moisture during cooking; stay away from tomatoes, cucumber, celery and other juicy veg.