Level Up Your Stir Fried Rice, Avoid These 6 Common Mistakes

Fried rice is a versatile Chinese dish enjoyed by many around the world. Its simplicity makes it a popular choice for quick meals or using up leftover ingredients. However, even with its straightforward nature, there are a few common pitfalls that can lead to less-than-perfect results. 

Origin Of Fried Rice

Fried rice has its origins in Yangzhou, in the eastern Jiangsu province of China and it was particularly enjoyed by Emperor Yang during the Sui Dynasty. The core use of the dish was to prevent food wastage and as it was an era of extreme economic inequality, it was a staple among the peasants of the empire. It was usually made with leftover rice, vegetable scraps and eggs all thrown together sometimes with the addition of soy sauce, but most often just with a little salt. 

It was in the 20th century along with Chinese immigrants that the dish made its way to the United States and despite a general distrust of the newcomers, America couldn’t help but take to their food. Along with dishes like Chosuey, Fried Rice became a common household name and from there it made its way into the hearts and stomachs of the Western world. Today it’s more than a dish, it’s a technique, because true to its history, it’s more about utilising what you have on hand rather than a specific set of ingredients. 

Video Credits: Kunal Kapur/YouTube

Though at face value, it's a simple dish, there are many ways that you can overdo (or underdo) things during the cooking process. But avoid these few simple pitfalls and you’re sure to get it right every time.

Use Freshly Cooked Rice:

When we cook, it’s natural to think everything needs to be fresh, but in this case, leftovers are the way to go. Freshly cooked rice tends to be too moist, making it clump together when fried. Opt for day-old rice that has been refrigerated. This drier rice separates easily, resulting in better-textured fried rice.

Overcrowding the Pan:

If you’re cooking for a large group, be sure to use the biggest pan (preferably wok) you can find. But crowding things with too much rice or vegetables, things will cook unevenly and will end up soggy or undercooked in places. 

Cooking On Low Heat:

Don’t be afraid to get things scorching hot. Fried rice requires high heat for that characteristic wok aroma and quick cooking. Cooking on a low heat can result in mushy, overcooked rice. Preheat your pan or wok before adding a high smoke point oil, and then crank up the heat before introducing the ingredients.

Changing Up The Order:

The order in which you add ingredients to the pan matters. For instance, adding vegetables that release water (like tomatoes) early can make the rice soggy. Start with aromatics like onions and garlic, followed by denser vegetables, protein, and finally, rice

Under Seasoning:

Fried rice gains its flavour from a combination of ingredients, but seasoning is often overlooked. Failing to use soy sauce, oyster sauce, or other seasonings can result in bland fried rice. Remember to season your dish during the cooking process, adjusting the amounts to your taste preference.

Scrambling The Egg Too Late:

Often, the egg yolks are mixed in with the rice before cooking for a golden colour. Another way to do it is to scramble the egg in a separate part of the pan before adding the rice. This ensures the egg is cooked evenly, adding both flavour and texture.