Secrets to Cooking the Best Chinese Fried Rice

fried rice

Fried Rice is the Chinese version of casserole. Basically, its a great way to use up leftover bits in the refrigerator. My ingredients change based on what vegetables and meat I have on hand.

The only 3 constants are:

1) Rice

2) Fish Sauce

3) Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong”

The above photo includes 1/4 of a red bell pepper, frozen peas/carrots, 2 eggs, 1/4 of a red onion, lap cheong (Chinese sausage). Sometimes I use bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, baby corn, pork, shrimp, chicken, ground beef, scallops…well, you get the picture. I’ve written a recipe for fried rice already, so instead of another recipe, I’m going to talk about some of the secrets that make the absolutely best fried rice in the world. I might repeat some of what I’ve written earlier, but its worth the read.

Secret #1: The Rice Just freshly cooked rice is hot, steamy, very moist and a little sticky. All of those things would make a very clumpy and soggy fried rice. Thats why day-old rice makes the best fried rice (storing in the refrigerator dries out the rice). My fried rice is flaky, light – which allows the individual flavors of the ingredients to really shine through. I almost always use Jasmine Rice for fried rice. If I want to make fried rice and don’t happen to have day-old rice on hand, here’s what I do: Make a batch of rice, except use 1/4 to 1/3 less water. This creates a rice that is a bit drier. Once the rice is done cooking, spread it out on a baking sheet so cool it off and let the steam (moisture) escape. Don’t try to fry the rice until its completely cool. You can put the baking sheet in the refrigerator, freezer or open window to expedite the process.

Secret #2: The Fish Sauce Many of my non-Asian friends will respond with “ewwwww… sauce?” But let me tell you, most dishes served in a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant contain fish sauce. Its like the SE Asian version of salt. Plus, do you know what Worchestershire Sauce is made of?!?! Just like anchovy paste in Italian cooking, a little goes a long way and once you cook it in a dish, I’ll bet you $10 that you can’t even pick out the taste of it. I use a brand called “Three Crabs”

Three Crabs Fish Sauce

A sign of good fish sauce is the color. You want to buy a brand that is tea-colored, which signifies that it probably came from the first pressing (best quality). Now, why the brand is called Three Crabs when the fish sauce doesn’t even contain crabs is a mystery. If the fish sauce is any darker, like the color of coca cola, don’t buy it. Ok, so why do I use fish sauce and what does it taste like? Well first lets talk about what it smells like. No. Let not. I’m not going to kid you. It stinks. Don’t even try. But for some mysterious reason (and especially since you only use a few shakes from the bottle in the dish) your final cooked dish will smell nothing like it. Taste: pure on your tongue is very pungent. However once you start adding different flavor notes: like sour (lime), sweet (sugar), spicy (chili) – it transports you into another dimension – many call it “umami“. I use it because it rounds out the flavors – giving the dish a hit of salty/sweet that I can’t replicate with sugar and salt. I add the fish sauce to the fried rice the same time I add the other seasonings, about 1/2 tsp at a time until it tastes just right. Not too salty. Not too pungent. You want to make sure that you have big “wok fry” motions to get the fish sauce evenly dispersed throughout the dish. Last thing you want is one of your guests taking a bite and getting KO’d by a shot of fish sauce.

Secret #3: The Chinese Sausage It’s like pancetta in Italian cooking, where you render the fat (a.k.a. low heat and melt the fat). The fat is where all the flavor is hidden. Chinese sausage also is described as having “umami”. It’s preserved like Italian sausages so they last quite a while in the refrigerator. I dice the sausage into 1/4″ pieces, put them in the warm wok on low heat and just leave it alone for a few minutes. You’ll be rewarded with rich, flavorful fat oozing out – this is what you’ll use to fry the rest of the ingredients of the fried rice in place of oil. (see all those pockets of flavorful fat?!)

Chinese Sausage

Secret #4: The Heat Once you add your rice to the wok, crank up the heat to high. Your wok or saute pan has to be so hot that it heats up every single grain of rice through to the core. The heat does two things: helps meld the flavors together to create a cohesive dish and evaporate any extra moisture from the rice and liquid seasonings (soy/fish sauce/wine). Your fried rice is done with the grains practically dance off the wok.

Secret #5: Storing and Re-heating Store leftover fried rice tightly covered in the refrigerator. The rice will dry out further just by being in the refrigerator, however it will taste just as good the next day. The secret is to wet your hands and “flick” or “splash” water onto the fried rice, cover, and microwave on high. The microwave will heat up the water, turn it into steam and basically re-steam the rice. Don’t use too much water, just maybe a teaspoon or so. For the recipe – use this as a guideline, but feel free to substitute meats/seafood/vegetables. All you need to know to make the most delicious fried rice are the secrets in this post! Enjoy!

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Comments 83

  1. tom chen

    This recipe should be renamed Vietnamese or Thai style fried rice, because Fish Sauce is NEVER used in Chinese cooking. As far as I know, mainland China and Hong Kong do not manufacture fish sauce and no chinese cooks ever use fish sauce in ANY chinese dish. Fish sauce is used primarily used in Vietnamese/Thai/SE Asian cuisine.

  2. Fish sauce

    Good tips with the Fish sauce and slow cooking the sausage fat.

    Mr Chen : Fish sauce not made in China ? I have a bottle here in my hand – made in Shantou, China. Lot’s more examples on the supermarket shelves here…and I’d be confident most of the buyers are ‘Chinese cooks’.

  3. Nekkochak

    It’s right but mr Chen you are not fish sauce is not invited in china but all the big chefs use it you are fool mr chen

  4. Andy Jackson

    This advice & your recipe are brilliant Jayden.

    Anyone who is trying & failing with fried rice needs to follow this guide the results are very authentic to the takeaway style, in the UK at least.

    Thank you.

  5. Chow Mien

    Hello there, Mr Chen is SO right! Basically the real fried rice has soy sauce and NOT fish sauce which is usually used in Vietnam and Thailand! But I guess nowadays, chinese people also use fish sauce as well… but the real thing is really not with fish sauce, I know it because my father was a chef in Hong Kong and he always told me that chinese people barely use fish sauce in their dishes that’s it.

    1. David

      Soy sauce, light or dark is NOT used in authentic Chinese fried rice as it discolors the rice

  6. sut

    tom chen, u were so right !! l lived in thailand for decades and only thais and vietnamese used fish sauce. chinese used soy sauce!

  7. jmatan

    Dear Readers
    What gets me is that people are sooooo judgmental about EVERYTHING. Everybody has their OWN way of tweeking or learning various methods. Why such hostility???? Anyway, I enjoyed the tips and I got many good comments on my rice. For the record who gives a C*** where fish sauce comes from or who uses it. It’s in the recipe or tips just follow directions. I give you a BIG THUMBS UP!!! Thank You.

    1. James

      You are absolutely right, this is about how to cook…., not about the origin of the fish sauce.

    2. Frank

      You tell them!! You try to help people and that is the thanks you get! Thank you very much for the advice. I am Italian. And if I post a recipe for a simple Tomato sauce recipe, I am sure I would get a lot of complaints saying that it is wrong. That’s because every part of Italy cooks a little different and so does every family. But for non Italians it would be helpful.
      Thanks again for the help.

  8. Pingback: Legit Fried Rice | Xploited Recipes

  9. Jodie

    Hi, I can’t wait to try this recipe!! I was wondering if you might know how to make the red sauce Chinese restaurants give you to dip fried shrimp and pork in? And they also give you a spicy yellow sauce too. When I get takeout I ask for extra sauce to put on my fried rice? I love it that way. Thanks for all your wonderful information!,

  10. bigal

    I’ve tried using soy sauce when making fried rice and I reckon it spoils it. The dish goes brown and tastes nothing like what the real fried rice does.

  11. J'Marinde Shephard

    I keep a bottle of fish sauce in my refrig (Thai Kitchens brand – – I have food allergies and can use this brand), and it DOES add depth of flavor to my stir fries – – BUT, where does one find Chinese sausage and what is a good brand that has no gluten, dairy or soy in it? Thanks again – – your sites are always SO YUMMY and beautiful! Thank you!

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  13. Xe Hung

    When I was a child in Hong Kong, nobody used Fish Sauce in my parents restaurant nor anywhere else I know of, but I have been back many times since and in 1990’s it started appearing there. Not that many mainland Chinese use it but in Hong Kong it is used by some, most mix it with soy sauce or in Young Chow fried rice as you call it in America. I would never use any Chinese brands of fish sauce, I use Thai or Vietnamese. Red Boat is my preferred brand but it is very expensive, Three Crabs is excellent too. Squid brand is too salty. The Chinese brand I tasted was the worst of all….it was called Pearl ? something.

  14. Bernardo Vellon

    Fried Rice is akin to our Spanish Paella in the sense that you will never find two identical paellas or fried rices in terms of ingredients thrown in with the rice along with spices and seasonings coming out of two different houses.

  15. James Harvon

    I love try out new recipes for asain foods. This rice would be delicious with some orange chicken. My wife and I usually go out for Cantonese food and would really enjoy learning how to make it for ourselves.

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  16. Spencer Elliott

    Great tips. Fish sauce, soy sauce, whatever. Both taste good, and people should have better things to do than bitch about a delicious recipe.

  17. Cesia Rodriguez

    Can you tell me what kind of brand of rice I can buy for make the fried rice?. Thank you.

  18. Kathie

    I will have to get some fish sauce and check it out.
    As for fried rice, I really do not believe there is a right nor wrong way of making it. I think it is all personal taste, and what we have become accustomed to and which region of China you may be from.
    I am first generation Chinese in CA.
    I have 2 sisters and we all prepare our fried rice a little different.

    The author is so correct, fried rice is a way of throwing all the left overs together so not to waste food.

    But, I do need to note that I love roast duck fried rice. Just the left over duck and the duck sauce. YUM.

    But, when preparing fried rice (not with leftovers) I too use the sausage diced abt the size of a pea, baby peas, carrots, green onions, but….. I love to use oyster sauce, along with sesame seed oil, and only a tad of soy sauce.

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    Hi Mark – I’m not sure I understand. I only create recipes, I don’t own a rice company. Most Chinese takeout places do NOT season rice before cooking.

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