Saturday, September 3, 2011

炒飯 Chao Fan

I'm gonna go ahead and guess that you don't need a translation of what the title of the blog post means in English, just based on the photo. But in case you do, well, the rest of the post is all about it. It's like immersion language learning! ;)

Anyway, fantastic! I've finally gotten my fried rice to near perfect in my current opinion/taste. My first attempts were several years ago, and very flawed. Of course, I didn't continuously work at and experiment over the years; just on occasion. As a friend of mine put it, fried rice is a simple dish but difficult to do well.

What's my secret?? Well, you know, I don't think there really is anything that's radically different about my approach from anyone else's. I will say, though, that one tip in particular makes a big difference. I first came across the idea in a Japanese cookbook, and then heard the specific tip from another friend, but it's also definitely floating around in comments on recipes on the internet and the like. Not a big secret. Put more broadly:

Your rice needs to be somewhat dry.

If you've got freshly steamed rice, refrigerate it (or you can use leftover refrigerated rice). I would say refrigerate it in a pretty airtight container (tupperware) for two days. After one day, it hasn't dried out enough. If you use a container that air penetrates easily, then it'll dry out faster, but two things: (1) it's possible for your rice to be too dry and hardened, affecting the texture, (2) I imagine your rice may pick up other odors, but haven't tried purposefully leaving rice exposed in the refrigerator. And if you don't have time for that, then try to spread your freshly steamed rice out on a flat surface so it can air out and dry to some extent (this is what the Japanese cookbook suggested). This will help a little at least.

If there's too much moisture still in the rice, you get damp fried rice that sticks together too much and is mushy. Actually, there's something interesting that happens with too-moist fried rice, if you try to do that inverted bowl presentation of the dish:

So I actually made this batch with rice that I let sit in a tupperware container in the refrigerator for one day. Although it was fine (a little too moist and mushy), when I tried to do the bowl inversion, the dome of fried rice slowly pushed itself apart due to the steam being released! Haha, that was interesting to watch and realize. Making sure you use enough oil may also help a little in "dome structural integrity".

Happy cooking!

Tangential Thoughts:
Man, I love the wabi of these pics and my new favored shooting spot in our apartment.


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