Contrary to what you might gather from your neighborhood Chinese eatery, there isn’t really a fixed recipe for fried rice. It evolved from throwing leftovers in the wok to stir-fry—one of the sustainable ways the older generation ensured every scrape of food was eaten, not wasted—and voilà, you get a really tasty variety of dishes.
Fried rice tastes best, therefore, with leftover, day-old rice: The grains lose moisture overnight, giving them a harder, crunchier texture—perfect for this dish—and they’re less likely to clump when you stir-fry them with everything else. Cook the rice the night (or at least several hours) before, leave it out to cool for an hour or so, then put it in the fridge to work with the next day.
Because it’s so easy, in Singapore, where I grew up, fried rice was something my mum made often, usually for lunch, with ingredients from the previous night’s dinner. This is her recipe, but feel free to adapt it to what’s in your fridge—from leeks to asparagus to smoked tofu; there’s no hard and fast rules here. Mum sometimes used “luncheon meat,” a.k.a. Spam, which I’ve stopped eating for a while now (although I occasionally miss the fried-egg-and-Spam sandwich that’s a traditional breakfast in Hong Kong’s and Macau’s cha chaan tengs or local diners).
This fried rice is cooked by me and styled by the lovely Heidi Leon of AromasySabores. The tablecloth and bowls are vintage, part of my mum’s collection. (In the 1980s, when I grew up, this set of bowls with kids playing Ping-Pong on them was present in many households; today they are sold in vintage shops for several times their original price.)
Singaporean fried rice
Corn or sunflower oil (vegetable oil is fine too)
1 shallot, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Chinese sausage, lap cheong (optional)
200g fresh prawns, cooked
1 cup of rice, cooked the night before and allowed to rest overnight
Mixed vegetables (a frozen pack of peas, carrots, and corn will do)
2-3 Tbsp of soya sauce; add more to taste
2 eggs, scrambled, plus 2 eggs for omelet garnish
1 bunch spring onions, to garnish
3-4 small chiles, for condiment and to garnish
Other ideas for add-ins: mushrooms, tuna, BBQ pork, shredded chicken, string beans, calamari
Heat oil in wok, add the shallot and garlic, then the Chinese sausage and prawns. Once the mix is aromatic (about 2-3 minutes on high heat), put the cooked rice in and continue to stir-fry and mix well. Add the frozen vegetables and soya sauce. Mix well.
When veggies appear cooked, pour two scrambled eggs over the rice. Be sure to mix evenly. Once cooked (about 5-7 minutes), remove from heat.
In a separate pan, make an egg omelet with the remaining two eggs (scramble eggs, pour into small sauté pan, let cook on one side, flip). Slice it into thin strips for garnish and add in spring onions or chiles, if using. Ready to serve!
Photos by Juliana Loh
About the author: Juliana Loh is a Singaporean living in Macau by way of Treviso, Beijing, and Hong Kong. Follow her journey on food, travel, and cultural discoveries at www.julianaloh.com/blog and on Twitter @bilbaobab. She has contributed to EYW extensively as user “bilbaobab”; see her profile page here.