Make fried rice at home with these quick and easy recipes

Chef Richard Tang shares his recipe for fried rice.

Earlier this year, Hungtang Ko, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, and his professor, David Hu, published a paper on the physics of tossing fried rice to achieve optimal texture.

As it turns out, Hu’s lab at Tech is famous for investigating all sorts of unique phenomena. Recently, Hu and Ko also published a paper on how fire ants work together to build rafts.

But in 2019, while Ko took a gap year to teach English in his native Taiwan, he started thinking about a new project involving the science of cooking, and finally landed on the idea of filming the techniques of chefs cooking fried rice.

Ko discovered that the key for the chefs is using the stove rim as a fulcrum, and employing a rapid seesaw motion that results in the rice being tossed at 2.7 times per second.

That’s optimal for the rice grains to slide and jump the farthest in the wok. Plus, it keeps the grains from burning, but still produces the Maillard reaction that gives browned food like fried rice its caramelized flavor. But that range of motion also causes a large number of Chinese chefs to develop shoulder pain.

Hungtang Ko is a graduate student at Georgia Tech and co-author of the research article “The physics of tossing fried rice.” CONTRIBUTED BY HUNGTANG KO

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“Fried rice is the first thing I learned to cook as a child,” Ko said in a phone call. “I was always making a big mess in the kitchen. I still cook a lot at home. But there’s a huge difference between what you can do at home and what chefs can do at Chinese restaurants. They use propane that’s so hot, it’s almost impossible to do it like that at home.”

During the pandemic, Ko said he’s been shopping at Super H Mart, and doing a lot more cooking than usual, including making fried rice from whatever he has on hand. But even after watching his footage of the wok masters at work, over and over again, he hasn’t been able to duplicate the technique.

“My fried rice at home is actually pretty simple,” he said. “The key for me, and I think the key for everyone, is the grain of the rice shouldn’t be sticky. I try not to use anything that is too moist. I don’t use tomato or anything watery. I use frozen corn, carrots, green onions, and sometimes some sausages or ham. But it’s really good for using leftovers. At home, that’s really what fried rice is for most of the time.”

Richard Tang, the owner of Char Korean Bar & Grill in Inman Park, founded the Facebook group Quarantine Cuisine. CONTRIBUTED BY RICHARD TANG

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Richard Tang, the owner of Char Korean Bar & Grill in Inman Park, has his own, perhaps slightly less scientific take on fried rice.

The son of a Chinese chef father and Vietnamese chef mother, Tang has often treated tradition as a jumping-off place. His restaurants are known as fun, often irreverent destinations, where having a good time is as important as the food.

That spirit can be seen in Tang's current Facebook group, Quarantine Cuisine, where he often goes live with late afternoon cooking demonstrations, welcomes online guests, and mixes cocktails, while cracking jokes.

“I started Quarantine Cuisine right at the beginning of the quarantine in Atlanta,” Tang said in a phone call. “I just got tired of listening to the constant daily bad news. So I decided to have a happy hour for me and my friends on Facebook.”

Among the dishes he’s demonstrated live, fried rice may be the most mutable, and the most perfect for quarantine cooking.

“Pretty much every Asian cuisine has its own version of fried rice of some sort,” Tang said. “But it’s just a little bit different here and a little bit different there. Some use sugar. Some use mushroom seasoning or some MSG, or fish sauce, or kimchi, or whatever.”

Fried Rice With Corn, Carrots and Chinese Sausage can be made with other vegetables or different sausage. CONTRIBUTED BY RICHARD TANG

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Like Ko, Tang agrees that rice is the key. He likes jasmine rice, but said any long-grain rice will do. And he recommends using rice that has been cooked the day before and refrigerated.

“I feel like it works better for the texture of the fried rice,” he said. “The reason why it’s better to use second-day rice is that you can let it dry out a little bit. Put it on a sheet pan, throw it in the fridge, and let it sit overnight. That will give it the crunch and the texture. Washing the rice before you cook it is important, too, to get that grit and starchy film off.

“But fried rice is poor people’s food. It’s the best thing you can make from what you have or what you have left over. It’s the scraps, then you make it delicious with oils, and sauces and seasonings.”

Beyond using dry rice, Tang agreed that the biggest challenge for home cooks is a matter of BTUs.

“A lot of Asian families will have a garage kitchen with a propane tank and a burner,” he said. “And the burner is glowing at like 100,000 BTUs. It’s intense, and it’s serious. Imagine a blowtorch underneath a wok. That’s the way you’re cooking with the wok, and why it’s shaped the way it is. You’re able to get the whole thing hot, and that’s how you’re able to get that flavor.”

At home, Tang uses the middle burner on his five-burner gas range, because it has the highest BTUs. He recommends using whatever burner you have that’s hottest, too, of course. But he doesn’t recommend using an electric burner.

Tang’s simplest version of homemade fried rice calls for very few ingredients, and very little technique, beyond stirring and mixing.

“I like the texture of pouring eggs in with the rice,” he said. “But it’s just oil in the pan, some onions, frozen veggies, like corn and carrots, some light soy sauce, of course some rice, and some black pepper on the finish. It’s three or four steps. And it should take about five minutes.”

RECIPES

These recipes for fried rice from Char owner Richard Tang are easy to make and great for using pantry items or leftovers.

When making Fried Rice With Corn, Carrots and Chinese Sausage, it’s preferable to cook the long-grain rice the day before and refrigerate it. CONTRIBUTED BY RICHARD TANG

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Fried Rice With Corn, Carrots and Sausage

This basic Taiwanese-style fried rice staple is the ultimate clean out the refrigerator side or main dish. It’s easy to make with whatever vegetables you have on hand, and the addition of sausage or ham gives it an extra jolt of umami.

Kimchi Fried Rice with a sunny side up egg, which is optional. CONTRIBUTED BY RICHARD TANG

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Kimchi Fried Rice

This Korean-style fried rice is simple and satisfying. Use basic store-bought kimchi. Topping the rice with some scallions and toasted sesame seeds gives it an extra bit of flavor and texture.

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