Hawaiian-Style Fried Rice
The secret to great fried rice
My sister, Becky, is famous for her fried rice. Becky learned how to make fried rice from her high school friend, Pua. Pua learned from his mother, Keanuenue, a wonderful woman who also introduced me to canoe paddling way back in the day.
So what was Keanuenue's secret to her Hawaiian fried rice recipe? Bacon! You fry up some strips of bacon and use the rendered fat to fry the rice. You also chop up the bacon and add it to the fried rice. As we say in Hawaii, so ono!
More fried rice secrets
There are a few more secrets to making great fried rice:
- Use long-grain rice, not sushi rice. You want your rice to be light and fluffy, not sticky and mushy. I like to use basmati rice.
- Rinse your rice until the water runs clear. I typically rinse my rice 4 or 5 times.
- Use day-old rice not fresh rice. Fresh rice has too much moisture and needs to dry out a bit before you fry it.
- Use cold rice, not warm or hot rice. Cold rice straight out of the fridge works best. Fluff the rice up a bit before you refrigerate it to minimize clumping.
- Fry the rice in a wok or stir-fry pan. Carbon steel woks are traditionally used. I use my stainless steel Anolon stir-fry pan. If you don't have a wok use an oversized frying pan.
- A wok shovel really helps. A wok shovel allows you to turn the food rapidly and works much better than a regular spatula.
- Get the wok hot before you add your oil. This helps keep the food from sticking to the pan. According to Grace Young, renowned stir-fry expert and author of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, the Cantonese call this technique wok doong yul, or "hot wok cold oil." For that matter, this same technique applies to all stove top cooking. Heat your pan, then heat the oil, then add your ingredients.
- Heat the oil until a drop of water vaporizes in 1 to 2 seconds. Now you are ready to add your ingredients.
- Mis en place is key. Yes, this is a French cooking term, but it totally applies to stir-frying. It means prepare all the ingredients in advance. Make your sauce, your scrambled egg and cut all your vegetables and protein in advance so everything is prepped and ready to go.
- The stir-frying goes fast. Once everything is prepared, the actual stir-frying goes very fast and the dish is done in under 10 minutes.
- If you hate chopping buy yourself a Cuisinart Mini-prep. It is the best $35 you will spend on a kitchen device. It is great for chopping small quantities of onions, garlic and ginger. Also good for herbs and nuts. Pulse when you chop to prevent over chopping.
- Cook the bacon in the oven. See my recipe for Sue's company bacon, just don't add the brown sugar or pepper. Oven-cooking the bacon frees your hands up so you can chop the vegetables while the bacon cooks, and it keeps your stove-top clean.
Fried rice is a great clean-out-your-fridge dish. You can literally add whatever vegetables and protein you have on hand. Think broccoli, edamame, mushrooms, shrimp, chicken, sausage, pork, tofu or steak.
You can also vary the sauce by adding oyster sauce, fish sauce & lime juice like they do in Thailand, or chili paste or Sriracha if you want to give your rice a little kick.
Once you get the hang of making fried rice you will appreciate its versatility and your ability to use leftovers to make a great one-pot meal. Make fried rice regularly to stretch your food budget and avoid tossing out leftovers.
Hawaiian-style fried rice
Yield 4 servings
Fried rice is a delicious way to repurpose leftovers. It is also easy to make once you know a few secrets. Here is a recipe that comes from my childhood in Honolulu. I bet you will never guess the number one secret!
- 1/2 pound of bacon, cooked and chopped, reserve 2 T bacon grease
- 2 eggs, lightly whisked (optional)
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup carrots cut in 1 1/2" matchstick pieces
- 3/5 cup water chestnuts, chopped
- 4 cups day old long-grain steamed rice, preferably basmati
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 T sugar
- 1 T sake or rice vinegar
- 2 t toasted sesame seed oil
- 2 T grated ginger
- 1 cup chopped green onions, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup defrosted frozen peas
- 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped, plus more for garnish
- White pepper, to taste
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Heat wok until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates in 1-2 seconds after it hits the wok. Add 1 t bacon grease and heat until it shimmers. Swirl grease around the bottom of the wok and add the eggs. Cook 1 - 2 minutes and flip the egg and continue cooking another 1 - 2 minutes. Remove the egg pancake from the wok and let cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Make your sauce by combining soy sauce, sugar, sake or rice vinegar, sesame seed oil and grated ginger. Set aside.
- Wipe any remaining egg from the wok, return to the stove and heat again until a drop of water evaporates in 1 - 2 seconds. Add 1 T bacon grease and heat until shimmering. Add garlic and and onions stir fry briefly, about 1 minute, then add the carrots and water chestnuts. Stir fry for another 2 to 4 minutes until carrots are tender.
- Add the day old rice and use the wok shovel or spatula to chop up the rice and break up any clumps. Add the sauce and stir fry 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in green onions, peas, cilantro, chopped bacon and white pepper. Use your wok shovel to combine the ingredients without mashing until everything is coated with sauce and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not over cook.
- Serve in individual bowls and garnish with green onions and cilantro.
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