Nothing speaks to us more of what we consider “Chinese” cuisine than fried rice. Problem is, it ain’t Chinese, it’s an American invention. It’s part of that overall catchphrase of what in known in the trade as “Chinese-American” cooking. Think of chop suey, egg foo young, chow mein, etc. They did not originate in China. The were invented in the good ole U.S.A (just like fortune cookies). And it all has to do with the Cantonese influence on American cooking.
Large scale immigration from Canton in southern China to the U.S. in the 1800s assured that this Americanization of Chinese cooking would take hold. The Chinese immigrants who flooded to California to work on the Pacific Railroad were constrained by the lack of authentic ingredients and vegetables that had represented their diet back home. They had to make do with what was available. Not only that, if they went into the restaurant business they had to make their dishes palatable to Western tastes. It’s amusing to think that someone from the Chinese mainland would come to this country and go in search of genuine American chop suey, chow mein, or fried rice.
Fried rice is a very easy dish to make. All you need is rice. And there’s an argument here. Some people swear that genuine fried rice should be done only with the sticky Chinese style of rice or something like Nishiki premium grade rice (I know, it’s Japanese, but some consider it of better quality). I cook fried rice with the good old long grain variety such as Carolina brand or even Uncle Ben’s. That’s what my friend Eddie Hor, of late memory, always used. This is his recipe.
It should be noted that, in some fried rice recipes, the eggs are cooked along with the rice. Eddie would cook scrambled eggs separately and then add the eggs to the rice. Also, one can use light soy sauce or dark soy sauce if you want a darker color.
You can add other ingredients to this basic recipe, and make it vegetable fried rice, or shrimp
fried rice, or whatever (you can even cook it with Spam). Be creative, let your imagination reign.
BASIC FRIED RICE
4 tablespoons peanut oil or olive oil (I prefer the olive oil)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Ground black pepper to taste
4 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 scallions, or as many as desired, washed and coarsely chopped
1. In a wok or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat and add the eggs. Cook, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled, seasoning with pepper. Remove the eggs to a dish and set aside.
2. Clean out the wok or pan with paper towels. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and, when hot, add the rice. Stir fry for a few minutes over medium-high heat, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to evenly cook the rice.
3. Stir in the soy sauce and scallions. When rice is heated through and has achieved desired color, spread the scrambled eggs over the top. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings.