For the best fried rice, the trick is in the fry­ing

The Kansas City Star - - Chow Town - BY MELISSA CLARK New York Times

I cooked a lot of fried rice be­fore I learned to take the fry­ing se­ri­ously.

When I used to stir-fry it, I fo­cused on the stir­ring part of the equa­tion. I’d move the rice across a hot oiled pan with veg­eta­bles and the oc­ca­sional pork prod­uct, sea­son­ing it with soy sauce and sesame oil. It tasted great, but the tex­ture was soft. Re­ally, I was mak­ing zipped up, sautéed rice, with­out any of the deeply crisp edges I didn’t know I could achieve.

Then I wit­nessed a friend fry rice, and saw the er­ror of my ways.

He cooked the veg­eta­bles and aro­mat­ics first un­til they soft­ened and browned, just as I al­ways did. But in­stead of toss­ing the rice around in the pan, he spread it out in an even layer on the bot­tom and up its sides. Then, he let it sit with­out touch­ing it.

I grew antsy watch­ing it, and had to re­sist the urge to jump in with a spat­ula. But just as I was about to of­fer a gen­tle re­minder about the stir in stir-fry, the nutty scent of carameliza­tion wafted across the room. The rice hissed, then crack­led and sput­tered.

When he fi­nally tossed the in­gre­di­ents, the rice was golden and crisp. The pro­longed con­tact with the hot oil made the grains supremely, won­der­fully crunchy.

Since that day, I’ve never looked back, and my fried rice has been all the crunchier for it, espe­cially when I plan ahead and use leftover rice as the base. Leftover rice has less mois­ture than the fresh stuff, which en­cour­ages brown­ing.

This said, I do have a trick for us­ing just-made rice. I cook it, then spread it out on a sheet pan and let it dry out for an hour or so. Stir­ring it as it cools helps the cause, re­leas­ing the steam. You could even stick the pan in a low oven for a few min­utes, which I’ve done when I’m in a big hurry. It’s not quite as good as the left­overs from your 3-day-old take­out. But it will do when a fried rice crav­ing hits.

This fried rice vari­a­tion has ba­con for brawni­ness, lots of wilted cab­bage for sweet­ness, plus kim­chi for a spicy tang. You can use the tech­nique as a tem­plate, sub­sti­tut­ing other veg­eta­bles and meats, or nix­ing the meat al­to­gether.

Just re­mem­ber that with fried rice, less is more: less stir­ring, more crunch.

LINDA XIAO NYT

This easy week­night meal of crispy fried rice served with ba­con and cab­bage gets a lot of its brawny rich­ness from the ba­con, and its sweet­ness from the soft, wilted cab­bage.

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