If I were on my deathbed, coherent and in my right mind (hopefully), and I was asked to order one last food before I passed on, I would definitely say CHAHAN. Fried Rice.
Some people, I bet, are thinking: ‘HUH???”
Fried rice has many different ways it is presented. Most of what I’ve tasted is FANTASTIC. Some are just too greasy and too much.
I grew up in Japan and grew up eating Chinese, Japanese, and Korean style fried rice. They are all different. And within each nation/culture are differences by region, class, heritage, neighborhood/ecology, and personal tastes. In Japan, for instance, the thrown-together style and slightly burned for crisp and charcoal taste (cooked over an original Japanese grill) kind of fried rice, is called: Yaki-meshi (literally Fried-meal). It is usually made in the more traditionally impoverished neighborhoods, although it is enjoyed as a fried rice type all over Japan. It is distinctly different in approach and taste, than Chahan, which is the more elite version from the Chinese style of making fried rice. If you order Yakimeshi, it will be different from Chahan, even though they are both ‘fried rice.’ There is a class and regional difference.
In Japan, too much taste takes away from what it is. the RICE of the ‘fried rice’ is supposed to be tasted. It is not covered over. So when preparing, the ingredients work together harmoniously. EACH BITE that you take of fried rice, should taste differently according to what has entered your mouth and taste buds.
I found that in the US, you just ‘mix things together’ and it tastes like ONE THING. It doesn’t matter anyway–most US people are reading or talking at restaurants or with their family and friends, to taste anything anyway, right? For those of you who truly LOVE FOOD, then we must appreciate Fried Rice.
Fried Rice, as is Chow Mein, has been a dish that is used from LEFTOVER RICE. Chow mein, the noodle counterpart, is from LEFTOVER NOODLES. I’m always smiling when I see gringos making fried rice with freshly made rice and wondering why their rice is so gunky. Hmmmm…… hint…..make fried rice after it has been in the fridge overnight. Same goes for leftover Asian noodles for your chow mein! Chow Han (fried rice) and Chow mein (fried nooodles) are both exoticized Asian dishes in Europe, Australia/New Zealand, the US and elsewhere. In traditional Asian homes, it was a way to use leftover rice or noodles from the previous day, mixing it with whatever vegetables and meats were around so as not to waste food. Of course, it has also been developed into a ‘dish.’
Fried Rice comes in many kinds of flavors and meats and combos.
Tomato/ketchup fried rice with chicken and onions and scallions with peas, covered by an EGG, or wrapped into an OMELETTE is quite popular in Japan and China. In Japan, this is called OMU-RICE (omelette-rice). Of course, the rice dish is red. USUALLY in Asia, we DO NOT DROWN the fried rice in Sauce. The sauce should compliment everything. It is more than subtle, but not overpowering.
Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, char-siu sauce, are other sauces are also great as flavoring.
In Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and in Hawaii, fried rice is frequently made with pineapple chunks, and/or mangoes, green bananas, papaya, mint leaves, etc. Often you may find SPICY fried rice too. This can be done with just putting TABASCO sauce over the fried rice at the table or wherever you’re eating, or it can be cooked with chili sauce, peppers, etc. One can use cashew nuts, almonds and other things in a subtle manner, enhancing the pacific/tropical flavorings too.
Korean fried rice is awesome too! Often, Koreans may use Kimchi, which gives it a KICK! and then topped with a fried egg (instead of scrambled within the fried rice itself–which is the usual way).
In making CHAHAN (fried rice)– remember– DON’T load more ingredients than the RICE. It’s fried RICE– NOT fried other things WITH RICE.
And for all you ORIENTALISTS out there—Fried Rice is NOT eaten with CHOPSTICKS!!!!! Usually in East and Southeast Asia, FRIED RICE is EATEN WITH A SPOON! In East Asia, Fried rice is a main course, and is served with soup that is not overpowering.
Please, if you see me by the roadside on my deathbed, bring me FRIED RICE! 🙂