Yangzhou Fried Rice Recipe
Fuchsia Dunlop is one of the foremost experts in Chinese cuisine, and was one of the first modern Western chefs to be classically trained in China. Two of her books, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook and Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking serve as my resources for authentic Chinese recipes.
“Fuchsia Dunlop . . . has done more to explain real Chinese cooking to non-Chinese cooks than anyone.” ―Julia Moskin, New York Times
Fuchsia’s latest book, Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from Culinary Heart of China, focuses on the region south of the Yangtze river, and its modern capitol of Shanghai, called “Jiangnan” region.
The food of Jiangnan is light (unlike Sichuan’s oily, chile-laden food), and as the title of the book suggests, relies heavily on the bounties of the sea and plentiful rice paddies.
This book’s recipes are near and dear to my family – this is the region of my Dad’s hometown cooking. We’re delighted to share with you Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe for Yangzhou Fried Rice.
What is Yangzhou Fried Rice?
Yang zhou chao fan 扬州炒饭 is a fried rice dish that features egg along with leftover bits of ham, shrimp and meat. At Chinese restaurants in America, sometimes the dish is simply referred to as, “House Fried Rice.” Ingredients may differ from day to day, depending on what leftover protein is available.
Yangzhou Fried Rice was invented by Qing China‘s Yi Bingshou (1754–1815) and the dish was named Yangzhou fried rice since Yi was once the regional magistrate of Yangzhou (source)
Fuchsia Dunlop’s Yangzhou Fried Rice
Excerpt from Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from Culinary Heart of China by Fuchsia Dunlop. Reprinted with permission.
“Late one night, I dropped into my friend Yang Bin’s restaurant in the old quarter of Yangzhou for a bowlful of noodles, and happened also to meet his cooking master, Huang Wanqi.
Chef Huang started talking about a 2,000-year-old gastronomic text, “The Root of Tastes” (ben wei pian), and told me he thought Yangzhou cooking best represented the subtle magic it described. He went on to explain the mysteries of Yangzhou fried rice, the only dish from this ancient gastronomic capital that has so far achieved international fame. He told me how to cook the secondary ingredients in chicken broth, and discussed the different roles that beaten egg could play in the dish.
“If you begin by frying the beaten egg, and then add the rice,” he said, “you will have ‘golden fragments’ of egg in the rice (sui jin fen). If, instead, you fry the rice and then pour in the egg, the golden liquid coats each grain of rice, so it’s like ‘silver wrapped in gold’ (jin guo yin).” Both, he said, were traditional methods.
You don’t have to go into such detail to appreciate this dish, one of the finest variations on the fried rice theme. The rice is speckled with little nuggets of delicious ingredients and infused with the umami richness of chicken stock.
The following is my version, which omits the hard-to-find luxuries of sea cucumber and freshwater crabmeat, but otherwise follows the traditional method. If you want to make the totally authentic version, add ¾ oz (25g) chopped, soaked dried sea cucumber and ¾ oz (25g) freshwater crabmeat, and substitute tiny freshwater shrimp for the saltwater shrimp.”
Tips for successful fried rice
- I prefer scrambling the egg separate from the rice — I get a better result with a lighter texture and fluffier rice. Many times, if your wok or pan is not hot enough, and you add the egg on top of the rice, “silver wrapped in gold (jin guo yin)” – you might end up with mushier, wetter fried rice.
- Make sure you use leftover rice, that’s been previously refrigerated. This also helps with making a lighter fried rice with grains separated. If you use steaming-hot, freshly cooked rice, you’ll end up with a goopy mess. That’s because the refrigerator dries out the rice a bit – which is a good thing, because we are adding liquid to the fried rice (chicken stock, Chinese rice wine). You’ll get best results with Jasmine rice, or other medium grained rice. Short-grained rice (used in sushi, Japanese or Korean cooking) is fine too, but not normally used in this recipe. Short grained rice is a little heavier and stickier.
- Ingredients are cooked separately, then added all back together for a very specific reason. If you throw all the ingredients into the wok and try to cook everything at once, the rice will end up tasting like mish-mash. Also, different ingredients have different cooking times — by the time the pork is cooked through, your chicken will be overcooked. Authentic Chinese fried rice allows you to taste each and every ingredient – so that the shrimp tastes like shrimp….and the egg tastes like egg.
- Instead of seasoning with soy sauce, the fried rice is flavored with chicken stock. The stock is added to the ingredients along with Chinese rice wine. Using stock instead of soy sauce keeps the fried rice light in flavor and color.
- The signature characteristic of Yangzhou Fried Rice is using whatever ingredients you have on hand. Diced leftover roast pork, a few mushrooms, a handful of shrimp, a cupful of peas. Here are some ingredient tips:
- Shrimp: I like using small, tiny, already cooked cooked shrimp. Alternatively, you can use larger shrimp, just cut them up into smaller pieces to make it easier to stir fry and eat. If you are using uncooked shrimp, that’s fine too, just throw it into the wok a little sooner than the recipe states, to give it time to cook through.
- Mushroom: The recipe calls for Chinese dried mushrooms, but feel free to use fresh Shiitake mushrooms. No need to soak. Just discard the stem and chop.
- Pork: Honestly, an optional ingredient – if you have it, great! Make sure you dice the pork tenderloin very small (like the size of a frozen diced carrot). Here’s an easy shortcut – use ground pork instead. Many times, Yangzhou Fried Rice will have diced Chinese Roast Pork – which is what I love to use. Don’t have any pork? Use any other protein, including ground turkey. Not authentic, but hey, fried rice is supposed to be the most flexible recipe in the world!
- Peas: Almost always, I use frozen peas. I don’t even defrost them, just throw them in the wok.
- Chicken: Leftover, cooked chicken meat is perfect. Just dice very small. Sometimes, we’ll just pull meat off a rotisserie chicken and set aside for fried rice.
- I like to add minced cilantro to the recipe. In fact, I use cilantro stems that are minced very fine. The cilantro stems in at the same time as the rice.
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Yangzhou Fried Rice Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
3/4 oz (25g) raw pork tenderloin, finely diced
3/4 oz (25g) small peeled shrimp, fresh or frozen, cooked or uncooked
3/4 oz (25g) cooked ham <</span>
3/4 oz (25g) cooked chicken
1 stalk green onion, green parts only
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups (600g) cold, cooked rice (preferably Jasmine or any medium-grain rice)
5 tbsp cooking oil
3/4 oz (25g) fresh or frozen peas or cooked green edamame soybeans
2 tsp Chinese Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 cup (200ml) chicken stock
Salt and ground white pepper
Cut the pork, shrimp, ham, chicken, mushroom, if using, into small dice. Thinly slice the spring onion greens. Beat the egg with a little salt and pepper. Break the rice up into small clumps to make it easier to fry.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok over a high flame. Add the pork and stir-fry briefly until the pork is pale. Add the ham, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, peas, and continue to stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until everything is hot and sizzling. Add the Chinese rice wine, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Season with salt, then pour off into a bowl and set aside.
Rinse and dry the wok and return it to the heat with the remaining oil. When the oil is hot, add the beaten egg mixture and swirl it around the base of the wok. When the egg is half-cooked, add the green onions and all the rice and stir-fry, breaking up any clumps. When the rice is very hot, smells delicious and makes a popping sound around the edges of the wok, add the reserved ingredients in their stock sauce. Mix well and continue to stir-fry for another 30 seconds or so, seasoning with salt or pepper if you wish.