When I was a kid, I always looked forward to days when my mother made fried rice for dinner. Like most Asian families, we ate regular plain rice almost every day with dinner, so any time my mother felt inspired to change up our dinner routine felt like a treat to me!
Fried rice is a dish that is meant to repurpose leftover rice from a day or two before. The first time I tried cooking fried rice on my own, I made the mistake of using freshly cooked rice.
Because it was still so moist and soft, resulting dish was far too gummy — nothing like what my mother cooked. I don’t even remember if I ate much of that batch of fried rice, but I certainly learned a big lesson!
Now, I make fried rice at home often, and this version with chicken is one of my favorites. I add onions, carrots and peas to my rice, but you can throw in whatever vegetables you have. Diced bell peppers, zucchini or sliced cabbage work well, too.
I also add a bit of Chinese five-spice powder to flavor the rice, a habit I picked up from my mother who always used it in her cooking. This is a blend of star anise, peppercorns, cloves, fennel seed, and cinnamon, and it gives the dish a warm spiciness. Feel free to leave it out if you like.
How to make chicken fried rice
Chicken Fried Rice Recipe
Fried rice is best made with leftover rice that's at least a day old. Otherwise it becomes gummy in the skillet.
If you don’t have any leftover rice from the night before, cook a batch of rice and spread it on a large baking sheet or several large plates. Let the rice dry out for about 1 to 2 hours before using it for fried rice.
Rice sticks to the pan very easily, so make sure to use a wok or pan that doesn’t have a sticky surface. I usually cook stir-fries in my seasoned carbon steel wok, but cast iron or nonstick pans work well, too. You might need to add a little more oil if things aren’t releasing easily.
- 3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons canola oil (or any high heat oil), divided
- 3 large eggs, whisked
- 2/3 cup yellow onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 2/3 cup frozen peas, rinsed under warm tap water for a few seconds thaw
- 4 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably leftover from at least a day before, see Recipe Note)
- 2 scallions, sliced (separate the white and light green parts from the dark green part)
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Wok, or large skillet
1 Prepare the chicken: Chop the chicken into small 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the chicken and mix to combine. Set the chicken aside for about 10 minutes (I usually use this time to chop all the vegetables).
2 Scramble the egg: Heat a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in a tablespoon of oil and add the whisked eggs. Use a spatula to quickly scramble the eggs, breaking the curds into smaller pieces as they come together. Transfer the eggs to a plate.
3 Cook the chicken: Add another tablespoon of oil in the wok or pan. Add the chicken and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked chicken to a plate.
Using your spatula, scrape off any chicken bits that are still stuck to the wok so they don't burn during the next step. You can also use paper towels to wipe down your wok or pan.
4 Cook the vegetables: Swirl 1 tablespoon of oil into the wok over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and cook them for 1 minute, until they start to soften. Mix in the minced garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the peas, and stir to incorporate.
5 Cook the rice: Add the rice to the wok or pan on top of the vegetables and stir to combine. Using the back of your spatula, smash any large chunks of rice to break them apart. Add the white and green parts of the sliced scallions (save the dark green parts) and five-spice powder. Stir to incorporate. If the rice starts to stick to the pan, stir in a little more oil.
Drizzle the soy sauce and sesame oil over the rice and stir to incorporate. Stir in the cooked chicken, scrambled eggs, and the dark parts of the scallions. Stir briefly to bring it together, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Taste, and add more soy sauce if necessary.
6 Serve immediately while hot.
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