Crunchy Fried Rice is one of our favorite rice recipes in this house. It is packed with flavor, but even more interesting… is the texture. Since texture is so important to gourmet-style meals (along with presentation, flavor, cooking method and ingredients), then I suppose this sticky fried rice recipe would qualify.
Don’t you think? I mean, just look at this beautiful fried rice!
If you are looking for the best Asian rice dish to serve alongside homemade Chinese food, like my Sweet and Sour Orange Meatballs, then you are going to love this pan fried rice recipe. It comes together in 30 minutes… if you cook the rice ahead of time.
The Story Behind Crunchy Fried Rice:
Mark and I are big fans of crunchy food. Since we love a good Chinese-style meal from time to time but don’t want to order take-out every time the hankering strikes, I wanted to come up with an easy crunchy fried rice recipe.
Keep in mind that although we love gourmet eats, we are on a budget. I needed to use up some things in the pantry and fridge before making my next grocery store run, plus I wanted the perfect side dish to go with the Sweet and Sour Orange Meatballs that I had planned to bake for dinner.
Fried rice is always a no-fail side dish for any Asian-inspired recipe, right? The problem was, I didn’t have any eggs on hand.
I guess I’d be making fried rice without egg!
Although this recipe was designed to pair well with the citrus flavors of the meatballs (hence why there are no vegetables in it, either), it does go well with a whole myriad of other entrées, too. Think dinners like Peking duck, fried shrimp with cashew nuts, sweet and sour pork, kung par chicken, crispy orange beef, or even General Cho’s chicken.
You know, every time I make this easy recipe, I make more than we need for any given dinner.
This tasty side dish recipe gets better over time. Refrigerate it for up to a few days then simply reheat it in a hot skillet drizzled with sesame oil when you want it again.
Heck, Crunchy Fried Rice even makes a delicious lunch when served all by itself!
How to Make Crunchy Fried Rice:
The secret here begins with the rice. I used jasmine rice because it is what I had on hand. The first time I made this, I rinsed the rice after cooking it.
Don’t do that!
Well, you won’t wreck the dish if you do, but you won’t get maximum stickiness if you rinse the rice because this will separate the grains a little more than you want.
Although jasmine rice is considered a long grain rice (short grain rices are known to be stickier), it works perfectly for this dish because the grains are easier to separate once fried. I tried to make this recipe with basmati rice and didn’t get the same sticky texture, and if you use short grain rices, you might end up with pancakes.
Happy medium, folks!
Yes, you want clumps, but you also want some separation, too. This is the secret to getting sticky rice and crunchy rice all together in the same dish.
This recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of sesame oil, but note that the ‘plus more’ means “add as much as you want or need”. Sesame oil has tons of health benefits, so don’t feel guilty about pouring it on. If you notice in my video, you can see the oil sizzling and bubbling up through the rice during that second 5 minutes of frying. You want to see this! If you don’t, add more oil. The rice absorbs that wonderful flavor, and your pan should wipe clean when you are done. Every time I make this fried rice, I use a half of a bottle of sesame oil.
Now I just need to point out something when it comes to the red pepper flakes. When I say “a little bit of heat”… that is probably a lotta bit of heat to most people.
Here is a formula to keep in mind if you cook with me:
Christy’s “little bit of heat” = most people’s “oooooh, that’s spicy!”
So, cut the red pepper flakes to 1/4 teaspoon if you are more the mild-heat type. Just don’t omit them because without the capsaicin in the red pepper, the overall flavor of the rice will leave you thinking that something is missing.
We don’t want that.
About fish sauce…
It smells funny, I know. But if you don’t have any, you need to get some. This recipe won’t be the same without it.
Fish sauce, like soy sauce, adds crave-able umami to this rice, but because it isn’t as sharp as soy, it rounds out the flavor just right. Think of it like an orchestra; you have violins providing high notes and cellos rounding out the bottom with the base notes. No cello? The sound will be thin. No violins? The melody will be a lot harder to pick out.
Soy is like the violin and fish sauce like the cello. You need them both to make this dish really sing.
You’ll want to plate this up and serve it nice and hot.
Or, you can wait and serve it room temperature.
Or make it ahead and reheat it on the stove.
No matter how you serve it, you’ll get maximum crunch and the yummiest flavor.
So… what are you waiting for? With a few easy-to-find ingredients and 30 minutes, you can make a big batch of Crunchy Fried Rice to have at the ready for quick lunches and main dish sides!
Crunchy Fried Rice
- 12-inch skillet
- 4 tbsp sesame oil plus more
- 2 cups cooked jasmine rice
- 12 scallions sliced on the diagonal (about 1/2 cup)
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- Do ahead: Cook the rice according to package instructions. Drain, but do not rinse! You want to keep the starch with the rice - and rinsing it will rinse the starch away. Remember; starchy = sticky! Rice can be refrigerated (up to a week) until ready to use.
- Add 2 tablespoons sesame oil to a skillet heated over medium-high. Spoon the cooked (un-rinsed) rice into the skillet and press down firmly into the hot oil with a rubber spatula. Allow the rice to cook, undisturbed (don’t you touch it!) for 5 minutes. DO NOT STIR!
- Use the rubber spatula to flip the rice after 5 minutes. It should be starting to brown. Once flipped, press the rice down into the skillet again and cook - undisturbed - for another 5 minutes. Drizzle more sesame oil over the top if the rice starts to dry out.
- Sprinkle the scallions, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and fish sauce over the rice in the skillet. Flip it over and gently break it up into large chunks, then press it all down into the skillet and cook, undisturbed for 3 minutes. Flip the rice and cook for another minute. At this point the rice will be turning very brown and crunchy. Drizzle with more sesame oil if needed.
- When ready to serve, gently break the rice up with the rubber spatula so it loosened up a bit. Season with salt and pepper and fry for another minute or two before plating. Serve hot.