Monday, August 17, 2009

Cooking Fried Rice Restaurant Style At Home.

Have you been to a Chinese restaurant and overwhelmed at the choices of dishes in the menu before giving it back to the waiter to decide the order for you. As soon as his recommendation was sought, you sat marvelled at his ability to rattle the whole menu without taking in another breath, only to be stopped when you hear something familiar such as honey prawns, Mongolian lamb or lemon chicken and signalled him to jot down the order. As if you haven't ordered enough with your three dishes with a soup, he would then asked "Would like to have plain or fried rice with your meal?" Very often, not many of us would opt for plain steamed rice over the fried rice. Mainly because the latter is a popular Chinese dish said to require plenty of wok hei ( 鑊氣), to acquire deliciousness. A cooking method, in which many of us would have some degree of difficulties in reproducing the "wok hei" (wok aroma) with the same result as the restaurant cooking in our kitchen at home. In Chinese restaurant cooking, food is cooked in extremely high heat over a wok to produce "wok hei" a Cantonese term in which you can literally taste the infusion of the hot wok and burnt element of the food. Beside the flavour, there is also the texture of the cooked items and smell involved that describes wok hei. In order, to achieve and to imbibe "wok hei" into our home cooking, it is essential to learn the basic wok cooking technique and also to invest in a gas hob, as the food must be cooked over a high flame while being stirred and tossed quickly. Although a wok is most often used in stir frying in Chinese cooking, it can also be used for various cooking methods such as deep frying, braising, stewing,smoking and boiling and steaming.
The two types of Chinese woks you find in the Asian grocery stores are the carbon steel and cast iron woks. Although the cast iron wok was the most common type used in the past, the usually inexpensive steel wok has gradually replaced it's popularity. Furthermore, the steel wok is relatively lighter in weight and has quick heat conduction and reasonable durability. However, the steel wok is more difficult to "season" (carbonising the wok to create a non stick surface through cooking) and has a high tendency to deform or misshaped when used in very high heat. On the other hand, cast iron wok is superior in heat retention and uniform in heat distribution, it also forms a better carbonised non stick layer to prevent food from sticking to the wok. But it is relatively fragile and prone to shattering if dropped or mishandled.(if you have the misfortune of breaking one, please disposed of it quietly without your mother's or mother in law's knowledge, as it is equivalent of suffering the same fate as breaking a mirror in the western superstition ). But this is nothing as compared to the hassle of re-carbonising the new wok. We will post how to season a new wok in near future soon. In the meanwhile, enjoy this "wok hei" fried rice recipe.

Fried Rice with "Wok Hei" Recipe:


2 cups cooked and cold rice.( cook the day before and refrigerate or use leftover cooked rice)
5 eggs
1 large onion finely chopped
6 spring onion chopped
5 cloves garlic finely minced.
250 g diced char siew (Chinese BBQ pork) or diced ham.
150 g sliced Chinese sausage (lup cheong) or diced bacon.
150 g green peas
150 g carrots cut into small cubes
150 g red capsicum cut into small cubes
4 Tbsp soya sauce
1 Tbsp chicken stock powder.
1/2 cup oil
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

Beat the eggs with salt in a bowl until frothy. Heat wok and add 1 Tbsp of oil and swirl it around to coat the side of the wok. Pour in egg mixture and spread it around the wok to form a thin crepe. Remove the crepe from the wok and set it aside.Cut the cooled crepe into thin strips. A cardinal rule in Chinese stir fry cooking to remember is "hot wok cold oil"
Heat up the wok to a high temperature. To test whether the wok has been heated to required high temperature for the "wok hei" to be created, put a droplet of water into the hot wok. If the water evapourised in an instant, it is ready. Add one Tbsp of oil and and coat it around the side of the wok, once it settled at the bottom of the wok, add garlic, onion, and cook until soft and golden; remove the garlic and onion mixture from the wok. Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and again swirl it to coat the sides; add the carrot, capsicum and green peas and stir fry over high heat for a minute. Remove and set aside.
Add remaining oil and add rice and stir fry over high heat for 2 minutes. Return all the cooked ingredient back to the wok and add in soya sauce,chicken powder and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well for a minute. Garnish the fried rice with the egg crepe strips and fresh coriander.


  1. so use the cast iron wok is the best is it??

  2. Hi By,
    The cast iron wok is too heavy to flip and toss your stir-fry in the air like the restaurant or hawker chefs. And it is easy to "long phua Tiang" as it is fragile and cannot stand the banging from the "hawk" (ladle) or "wok chang" (spatula).

  3. Hi By,
    Buy a lighter steel wok to do the tossing of your stir fry like the professionals. Need a lot of practicing leh. You don't want the food to land on the floor:)