For what seems like eons, I have been in hot pursuit of happiness in the form of fried rice. Naively thinking as one sometimes does in her early 20s, I thought I found the secret to great fried rice right out of the gate. Seasoning packets from the grocery store were enthusiastically prepared with the rice as directed by Uncle Ben and then much, much less enthusiastically dismissed. Cookbooks failed me. The Internet... well, that was nothing but a bunch of AOL chat rooms at the time. Nothing I tried at home quite cut the mustard. How on earth do those restaurants do it?
Enter Benihana. Under the guise of socializing, countless evenings were spent at the hibachi grill carefully eyeballing the chef's every move. And it seemed simple enough. Rice, butter, oil, soy sauce, onions, chicken, some scant shredded carrots, salt. Why does this mystery elude me? Surely someone has cracked the safe to the Chicken Fried Rice recipe and posted it online, right? No dice. While they claim to be Benihana CFR recipes, something was always missing. They lacked that... that... what IS that?
(This love affair has gone on for quite some time. At the height of my lust for CFR, which I admit unashamedly was just last year, I sent it a bonafide Valentine to profess my love and confess how crazy it makes me every time I see it wearing that shrimp sauce. I came to find out that the Valentine now hangs in the manager's office, as shown below. But I digress.)
During one evening of particularly dogged CFR research, I stumbled across a forum. Someone mentioned that Benihana uses garlic butter in their CFR. AH HA!!! That's it! Well, I couldn't race to the kitchen fast enough. As soon as I got there, though, the race was over. You see, the best fried rice is an exercise in patience and is not for the imminently hungry.
My best advice is to order a pizza and put your water on for the rice. The rice takes a day. Yes, a whole day. Maybe a half day if you are really jonesin', in which case do like I do and start your rice in the morning when you feel a dinner craving comin' on.
Epicurious.com helped me figure out that one of the secrets to fried rice is how you prepare the rice. It's an important component of the finished fried rice, and it is worth the time it takes. Here is my adapted version:
2 3/4 cups long-grain white rice (not converted) or brown rice
4 - 5 cups water
The secret to this rice is to first rinse it very well. I like to put it in a big bowl of cold water, stir it around, transfer it to a strainer, and repeat until the water stays clear in the bowl.
Place rice in a heavy saucepan. Add 4 cups of water for white rice; 5 cups of water for brown rice. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low (I put mine as low as the burner will go) 16 minutes for white rice and 35-40 minutes for brown rice. The rice will have absorbed the water and have steam holes.
Spread rice onto two baking sheets and refrigerate uncovered at least 12 hours. Rice can be made two days ahead and transferred to a sealable bag after 18-24 hours.
Makes 10 cups cooked rice.
As much as I love Benihana's CFR, I prefer to make shrimp fried rice at home. Based on years of experimentation and searching, this is the fried rice recipe that was finally worthy of putting pencil to paper so it could be repeated. And so it goes...
Shrimp Fried Rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
18 raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, and cut into thirds
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups cooked rice (half the yield of recipe above)
2 Tablespoons butter
3-4 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon sesame seed oil
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
On low heat in a large, heavy wok, heat butter and canola oil. Add minced garlic and cook until soft but not brown.
In a small non-stick fry pan, use a couple tablespoons of the garlic oil to scramble the eggs.
Turn wok to high heat and add onions and carrot to oil/garlic mixture. Stir fry with large metal spatula until just tender. Add shrimp and stir fry until shrimp begins to turn pink/opaque, about 1-2 min. Add rice and eggs; stir fry.
Drizzle with sesame seed oil and soy sauce. Sprinkle with salt. The key here is to measure and learn from my past mistakes; overseasoning will ruin the melding of the delicate flavors.
The next exercise in patience begins here. Stir then press rice against wok and wait several minutes for it to lightly brown. This is where fried rice earns the "fried" part.
Continue to stir, press the rice to the wok, and wait for it to brown. Repeat, scraping the brown bits from the wok with the spatula each time, until about half the rice is nicely fried. The wok and rice may start to look like this. It's okay. Don't be p'scared. It's flavor you're seeing.
Whatever your favorite bowls may be, scoop a delightful heap of this stuff in there and serve piping hot right out of the wok. Because of my well-known desire for fried rice, my dad and step-mom bought me this cute rice bowl set for Christmas a few years ago. (My shamelessness does come with the occasional benefit.) Thanks, Dad and Nancy!
Makes 4-6 servings.