Your average fried rice — the kind that comes with peas and carrots, packaged in a to-go box — may seem like a pseudo-Chinese invention of modern times à la General Tso’s Chicken, but in fact its roots date back some 1,500 years. Invented by a government official during the Sui Dyanasty, Yangzhou fried rice, as it’s formally known today, “was originally called ‘Golden Nugget Rice’ because each rice grain was enveloped in golden egg yolk,” write Kei Lum and Diora Fong Chan in their 720-page tome of Chinese gastronomy, China: The Cookbook (Phaidon). So, sure, you could add your peas and carrots. But we recommend following the traditional recipe, a strict combination of shrimp, barbecued pork and scrambled egg.
Yangzhou Fried Rice
1 1/4 cups long-grain rice, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 ounces uncooked shrimp (prawns), shelled and deveined
4 eggs, separated (keep 2 whites)
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 ounces barbecued pork, diced
1 scallion, chopped
1. Combine the rice, 1/2 tablespoon oil, and 2 cups (16 fluid ounces/475mL) water in a saucepan and stir once. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat, and cook, covered, for about 15–20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. (Alternatively, 3 cups of day-old rice can be used. Rinse the rice with water to wash away the starch and to break up any lumps, then drain.)
2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp (prawns) and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Combine 2 egg whites, 4 egg yolks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and beat together.
4. Slowly pour the eggs into the rice and, using chopsticks, stir until each grain of rice is coated in egg.
5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, add the rice, and stir-fry until each grain of rice is covered with oil. Turn off the heat and stir-fry for another 2 minutes until the eggs are cooked. Add the shrimp, barbecue pork, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and toss for another 2–3 minutes. Stir in the chopped scallion (spring onion) and transfer to a serving bowl or plate and serve.