Back in Elementary school I’d remember we had International Day, where students were asked to bring a dish from the country they were from. Being Chinese, most of my friends assumed all we ate were eggrolls and fried rice and that we all knew some form of karate. Not wanting to veer too far from stereotypes to risk confusion and so more people would like me, I decided to make Shrimp Fried Rice.
I cooked two pots of rice and was frying my eggs when my mother loomed into the kitchen -- “WHAT YOU DOING?” You see my mother has a thunderous voice, the kind that just shocks you right in the ear making your shoulder suddenly jolt up in pain. “Uhm...I’m making shrimp fried rice for International Day at school.” I continue to sauté my vegetables, feeling her lurking heavily over my shoulder. She looked over at the pot of my freshly cooked rice and watched her brow wrinkle in distress: I’ve really gone and done it now, I’ve offended the Fried Rice Gods! “How can you use that rice? Must be OLD RICE, you cannot serve this, BU HAO!” And indeed it was bu hao, it sucked actually – I ended up with a goopy, soggy, pasty mess and safe to say, it was the worst fried rice ever.
“You see--good thing you have mommy here to teach you how to make!” I ended up buying the Shrimp Fried Rice from General Chopsticks that day because what I made was honestly not edible. That very weekend my mother taught me how to make the world’s BEST Shrimp Fried Rice, her secret? -- A sprinkle of chicken bouillon and white pepper at the very end. So here it is, I’m passing on the love: My mother’s guide to Shrimp Fried Rice.
1. Always use day old rice – make sure it is dry and not mushy and preferably cold.
2. Fry all of your ingredients separately – shrimp, eggs, vegetables, rice, to avoid making just one gigantic clump and this ensures that all ingredients are cooked evenly.
3. Use very hot heat and the right amount of oil, too little oil will break the rice apart, making it very sticky – for every 2 1/2 cups of rice I recommend using 2 tablespoons of oil.
4. Pre-marinating the shrimp makes all the difference in the world.
5. Always taste your rice the very last minute and adjust seasonings accordingly.
Recipe for the Best Shrimp Fried Rice:
(Serves 2-3; Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes)
- 1 cup shrimp
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- ¼ cup Shao Xing Cooking Wine
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Pinch of white pepper
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, scrambled
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
- ¼ cup white onion, chopped
- ½ cup frozen mixed vegetables
- 2 ½ cups of cold, day old rice
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon Chicken Bouillon
- A pinch of white pepper (and salt if needed.)
- ½ cup green scallions, finely chopped
Marinate the shrimp with shrimp, cornstarch, cooking wine, soy sauce and white pepper. The oil will be for later use. Refrigerate the shrimp for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, gently break apart the rice into small clumps using your hands and set aside. Chop the onion, green onion and scramble your eggs.
Set a metal strainer and a bowl aside to catch the excess oil from cooking the shrimp. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok at high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Add the shrimp mixture and quickly sauté the shrimp, making sure all surfaces of the shrimp hits the hot oil. Cook for about 1 ½ -2 minutes or until shrimp are almost cooked through (the surfaces will turn entirely pink), turn off heat and allow shrimp to cook the rest of the way for an additional minute. Strain shrimp through strainer and set aside and save the oil for the rice.
In the same skillet or wok, heat a tablespoon of the reserved oil over medium high heat until hot. Sautee onions for 2 minutes and then add the frozen vegetables. Add another tablespoon of oil and add the rice. Gently break up the rice with the vegetable mixture by shaking the skillet or wok, or moving it around with a heat-proof spoon. Add the soy sauce and mix thoroughly and then add the shrimp. Sprinkle with chicken bouillon and a pinch of white pepper, taste and salt accordingly. When ready to serve, sprinkle finely chopped green scallions to add a burst of freshness.