The secret to making the perfect Chinese fried rice

Society & Culture

It may seem simple, but there's a trick to making great fried rice, even in the microwave.

perfect Chinese fried rice
Photos by Lu Zhao

Leftovers at my home typically results in fried rice, the food item designed to help you clean out the fridge. My aunt even created her own “leftover fried rice,” which literally uses everything from a previous meal, no recipe needed; it just turns out delicious.

Chinese fried rice has tons of variations: soy sauce fried rice, egg fried rice, seafood fried rice, etc. Yangzhou fried rice (扬州炒饭 yáng zhōu chǎo fàn) is one of the most popular fried rice styles. It’s perhaps the most well-known dish from Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. The recipe we’re using today was said to have been invented hundreds of years ago by a regional magistrate, Yī Bǐngshòu 伊秉绶, during the Qing Dynasty.

The most common ingredients of this dish include egg, carrot, green peas, spam, shrimp, garlic, and green onion. They bring out different tastes and textures, but more importantly, beautiful colors. In Chinese cooking philosophy, a well-cooked dish should have aesthetics, smell, and taste (色香味俱全 sè xiāng wèi jù quán).

Like I said, ingredients are not that important to fried rice, but the rice itself plays a crucial part. You may think making rice is too easy to talk about, but there is actually a trick to taking your fried rice to another level.

Successful fried rice should have well-separated grains and fully-mixed ingredients and seasonings. I personally love jasmine rice because it has a light but distinct aroma, and won’t become sticky when cooked. Long grain rice is also a good choice.

Leftover cold rice is ideal for fried rice. The cooling process takes away the extra water content so the rice is a bit dry and won’t stick together. I’d recommend cooking rice a day before and letting it rest in the fridge overnight, but you can also just put freshly cooked rice in the fridge for a while and make sure it’s cool to the touch before adding it to the pan.

If you happen to own an instant rice cooker, that’s perfect, you’re good to go. If not, I’ll teach you how to make rice in the microwave, which is what I do now in my tiny apartment. It doesn’t taste as great as the result from an instant pot, but it’s good enough.


Serves 2 or 3


20 minutes


  • 1 cup rice, uncooked
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced spam
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables, thawed
  • 8-10 frozen cooked shrimp (I use 31-40 count size), thawed
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped, white and green part separated
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

fried rice2 ingredientsfried rice3 chopped


  1. Put 1 cup of rice in a microwaveable bowl. Rinse it with cold water three times. You need to rinse rice to remove debris and surface starch that causes rice clumping, but don’t overwash it, otherwise you’ll lose all the nutrition.
  2. Add 2 cups of water to the washed rice.   Microwave for 12 minutes. Time may vary depending on the cooking power. I use a microwave with 700W.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat.   When the pan is hot, add beaten eggs. Allow it to sit for about 30 seconds and give it a quick stir to create small scrambled egg pieces. Place the eggs on a plate.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, fry the white part of the green onion and garlic for about 40 seconds to allow the fragrance to come out.
  5. Add mixed vegetables and frozen shrimp. Fry until softened.
  6. Add in the rice and slightly press it to separate the grains.
  7. Add spam, the rest of the green onion, salt and black pepper. Give everything a big stir-fry and mix well. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  8. Serve immediately.

fried rice4 final result

SupChina Eats is a weekly column.