The city of Yangzhou in eastern Jiangsu Province is one of the ancient centers of Chinese gastronomy and the heartland of what is known as Huaiyang Cuisine. Strangely, only one of its dishes is widely known in the West and that is Yangzhou fried rice, which is on the menu of almost every overseas Cantonese restaurant. A colorful mixture of fragrant rice with diced meat, seafood, and vegetables, it traditionally includes a little sea cucumber and crabmeat as well as fresh bamboo shoots. Many versions, even some of those cooked up in Yangzhou itself, make this dish as a simple fried rice, but the classic recipe, upon which mine is based, includes an injection of chicken stock that adds an extra deliciousness. I have omitted hard-to-find ingredients, such as sea cucumber.
I first wrote this recipe for a Chinese New Year's feature in a magazine. One friend told me afterward that it had been such a hit with her children that she had been making it almost once a week ever since, so I've included it here in her honor.
Don't worry if you don’t have every ingredient: The key is to have a tempting selection of colors and tastes amid the rice. There's no need to weigh them exactly; just aim to have a small pile (about 3 tablespoons when chopped) of each. Yangzhou fried rice can be served as part of a special Chinese meal, or as a whole meal in itself, perhaps with simply a salad or a lightly cooked green vegetable on the side.
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