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.
*Note: For a more intense color, beat in a whole egg yolk as well.
- 1/4 Cup plus 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1/2 Ounce pork fillet, diced finely
- 1/2 Ounce small peeled shrimp
- 1/2 Ounce ham or salami, diced finely
- 1/2 Ounce cold, cooked chicken, diced finely
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, stalks discarded, diced finely
- 1/2 Ounce peas, peeled fava beans, or cooked green soy beans
- 1/2 Ounce bamboo shoot, diced finely (optional)
- 2 Teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 3/4 Cups chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, beaten*
- 3 Cups cooked, cooled Thai fragrant rice (1 1/2 cups when raw)
- 3 scallions, green parts only, sliced thinly
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a seasoned wok over high heat. Add the pork and shrimp and stir-fry briefly until the pork is pale. Add the ham, chicken, mushrooms, peas or beans, and bamboo shoot, if using, and continue to stir-fry until everything is hot and sizzling, for 1-2 minutes.
Add the Shaoxing wine, then pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt, to taste, then pour into a bowl.
Rinse and dry the wok. Return to the heat with the remaining oil. When the oil is hot, season the eggs with salt and pepper, to taste, add them to the wok and swirl around the base. When the egg is half-cooked, add all of the rice and stir-fry, using your ladle or wok scoop to break up any lumps.
When the rice is very hot and smells delicious (it will make a popping sound around the edges at this stage), add the bowlful of prepared ingredients in their stock sauce. Mix well and continue to stir-fry for another 30 seconds or so, seasoning with salt or pepper if you wish. Finally, stir in the scallions and serve.