Western Fried Rice, you come home from work and wanna order in.
So, you order your favorite: General Tso’s, with a side of Egg Rolls and Crab Rangoons.
And while you know that that sticky, saucy Tso’s isn’t exactly what people eat in China, you don’t really care – it tastes
pretty good all the same.
You can’t help but wonder if it’s a totally normal everyday occurrence for you, sitting in the west, to order Chinese, do people
in China on a random Friday night, order western?
And what would that be like?
Of course, people in China’ll sometimes eat western food.
Open up Meituan, the Chinese equivalent of Uber eats, and, like, some of the top categories are burgers, pizzas, and fried chicken.
But as you scroll, while some of this fare’ll probably seem pretty familiar, you might start to feel that there’s also something a little off.
See, I would put western food in China in three main categories.
First, there is authentic western food in this country.
Especially if you’re in Shanghai or Beijing, you could theoretically eat just Western food and still eat pretty well.
Maybe not, like, New York City well but pretty solid.
Inauthentic western food in China.
Think of this as like, the P.F.
Like, you can order a pizza almost anywhere in this country, but this is what you’re gonna get.
It can still hit the spot if you’re a bit desperate, but I mean, it is kinda sad.
That said, inauthenticity can sometimes get pretty inventive just like Crab Rangoon is undeniably genius, Durian pizza is genuinely
good, and I hope one day somebody somewhere can actually make it with a proper crust.
There’s my personal favorite – the old-school inauthentic western food: Canto-western Cha Chaan Teng fare.
Now, we’ve covered a lot of this stuff on our channel before because we find it outrageously fun to make.
Deep-fried French toast. Cheesy seafood rice.
I just love the bombast, think of this as sort of like the equivalent of that takeout fare in the West.
This brings us to today’s dish, western fried rice.
Now, this is another super tasty bombastic Canto-western thing, but I actually think it can pretty illustrative of the situation
as a whole – because this dish features what I consider to be the holy trinity of the Chinese view of western food: ketchup, onion, and bell pepper.
So like right.
In Guangdong especially, ketchup you’ll usually find cooked down into a sauce.
You can see it in stuff like baked pork chop rice, or ketchup sauce steak, or as young me at my college canteen in Hong Kong found
out the unpleasant way ketchup sauce spaghetti.
The onion, meanwhile, is also an interesting one.
The Mandarin name for onion is yangcong, or literally ‘imported scallion’, and while you do see it here or there in Chinese cooking, usually the onion allium of choice would be scallion or welsh onion in the north.
And the third leg of our trinity, bell pepper?
I don’t really know what it is about the red and yellow bell, but doesn’t it seem like a lot of those dishes that exist in that liminal space between cultures seem to just have to feature it for some unknown reason.
Then besides those components, the last must for Western fried rice is a hotdog, and you could also sub that for spam together with half a tomato, diced, which we’ll add at the very end.
Another optional ingredient that the Cha Chain Teng near us also tosses in is some Char Siu barbecue pork, which I enjoy, but you could also sub that for some honey ham or alternatively just skip it.
Now, for fried rice, we are huge believers in the steaming method – somehow it makes the perfect rice for fried rice.
But I do know that a lot of people in the west don’t have bamboo steamers laying around their kitchen and we are making a ‘western fried rice’ after all, so we wanted to show you a little hack to steam using just a mesh strainer.
Full disclosure that this was the same hack that we recently shared in Alex the French.
Here we’ve got 230 grams of jasmine rice that we’ll first want to rinse three or four times to get off some of the surface’s starch.
Then, parboil it for three minutes, strain, poke a couple of holes in the rice and cover that with a bit of aluminum foil.
Then just toss that over a pot of bubbling water, steam for ten minutes on high, then shut off the heat and let it sit there for another five.
And then at that point, just take it out, spread it over a flat plate and this is good to fry.
The cool thing about the steaming method is that you can use this rice immediately, no need to wait a day to dry.
For some tips, if you’re workless but as always when frying in a wok, first longyau – get your wok piping hot, shut off the heat, add
in your oil – here I’m using two tablespoons of lard because I love lard fried rice, but any will do the job.
Heat on medium now, add in a half an onion finely minced.
Cook that til it starts to become translucent, about three minutes, then add in your ketchup – here’s we’re going in with five tablespoons worth.
It’s gonna feel like a lot, just trust – the harshness will cookout.
Just continue to fry the ketchup on medium, until the oil begins to separate and get stained obviously red, then add in your meat – this here was one hotdog and 75 grams of Char Siu.
Up your flame to high, quick mix, then pour a tablespoon of liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine over your spatula and around the sides of
Brief stir, then add in your steamed rice.
Fry that for about a minute until the rice is evenly mixed in with all the ketchup, then pour a teaspoon of soy sauce over your spatula and around the sides of the wok.
Quick mix, then add in your seasoning, which I’ll put off the bottom of the screen right there, and after a quick mix toss in half
of a diced tomato and a quarter of a diced red bell.
Quick fifteen-second fry, heat off, and out.
Western fried rice, done.
So for someone like me that grew up in the 80s and 90s, whenever I eat this kind of stuff it automatically triggers the “western food” memory in my head.
But if you ask some younger people nowadays they would probably tell you that this is not western food, but Chinese food.
Because the times have changed.
There are many restaurants that make some pretty authentic Western food even in smaller cities.
There are many people that went abroad to study and come back they want the authentic taste.
And even if you go to Xiachufang, you’ll find many reasonably authentic recipes there.
I think that’s because the cultural gap is closing very fast – it’s probably a good thing, but maybe in the future we’ll just see less of this kind of fun creations.
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