Best Shrimp Fried Rice
Over the years, I've seen many culinary travesties masquerading as Asian food, but the one that puzzled me the most is fried rice. It's one of the simplest foods in the Asian repertoire, and in my household, it was one of the first dishes I learned to make from my mom.
That's probably why comedian Nigel Ng's character "Uncle Roger" had a field day with the BBC's version of Egg Fried Rice. You can check out the link for the video, but it's a textbook example of how not to make fried rice.
So what's the proper way to do it? Keep reading to find out!
Why This Recipe Works?
- By using leftover rice, the starch has had a chance to retrograde, which makes it dry and crumbly. This allows you to evenly fry each individual grain of rice, making the resulting fried rice nice and fluffy.
- Using a large pan not only gives you a lot of surface area to work with, but the extra mass also retains heat better, which imparts a toasty flavor to the rice.
- Stir-frying the shrimp at the beginning imparts some shrimp flavor into the oil, and removing the shrimp before adding the other ingredients keeps them plump and juicy.
Ingredients for Shrimp Fried Rice
- Rice - Regardless of the type of rice you use, fried rice is best made with leftover rice. That's because this gives the starches in the rice a chance to retrograde, which is just a fancy way of saying the rice gets stale. Usually, this wouldn't be a good thing, but for fried rice, you need it to be dry and crumbly able to stir-fry it properly. The high heat in the pan allows the starches to gelatinize again, making the grains soft on the inside, while the outside gets nice and toasty. I used long-grain rice for this, which has a higher ratio of amylose to amylopectin. This allows the rice to retrograde faster, so you can use it after only a day in the fridge. If you're using short-grain rice, I recommend keeping it in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Shrimp - There's no need to use fancy shrimp here as smaller shrimp integrate better with the rice. My shrimp were about 1.5-inches in diameter raw and ended up about 1-inch in diameter cooked. Just make sure you've shelled and cleaned them well. I have a tutorial on cleaning shrimp here.
- Egg - I like using eggs that come from chickens that were fed a diet high in beta-carotene. This makes the yolks orange, which gives the fried rice a nicer color. That being said, they don't taste any different than eggs with a lighter colored yolk, so you can use any eggs you have on hand.
- Seasoning - For Shrimp Fried Rice, I like seasoning it with XO sauce, because it imparts tons of umami and seafood flavor into the rice. It's usually made by frying ham, dried scallops, dried shrimp, crab roe, chili peppers, garlic, and onions in a good amount of neutral oil. It can be a little pricey due to all the dried seafood, so you can use my chili oil, soy sauce, or oyster sauce instead. Keep in mind that these all have different levels of salt, so you'll need to adjust the quantity to work for the sauce you're using.
- Vegetables - You can add any mix of finely chopped vegetables you like, such as carrots, onions, or peas, but I kept mine super simple by adding some chopped scallions at the end.
- Oil - Fried rice is cooked at a high temperature, so use an oil that has a high smoke point such as canola, grapeseed, or rice bran oil. I used rice bran oil for mine.
How to Make Shrimp Fried Rice At Home
The first thing you want to do is shell and devein your shrimp. Then you can marinate them with Shaoxing wine and a pinch of salt. Let these sit for a few minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
If your rice has gone stale enough, you should be able to crumble it into individual grains. Break up any clumps using your hands
Heat a frying pan that's at least 12-inches over high heat until it's hot. Drizzle the oil around the pan and then add the shrimp in a single layer. The hot oil will spatter, so be careful.
Stir-fry the shrimp until it's cooked through. Transfer them to a bowl, leaving as much of the oil behind in the pan as possible.
Break an egg directly into the pan, and then immediately scramble it for a few seconds before adding the rice.
Stir-fry the rice together with the egg until it is fluffy and not sticking together.
Add the XO sauce to the rice and stir-fry until the sauce has coated every grain of rice. You can taste the fried rice at this point to see if it needs any more salt and adjust the seasoning to taste.
When you're happy with the taste and the rice is just starting to brown, add the shrimp back in, along with the scallions. Toss all the ingredients together, and you're Shrimp Fried Rice is ready to serve.
Other Rice Recipes
No, you don't need a wok. For most home setups, you're better off using a large frying pan. A wok has a hemispherical shape that gives you a ton of surface area to work with if you have a burner that's set up to hold and properly heat a wok (the flames should come all the way up the sides of the wok). Most home burners are engineered to heat a flat bottomed pan, so I recommend using a large flat frying pan unless you have a wok burner.
The key to making good fried rice is to use leftover rice. You can read more about the reasons above, but it's crucial that the rice be a little stale to get it to stir-fry properly. It's also important to stir-fry it at a high temperature, which is where a large pan and hot stove come into play.
No, you can substitute your favorite protein such as ham, pork, or chicken for the shrimp. The order of operations doesn't change, but the cooking times for the protein you select may differ. If you are using a fully cooked meat, like leftovers, or ham, you can skip the initial stir-fry and add it in towards the end.
- Toss the shrimp with the Shaoxing wine and a pinch of salt to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Use your hands to crumble the rice, so there are no clumps
- Heat a large frying pan over high heat until hot. Add the oil and the marinated shrimp and spread them out in a single layer. Stir-fry the shrimp until they're cooked through, and then remove them from the pan, leaving behind as much oil as possible.
- Break the egg into the pan and scramble for a few seconds. Add the rice before the egg is fully cooked.
- Toss and stir the egg and rice together until the rice is fluffy (about 1 minute).
- Add the XO sauce and toss together until the rice is uniform in color. Taste the rice and season with salt if needed. Continue tossing and stirring until the rice is very fragrant.
- Return the shrimp to the pan and add the scallions. Toss to distribute everything evenly, and the fried rice is done.