Late-night dinners were a usual event growing up in Tokyo. The energy in the city was like no other—similar to New York, it was 24/7. I remember the sweet and savory scents of okonomiyaki and oden perfuming the streets, and the laughter and chatter buzzing from the izakayas. But my favorite of course was going to the local ramen shop. My mother and I would share the miso ramen, gyoza, and fried rice—always served piping hot. The meal comforted me like a warm blanket.
Now in my 30s, I look back on those evenings with such nostalgia that when I’m feeling homesick or the growing pains of adulthood, I make this fried rice. The properties of chahan, aka yakimeshi, are similar to most fried rice recipes—use whatever vegetable and protein on hand. In Japan, the ramen restaurants usually served theirs with peas, corn, and chashu (pork belly) trimmings; the trimmings from the perfectly cut disks they served in their ramen. Each grain is covered in oil and aromatic soy sauce, the vegetables perfectly cooked with bite, you can serve this as a main or a side dish with soup or simple salad.
The most important thing about making fried rice is the preparation of the rice. It should be cold and mostly dried out of its sticky moisture. This ensures the grains crumble and not stick to the pan when cooking, and that the grains soak up the sesame oil and soy sauce flavoring.
- Make sure rice is cold and cooked at a minimum 2 days prior to frying.
- Cut the proteins and carrots into similar sizes to the corn and peas. This will ensure similar cooking times, but aesthetically, the elements in the fried rice should always look uniform.
- This comes together very fast, and you should be consistently mixing and stirring. Ensure all components are already cut and measured prior to cooking.
- This is a classic fridge clean-out recipe, so use whatever protein you like!
- Cook the fried rice over medium-high to high heat. This will ensure rice doesn't stick.
- Use Japanese short-grain rice, not sushi rice. Or plain white rice, but just not long grain. —Sahara B
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 4
neutral oil, divided
large eggs, beaten to blend
41/50 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut into ¼-inch pieces, or 3 ounces Japanese Berkshire pork sausage
large carrot, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
scallions, finely chopped
garlic cloves, finely chopped
cooked short-grain rice or brown rice, chilled
canned or frozen, thawed
peas, canned or frozen, thawed
toasted sesame oil
- Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil, then add the eggs and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until just cooked through. Transfer the eggs to a plate.
- In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of the neutral oil. Once the oil is hot and glistening, cook the shrimp, carrots, scallions, and garlic, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the carrots are darker in color and softened.
- Add the rice, stirring and cutting through the rice, mixing with the carrot and shrimp mixture, and coating the rice in the seasoned oil, for about 1 minute, until warmed through. Mix in the corn, peas, and pepper.
- Push the rice off to the side of the frying pan and pour the sesame oil into the empty side. Once the oil is hot, stir the rice mixture into the oil.
- Push the rice off to the side again and pour the soy sauce into the empty side, making sure the soy sauce is sizzling before mixing and incorporating into the rice. Stir in the reserved eggs until combined, then serve immediately.