Photo/Illutration Fried rice (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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The aroma of browned green onion and soy sauce rises from the plate, and the golden rice is light in texture. There is a way to cook fried rice, known in Japan as “chahan,” that produces the ideal savor without having to master the tricky pan-shaking.

A closer look at what forms the flavor of fried rice shows the ingredients dotting the rice serve as the basis, and the power of oil and heat create the rich relish. Fried rice served at restaurants seems to contain a generous amount of lard and salt, but at home it is recommended to go easy on the oil and to season it in a way that the first mouthful may even taste mild in flavor.

This is also a way to keep you from growing bored of eating it. This week’s recipe attempts to strike a balance between health considerations and tastiness by coating the rice with a bit of oil before cooking and using a small amount of salty ingredient. Instead of seasoned flakes of cooked salmon, bacon or Chinese-style barbecued pork (“chashu”) may be used if preferred.

The key to the cooking process is the heat level. High heat browns the green onion and draws out its characteristic aroma, while fluffing up the egg. If the frying pan becomes so hot that smoke starts to rise, turn off the heat for the time being. You will get the hang of it once you make the dish a few times.


(Supervised by Katsuhiko Yoshida in the cooking aspect and Shinichi Ishikawa in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients (Serves one)

180 grams rice, 1/4 (10 cm) green onion (naganegi type), 2 stalks green onion (konegi type), 1 egg, 1 Tbsp flake of salmon (sake-fureku), 1 Tbsp sake, 1 tsp soy sauce, bit of pepper, 2 and 1/3 Tbsp oil

About 685 kcal and 2.4 grams salt per portion

1. Cut naganegi in half lengthwise, cut further into strips that are 5 mm in width and then chop. Chop konegi into width of 5 to 6 mm.

2. Sprinkle 1/3 Tbsp oil on warm rice (PHOTO A) and mix lightly. Break and mix egg.

PHOTO A: When mixing oil in rice, mix lightly without force. Ideally, each grain should be coated with oil. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

3. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in frying pan and add naganegi. Over higher heat, mix without stopping and stir-fry for about 2 minutes to make green onion-flavored oil (PHOTO B).

PHOTO B: When the heat level is maintained so that the sizzling sound is heard throughout, the green onion starts to brown from the edges. Be careful not to burn it black as it will taste bitter. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

4. Pour egg in pan, mix lightly and add rice while egg is still half cooked (PHOTO C). Loosen rice and cook by pressing it lightly to the pan with ladle.

PHOTO C: Add rice while the egg is still half cooked. The rice will brown if it is spread out with a ladle and cooked by pressing lightly on the pan. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

5. When egg and rice are blended, turn off heat. Add sake, soy sauce, pepper, salmon flake and konegi. Turn on heat again and cook together. Check taste and add bit of salt if needed.

* When making two servings

Ideally, when making fried rice with a home-use frying pan and stove, it should be cooked one portion at a time. But we came up with a way to complete two portions at the same time. The secret is to cook the rice one portion at a time. Double the amount of each ingredient and seasoning.

Up until the step of making green onion-flavored oil and stir-frying the egg, cook double the amount of ingredients. Remove half of the fried egg to a plate, add one serving of rice in the frying pan and cook. Then remove the rice and egg to another plate and cook the remaining egg and the other portion of rice in the pan.

After returning the first batch of cooked rice and egg to the pan, finish cooking the two portions together.

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Katsuhiko Yoshida is the owner-chef of Jeeten, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Uehara offering Chinese home cooking.
Shinichi Ishikawa is a professor at Miyagi University specializing in molecular cooking science.


Fried rice wrapped with leaves

Fried rice wrapped with leaves (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

This is an extra step when freezing leftover fried rice. Inspired by Chinese cooking where fried rice is wrapped and steamed in lotus leaves, the step uses leaves of celery or shiso. Spread celery leaves on a piece of plastic wrap, top with fried rice. Spread celery leaves on fried rice again and wrap while pushing out air. When thawing in the microwave, the leaves will be heated and aroma will rise. The leaves may be eaten with the rice.


The Asahi Shimbun

There are two kinds of rice starch: “gelatinized starch” that is sticky when heated with water, and “retrograded starch” that is hard as in cold rice or gelatin noodles. The two types are intermingled in each grain of fried rice, and the disparity in the texture may be the factor that keeps us from not growing tired of eating it.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column