Odisha Chef’s Recipe For The Perfect Fried Rice
Chef Pabitra is one of the few chefs in India and perhaps the only one from Odisha who has worked in a Michelin Star Restaurant – The Golden Peacock at The Venetian Macau. He has also spent some of his culinary time in The North restaurant that served the traditional cuisines of Sichuan regions of China at the same property. One can say he is a good hand in Indian and Pan Asian cuisine. At present, he is working as an Executive Chef at a leading restaurant and food court.
During an informal discussion on Pan Asian cuisine, he pointed out that in Bhubaneswar, much of the demand for fried rice and stirring good fried rice requires a lot of understanding of grains, texture and ageing of the cooked rice. Some of the points he highlighted were quite interesting for any foodie and especially for home cooks.
According to him: Authentic Chinese fried rice should be lightly seasoned with salt, little soy, fish and chilli sauce with a very scant amount of aromatics and meat. In Odisha, customers prefer bigger chunks of meat and more soy and chilli sauce. Some even prefer a good amount of tomato ketchup. To him, the former style is perfect if one is having meat accompaniments and the latter is a dish in itself. Chef Pabitra has his own set of rules while tossing up perfect fried rice, which he shared in detail.
Rule no 1: Use the right rice – it should not be sticky, as not many people are familiar with using chopsticks. Avoid fragrant rice as it overpowers the ingredient used and long grain is a no-no, as it breaks. Medium grain rice is the best for fried rice. Brown, Black or wild rice is best to be avoided. In Odisha, zeera/jira rice is available in plenty and this makes it the best option. This medium-grain rice gives a good balance and since it has less floral aroma, it is a good choice among chefs of Chinese cuisine.
Rule no 2: Rinse the rice – excess starch causes the rice to clump. If one is making the dish right away, then it is better to dunk and shake in a bowl under flowing cold water for thirty seconds rinse while agitating. This is a fast process, but the ingredients have to be ready before putting the wok on the flame.
Rule no 3: Plan in advance which way you will treat the rice once it is cooked. Fanned rice – which is cooked then placed under a fan for an hour. This way, the dish comes out dry but not stale. Freshly cooked rice – it is spread on the plate while hot and given a few minutes for the surface moisture to evaporate. It makes for an excellent fried rice variant when looking for vegetarian ones. Day old rice – this tends to be clumped, which has to be broken up. Most of the restaurants use this method as this rice is hard but if it is cooked on high heat & faster process, is very tasty with white sauce on top.
Rule no 4: Use the right kind of woks. A wok works best with gas cooktops, where the flame rises and heats up the sides of the wok as well as the base. If one is using a stovetop with induction or a heating coil, the best bet is to use a flat, heavy non-stick or cast-iron skillet.
Rule no 5: Keep it hot – the oil temperature in the wok has to be a little higher than the smoking temperature. While adding the rice, guard the quantity so that the oil covers the rice with a toasty golden brown colour. Be patient to keep tossing and stirring while the dragon flame keeps dancing.
Rule no 6: Go easy with the add-ins and sauce. Keep it simple with some diced onion, carrot, garlic, and scallion, use precooked meat or rapidly sear it in the centre of the wok before adding other aromatic ingredients. Then start to toss them with the rice, stir-frying everything together. Do not use massive amounts of soy sauce, oyster sauce, or hoisin sauce. A good technique and high-quality rice don’t need much sauce. Use a small amount of sauce, end it up by adding a teaspoon of sesame oil: just enough to get the fragrance, but not enough to dominate the flavour.
Finally, season the rice with salt while cooking the rice. Add fresh greens to the fried rice before serving it. It can be anything from thinly sliced scallion greens, to chopped celery or chives.
But remember, the final step is to just give everything a few more good tosses and stirring. Make sure every grain of rice in the pan is separate from the others, and each spoonful should have an even distribution of all of the mix-ins.