I had the opportunity to meet up with Chef Vincent Theong of Orchard Cafe who gave me a few pointers on how to fry rice so that you have that Wok Hei fragrance. Now, I know that most people don’t have such a big fire at home, but the few tips he gave about frying rice are still very helpful.
Tips on Frying Rice
1. Always use rice that has been cooked and cooled down. Rice that is refrigerated overnight is even better. The reason for using cooled down rice is so that the rice grain will retain its shape when frying rather than getting all mushed up. When rice is cooked, the starch inside the rice grain absorbs water and swells up. When it cools down, the starch chains reorganize themselves into a more complex network resulting in a rice grain that is firmer than when it is first cooked and this is ideal for frying as you want to be able to get the flavours and oil coats each grain. For those who enjoy chemistry, this process is known as retrogradation.
2. When using a wok, always bring the wok to smoking point, then lower the heat and add the oil. This ensures that the wok will be non-stick.
3. Cook the eggs first. If you put the eggs in after the rice, your fried rice is going to be mushy.
4. Make sure you stir fry the rice thoroughly. ie, make sure you stir clock wise and anti-clockwise.
5. To get the wok hei fragrance, you need to heat the wok up till it is smoking and then toss the rice repeatedly in order to “smoke’ the rice. (This is the hard bit!)
Many thanks to Chef Vincent Theong, executive sous chef of Orchard Cafe for this tutorial. Chef Vincent’s specialty is Nonya cuisine which is now available at the buffet spread at Orchard Cafe.