Shanghai fried rice: A staple of Chinese cuisine, perfected
Fried rice is an easy, inexpensive meal that’s prepared in different ways across China, said Fuchsia Dunlop in Land of Fish and Rice (Norton). In Shanghai, “everyone eats it, in the Chinese manner, with a bowl of broth to refresh the palate,” and the finest version I’ve ever tasted—reproduced as best as I can below—is served at a small diner on a back street not far from Nanjing Road.
Leftover cooked white rice is ideal as a starting point—especially if it has started to dry out—because freshly cooked rice can get gummy. “For the most sizzlingly delicious results,” fry with lard, but don’t be afraid to improvise. Spinach can be substituted for the bok choy, and if you have no cooked rice, add 1½ cups of washed, raw rice after completing the stir-fry, then add water, bring to a boil, cover, and slow-cook until the rice is tender, then season with sesame oil.
Recipe of the week
Shanghai fried rice with salt pork and green bok choy
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
½ small red onion
4 oz salt pork, pancetta, or nonsmoked bacon
10 oz green bok choy (3 or 4 heads)
3 cups cooked and cooled sushi rice
2 tbsp lard or cooking oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
Salt and ground white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
Cover mushrooms in boiling water and allow to soak half an hour. Meanwhile, finely chop onion. Remove any rind from pork and chop into a dice. Chop green bok choy, a little more coarsely than the other ingredients. Remove stalks from softened mushrooms and dice the caps. Break rice up into small clumps.
Heat lard or oil in a seasoned wok over a medium flame. Add pork and onion and stir-fry gently until onion is tender and pork is fragrant but not browned. Add mushrooms and ginger, turn heat to high, and stir- fry briefly until fragrant.
Tip in rice and stir-fry over high heat, breaking it up further as you go. When rice is piping hot and smells delicious, season with salt and pepper. Add bok choy and continue to stir-fry until vegetable is also piping hot and just cooked. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil, and serve.