An easy version of Yangzhou fried rice, a classic stir-fry dish combining a wide range of flavors and textures. Make it in under 15 minutes!
What is Yangzhou fried rice
Yangzhou fried rice (Yángzhōu Chǎo Fàn/扬州炒饭), also known as Young Chow fried rice, holds a cherished position in the family of Chinese fried rice dishes. It’s considered the next-level fried rice, the one that excels in many different ways.
In contrast to other well-known fried rice variations like egg fried rice, pork fried rice, and soy sauce fried rice, which emphasize a specific ingredient in their names, this dish derives its name from its place of origin Yangzhou, a city in Jiangsu Province, China where Huái Yáng Cuisine/淮扬菜 dominates.
Yangzhou fried rice is considered a type of assorted fried rice (Shí Jǐn Chǎo Fàn/什锦炒饭) which incorporates an extensive range of ingredients, offering a delightful combination of flavors, textures, and colors in every single bite.
Some of the classic ingredients used in traditional versions of Yangzhou fried rice, such as sea cucumber, Chinese dried cured ham, and dried scallops, aren’t easy to source. Therefore, home-cooked versions and overseas Chinese restaurant versions often call for reduced ingredients and/or use substitutes, like the one I’m sharing today.
Before we delve into the detailed recipe, allow me to share a few tips that will help you achieve optimal results.
- Use day-old, refrigerated cooked rice that hasn’t been overcooked
- Select a variety of vegetables and proteins, each with different flavors, textures, and colors
- Use a traditional wok if available but other cookware works too
- Cook different ingredient groups separately then combine
- Flavor with minimum seasonings to allow the natural taste to shine through
Ingredients & substitutes
Here are the ingredients for my accessible version of Yangzhou fried rice:
- Cooked rice (more on this in the next section)
- SPAM, or diced ham, Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pork), Chinese sausage. They’re easy-to-source alternatives to Chinese dried cured ham that’s called for in the original version. You can use other types of cured ham too (e.g. Spanish serrano ham).
- Shrimp, cooked or raw
- Vegetables & aromatics: carrots, peas, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, and scallions (green onion/spring onion)
- Seasonings: salt and white pepper
- Cooking oil. Any neutral-flavored, high-smoking oil works, such as sunflower, rapeseed, corn, canola, and vegetable oil.
🛎 Note: Please feel free to use other vegetables and proteins to substitute. After all, the essence of Chinese fried rice is to combine whatever is available (often leftovers) to quickly create a delicious meal.
About cooked rice
Allow me to explain more about cooked rice, the key element to successful fried rice. Here is the quality you’re after: not overcooked (best to be a little undercooked, say “al dente”), and not too sticky (the grains can be easily separated).
Day-old, refrigerated rice works much better than freshly cooked rice as it contains less moisture so it holds its shape well when fried.
If you happen to have some leftover rice and wish to use it up, go ahead and make this recipe even if its texture isn’t optimal.
However, if you plan ahead and are keen to achieve the best result, I highly recommend you steam the rice using a strainer/steamer, a particular method that I explained in my post on Three Ways to Cook Rice. It produces al dente rice that’s perfect for any fried rice recipe.
🛎 Note on rice choices: My preferred option is jasmine rice, as it achieves the perfect level of stickiness when cooked. Short-grain white rice is also suitable, but take extra care not to overcook it, as it can easily become excessively sticky.”
I have to admit that traditional carbon steel wok does the best job at cooking Chinese fried rice thanks to its fast and even heat distribution. However, you can surely use other cookware for this recipe. For example, a non-stick wok or large skillet/frying pan.
Prep & cooking steps
Step 1: prepare the ingredients
First, loosen the rice grains with a fork to break any large lumps so you have less trouble dealing with them while frying.
Then, cut the carrots, SPAM (or ham, Char Siu), and shrimp (if they’re big) into small, fairly equal-sized pieces. Mince the garlic and finely chop the scallions.
Beat the eggs to combine the whites and yolks.
Step 2: fry the veggies and proteins
Start with an empty wok or large skillet/frying pan (see the tip below if using cookware with non-stick coating). Heat it over high heat until it becomes very hot. Pour in cooking oil then add minced garlic. Fry until fragrant.
Add carrots, peas, and shiitake mushrooms. Stir fry for about 30 seconds. Pour in a little water (or chicken stock for a richer flavor) along with some salt. Leave the vegetable to cook through.
Once you see very little liquid left, put in the SPAM (or substitutes) and shrimp. Toss and fry for another 30 seconds.
Transfer all the ingredients to a plate/bowl. Set aside for later use.
🛎 Tip: If using non-stick cookware, do not heat it empty. Pour in the oil first then heat it up.
Step 3: fry the eggs and rice
Add another portion of cooking oil to the hot wok (You don’t need to wash it. Wipe off solid bits if any with kitchen paper). When it’s smoking hot, pour in the beaten egg. It should set pretty quickly so you’ll need to quickly swirl and break the scrambled egg into small pieces with a spatula.
Put in the cooked rice. Toss continuously to heat the grains evenly. Keep the heat on high throughout the process.
🛎 Tip: To prevent the eggs or rice from sticking to your cookware which doesn’t have a non-stick coating, you need to make sure it is really hot when you put in the ingredients.
Step 4: combine and season
When the rice turns piping hot (you’ll hear some grains popping), return the fried vegetables and proteins back to the wok. Stir fry for about 20 seconds or so.
Finally, fold in salt, white pepper, and chopped scallions. Dish out after a final toss.
Yangzhou fried rice makes a perfect all-in-one meal by itself. If you like, add a dash of homemade Chili Oil for an extra kick.
Alternatively, enjoy it as a staple for sharing meals, potluck parties, and more. While it is at its best when served warm, it remains delicious when consumed at room temperature.
Store any leftovers in the fridge and simply toss them in a tad of oil over high heat to warm them up.
Other takeout recipes
Looking for more popular take-out style dishes? Try these recipes:
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, consider leaving a comment as well!
Yangzhou Fried Rice (扬州炒饭)
- 3 cups cooked rice - cooled (see notes 1 & 2)
- 3 tablespoon neutral cooking oil - divided
- 2 clove garlic - minced
- ⅓ cup carrots - diced
- ⅓ cup peas
- ¼ cup dried shiitake mushrooms - rehydrated and finely chopped (see note 3)
- ¼ cup water - or chicken stock
- ½ teaspoon salt - divided
- ⅓ cup shrimp - peeled (cooked or raw)
- ⅓ cup SPAM - or ham, char siu, diced (see note 4)
- 2 eggs - lightly beaten
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 stalk scallions - finely chopped
- Use a fork to loosen up the grains of the cooked and cooled rice. Set aside. Cut and chop other ingredients to the preferred size suggested in the list above.
- Heat an empty wok over high heat until smoking hot (see note 5 if using cookware with non-stick coating). Pour in 1 tablespoon of oil then add minced garlic.
- Once the garlic turns lightly golden (do not burn), put in carrots, peas, and shiitake mushrooms. Stir fry for 30 seconds or so then pour in the water (or stock) along with half of the salt. Leave to steam over high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Stir in SPAM (or other substitutes) and shrimp. Toss and fry for about 30 seconds (or until the shrimp turns pink if they are raw). Transfer everything to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the same wok. Swirl to coat a larger area. Pour in the batten eggs once the oil just starts to smoke. Swirl the eggs with a spatula to cook them quickly and break them into small pieces.
- Put in the cooked rice. Toss constantly to heat the grains evenly. Loosen any lumps with the spatula.
- When the rice is piping hot, return the fried vegetables and proteins back to the wok. Add the remaining salt, white pepper, and chopped scallions. Stir and toss for 20 seconds then dish out. Serve immediately.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.