Fried rice is the perfect dish for using up leftovers to make something quick and tasty. This ramen restaurant style "chahan" uses typical ramen ingredients such as pork chashu, kamaboko fishcake, egg and spring onion to make the ultimate fried rice!
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Chahan (チャーハン) is the Japanese word for Chinese style fried rice. It comes from the Japanese pronunciation for the kanji used in Chinese "chǎofàn" (炒飯). Although Japanese also has the word "yakimeshi" (焼飯) which also means "fried rice", the type served in Chinese resturants and ramen restaurants is always called chahan.
It is said that chahan was brought to Japan by Chinese immigrants around 1860 and became a staple in Japanese homes as a good way to use up leftover rice.
Chahan is made with cooked rice, meat, egg and vegetables. It's often seasoned with soy sauce, salt and pepper. The chahan in Japan is often topped with pink pickled ginger called "benishoga" (紅生姜) which adds a refreshing taste to the dish.
Although fried rice is versatile and can be made with pretty much anything, ramen restaurant style chahan is special because it uses left over ingredients that would usually be used in ramen. These ingredients include:
- Chashu (simmered pork)
- Kamaboko or Narutomaki (a type of pink and white fishcake usually served on ramen or udon)
- Spring onion (negi)
I also flavour the rice with Chinese Chicken stock powder. My go-to brand is "Yuki" and the powder is known as "Garasupu" in Japanese. You can find it on Amazon.
In my recipe, one of the most important ingredients is chashu, a type of simmered pork belly commonly seen on ramen.
The reason chashu is so important here is not only because of the meat itself, but also the leftover chashu marinade I use to flavour the rice. It's packed with flavour and is a great way to use up leftovers when you make chashu.
If you're not so interested in making chashu, you can use any kinds of leftover meats for this recipe. And obviously, if you don't make the chashu you won't have the leftover marinade. In this case, I recommend mixing the following:
- 1 tbsp tsuyu sauce
- 1 tsp sake
- 1 tsp mirin
- 1 tsp water
- ½ tsp grated ginger
- ½ grated garlic
- A pinch of sugar
It won't have quite as much depth of flavour as leftover chashu marinade, but it was the closest I could make in a pinch and it's still delicious!
When making fried rice, the texture of the rice is important. In fact, one of the biggest difference between Chinese and Japanese fried rice is the type of rice used.
While Chinese fried rice is often made with long grain rice and has a slightly drier texture, Japanese fried rice is made from short grain rice, the type used for sushi.
Most restaurants use rice that has already been cooked and then stored in the fridge for at least a few hours.
Because the rice has been resting, it dries out a little and becomes firmer. This prevents it from clumping together when it gets cooked again, which creates the perfect fried rice every time!
If you don't have any leftover rice, I recommend letting freshly cooked rice cool down before using it to make fried rice. If you lay it out on a baking sheet, it will cool quickly and dry out a little, ready for frying.
Using freshly cooked, warm rice can end up with sticky clumps of mushy rice which is not ideal.
A rice cooker is the easiest way to cook Japanese rice, but if you don't own a rice cooker, you can also learn how to cook perfect Japanese white rice on my post here.