Why It Works
- The high-output flame of a kitchen blowtorch imparts the distinctive smoky aroma and flavor of classic wok hei that is otherwise very difficult to achieve on a Western stovetop.
- Torching the cabbage separately ensures the grains of rice don't burn.
- Cooking the rice in two batches guarantees it won't clump up as you stir-fry it.
- A light hand with seasoning light allows the flavors of the rice, aromatics, sausage, and wok hei to shine through.
Making great fried rice doesn't require nearly as much fuss as some people think. Unfortunately, most Western stoves don't burn hot enough to get the savory, smoky notes of wok hei that sets truly great fried rice above the rest. This recipe calls upon the power of a kitchen blowtorch to pull off an ingenious wok hei hack that adds that special "breath of the wok" dimension to the dish—even if you don't have a gas-powered stove or grill.
This fried rice stars sweet and salty Chinese sausage and tender leaves of Napa cabbage, set off with juicy green peas and sliced scallions. A sauce of Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil adds flavor without drowning out the "torch hei." Because too much time under the torch can easily burn individual grains of rice, we instead elect to cook the rice and the cabbage separately, giving the cabbage a brief 30-second treatment with the blowtorch before folding it back in with the cooked rice and sausage. A final pass with the live flame just before taking it off the heat ensures that signature smoky aroma permeates the dish.
- For the Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) Shaoxing wine (see note)
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon (5g) sugar
- 1 large garlic clove (5g), finely grated
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- For the Rice:
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) vegetable oil, divided
- 2 cups cooked white or jasmine rice (12 ounces; 350g)
- Kosher salt
- 8 ounces (225g) Napa cabbage , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 ounces (112g) Chinese sausage, boiled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)
- 3 ounces (85g) frozen peas
- 2 scallions (30g), thinly sliced
For the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk chicken broth, wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and white pepper together until well-combined. Set aside.
For the rice: If using day-old rice (see note), transfer to a medium bowl and break the rice up with your hands into individual grains before proceeding. In a wok, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons (7ml) oil over high heat until smoking. Add half of the rice, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring and tossing, until rice is pale brown and toasted, and has a slightly chewy texture, about 3 minutes. Transfer rice to a medium bowl. Repeat cooking process with another 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining rice. Set rice aside.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons (30ml) oil in now-empty wok over high heat until smoking. Add cabbage, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring and tossing, until just tender, about 1 minute. Using blowtorch, hold flame 2 to 3 inches above skillet while stirring and tossing constantly, until oil combusts and imparts smoky aroma, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Stir in sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sauce mixture and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add rice and toss to combine. Add frozen peas and scallions and continue to toss and stir until peas are thawed and every grain of rice is separate. Using blowtorch, hold flame 2 to 3 inches above skillet while stirring and tossing constantly, until oil combusts and imparts smoky aroma, about 30 seconds. Serve.
Dry sherry can be substituted for Shaoxing wine.
For best results, use Chinese-style medium-grain rice, jasmine rice, or sushi rice. Rice should either be cooked fresh, spread on a tray, and allowed to cool for five minutes, or, alternatively, cooked in advance and refrigerated in a covered container for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.
For a more pleasant texture, it’s often helpful to boil or steam Chinese sausage before throwing it into a dish. Boil the sausages for 6 to 8 minutes in water to soften and cook them through before cutting.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Fried rice is best enjoyed immediately, but the cooked rice used in this recipe can be (and is best) made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.