This is just about one of my favorite fried rice dishes. And three months ago I had never heard of it. I went into a Malaysian/Thai restaurant I go to now and then and saw this on the menu. They had three “salted fish” dishes and this one was recommended by our waiter so I ordered it. And I was amazed at how delicious and simple it was. Nothing haute cuisine-ish. Just delicious taste without being fishy. So I set out to duplicate this at home since I loved it so much. I spent weeks researching ingredients and testing things. And I will tell you I made some dreadful mistakes. What you see here is the correct recipe with the bugs worked out.
The most important ingredient to mention here is the salted fish. The dish gets a LOT of flavor from this one ingredient and if you don’t get the right salted fish, it will be a disaster. Online research was very little help in this area so I had to go out and experiment.
What you see here is the correct ingredient though you might also find it in chunks without the skin. What I have above is dried, salted Yellow Croaker. It is the whole fish gutted and then dehydrated. The meat has the texture of stringy beef jerky and a mellow salty fish taste. It is not putrid smelling but it does smell like fish. To use this, you peel the flesh off of the skin which will have (the skin) a firm leathery texture. After peeling off about a dry measure cup of loose dried meat, you will want to mince it with a sharp knife.
What you see above is your dried, salted fish removed from the skin and minced. If you can find it without the skin that is fine. But I love what I have here despite it looking creepy because I know what I have here was made by the staff at this farmers market and therefore fresh and quality controlled. And when I say it looks creepy – check the image below for what the dried fish looks like flipped over…
So with this ingredient explained and prepared, lets move onto the rest of the pieces.
Here we have day old long grain Jasmine rice cooked in a rice cooker and then refrigerated overnight. I wet my hands and broke up the clumps into individual grains of rice to make what you see here. You want the grains as separate as possible before frying.
Above I have everything except for the fried rice sauce. Starting with the oil and going clockwise, we have vegetable oil, thin slices of chicken tenderloins, 3 eggs beaten, minced garlic, cut snow pea pods, scallions and the flower buds from Chinese chives, green romaine lettuce minced into strips, minced salted fish, frozen vegetable mix and finally our rice in the center.
I get my wok burner very hot and preheat my oil. But before I start cooking after the oil gets hot, I lower this heat to about 20%.
After the heat is lowered, I toss in my garlic and salted fish. Gently fry these ingredients. If you start smelling anything burning, drastically reduce the heat. This dish is ruined if you burn any part of it. In making this, my blast furnace of a wok burner is actually a handicap. I had to be very careful here. After you fry the fish and garlic for 20 seconds, move them aside and add the eggs and scramble them.
After the eggs are scrambled, add your chicken and start stirring well. keep the food moving to avoid burning anything. After this, I add my scallions and chive buds and snow pea pods. Get the pods coated well with oil.
After the pea pods cook for about 15 seconds, add the rice. Turn up the burner to about 30-40% and keep cooking. Again if you even smell the hint of burning, back the heat off. Dump in the frozen vegetables and the romaine lettuce. You may be asking yourself what the romaine lettuce is for. The salted fish is dry. Mixing this food around here, the romaine will give up its moisture and help steam the fish. It will make it a little softer so it’s not so much like beef jerky and the romaine also helps keep the moisture well balanced within the rice. It seems strange but trust me, it works!
Carefully add the fried rice sauce, pouring in a spiral and mix well. After another 45 seconds or so, remove the wok from the heat.
Move the rice to a large serving bowl.
Once again, without any ceremony or rituals my son does the taste test for me. He likes this as much as I do.
And here is mine with hot peppers and fish sauce added to season. I am so happy I was able to reverse engineer this dish to find out what was in it and make it myself. This is not an especially sweet dish – mostly savory. And unless you add hot peppers, it’s very mild too. But what it lacks in peppery heat it more than makes of for in flavor! Despite being full of salted fish, it does NOT have a fishy flavor at all. Even people with an aversion to seafood flavors will be able to handle this dish.
Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice (serves 6-8 as a main course)
- 4 dry measure cups of uncooked Jasmine long grain rice
- 3/4 lb thin chicken filets cut into strips
- 1 dry measure cup minced salted dried fish
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 1 cup snow pea pods cut in half
- 1 cup scallions
- 3 tablespoons chinese chive flower buds (optional)
- 1/2 cup romain lettuce greens minced into small strips
- 3/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons water
- Cook the 4 cups of Jasmine rice the day before and refrigerate overnight
- Wet hands and break the rice into individual grains.
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl well
- Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a wok.
- When the oil starts to smoke, lower the heat by 70% and add the garlic and dried fish.
- Fry gently, stirring carefully as not to break up the pieces of fish.
- Move the garlic and fish up the side of the wok some and pour in the eggs
- Scramble the eggs
- Add the chicken and stir well with the other ingredients until the chicken starts turning opaque.
- Add the snow pea pods and stir, frying gently.
- Add the chive buds and scallions. Stir well.
- Increase the heat to 40%
- Add the rice and if needed, add a little more oil to the center of the wok. Stir well.
- Add the frozen vegetables and the lettuce strips and mix well.
- Pour in the fried rice sauce carefully in a spiral and stir well.
- Cook another 45 seconds and remove from heat.
- Put into a large bowl and serve.
- Provide chopped peppers and fish sauce as desired.