Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice

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.




Kung Pao Chicken

This is a common dish in any Chinese restaurant.  It was my favorite Chinese dish as a teenager.  As a child, the only Chinese dish I ever tasted was sweet and sour chicken because my mother and father loved it.  As I got older I realized there was far better cuisine to be had.  And in addition to being my first favorite, this dish is still the favorite Chinese dish of a dear childhood friend of mine, Mark Mason.  Mark I am dedicating this post to you!  Mark found this small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant near the University of Maryland when he was a student there that had the BEST Kung Pao Chicken!  I can vouch to this having tasted it myself.  He would stop in this place several times a week to eat, so bad was his craving for Kung Pao Chicken.  Mark still makes pilgrimages to this place now and then even today.

What I am going to present here is the Kung Pao Chicken you will find in a Chinese restaurant in the United States.  The way this dish is made in China is different and that type will not be treated here.  Four ingredients are common to any Kung Pao recipe.  Peanuts, chopped celery, hot peppers (dried or fresh) and onions. The rest of the ingredients will vary.


As with almost any Asian dish – we make our rice first.  I am making 3 cups here because there will be 4 of us eating it.  Ok, so on with the ingredients. One of the most important parts to good Kung Pao dishes are the peanuts.  Because this is a central ingredient we do not want to skimp on quality.  Do NOT buy peanuts that are already salted or roasted.  Especially not salted.  If you have to settle for roasted that is fine but no salt.  But if you can find them, unsalted raw peanuts are far and away the best.


I get my peanuts from the agricultural department at Mississippi State University (I am partial to them because my oldest son is a student there). These are very high quality peanuts  that literally go from the farm to the market and are frozen on the same day they are harvested and shelled.  I have to say I am very pleased with them.  You get flavor and crunch with such a superior product.  The texture of the peanuts are paramount to good Kung Pao!  They will be cooked and pick up their flavor when roasted in the oil with the garlic.


For my example dish here, the ingredients starting from the top right and going clockwise in a circle are:  Peanut oil, chopped celery, 1 quartered medium onion, Kung Pao sauce (recipe below), raw peanuts, chili peppers, raw chicken cut to bite sized pieces, minced garlic and chopped carrots.

There are two common ingredients found in Kung Pao Chicken I did not use here.  Mushrooms and bell peppers.  Now I like mushrooms but unfortunately the other people eating this – my wife and two younger kids – don’t.  So it is omitted for this demonstration.  And while you will find bell peppers often in restaurant Kung Pao dishes too, in my humble opinion bell peppers are one of the most overused vegetables in Chinese and Thai cuisines.  It’s like a cheap filler to boost profits.  Take out expensive meats, put in cheap bell peppers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love bell peppers raw.  But cooked, you can taste them every time you burp for DAYS so I don’t like them in my stir fry.  But if you like bell peppers yourself by all means indulge yourself.

Now I have said in many other posts on Asian dishes that you must have extremely high heat.  I will say that it makes a much better tasting dish that gives that wok hei, or breath of the dragon taste.  That slight char flavor that many Chinese dishes are known for.  But I will not sit here and tell you it is a requirement.  You can make a delicious Kung Pao Chicken on your stove in a skillet.


With me, since I have the tools, I fire up my mighty wok burner and set my 18″ wok on it.


After getting the wok and oil very hot, my carrots go in.  They need a little bit longer than the other ingredients to get tender.  Because of the high heat, this whole meal will be done in under 2 minutes and 30 seconds.


I add my chicken and peanuts next.  In the time it takes the chicken to become opaque, the peanuts will more than roast enough in that hot oil.  Look at that smoke – that’s giving us some good flavor.


All the ingredients are added next except for the sauce.  I cook everything here for another 35-45 seconds.  But with the sauce. that gets stirred in quickly and gets thick within seconds because of the starch right before we finish.


And here it is in my serving bowl with sauce and still piping hot.  One secret with the sauce.  Kung Pao sauce – while spicy – is not supposed to have an overpowering flavor.  The taste comes from the peppers, celery and peanuts before the meat.  You want a milder sweet and savory flavor so you will note I dilute mine below.  Most of the flavor in the sauce comes from soy sauce and sugar.  This is a wonderful versatile meal with a very broad appeal.


Here is my own dish plated.  You’ll note I have piled on the sliced chili peppers.  That’s why I used my own dish as the example because my family’s plates are all absent of peppers which makes them technically NOT Kung Pao at all.  But all plates were empty after dinner so I did my job.  Mark, I was thinking of you while we ate this, buddy!  If you try this recipe I’d love your thoughts.


Kung Pao Chicken (serves 4-6)


  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 lb chicken breasts or tenderloins sliced into bite sized pieces.
  • 2 cups shelled raw peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 medium onion quartered.
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced.
  • 4-5 cloves garlic pulped and minced.
  • dried or fresh hot chili peppers to taste.
  • 1/16 tsp Chinese white pepper (optional)

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons corn starch.
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
  • 3/4 cup cold water


  • Mix the corn starch and water very thoroughly.
  • Add the starch and water slurry to the remaining sauce ingredients and stir well.
  • Heat the peanut oil to smoking in a wok or skillet.
  • Add the carrots and cook for 20 seconds in a wok or slightly longer in  skillet.
  • Add the chicken and peanuts and stir to coat with oil.  Cook for 25-30 seconds in a wok or until chicken is opaque.
  • Add garlic and stir well for 10 seconds.
  • Add onions, celery and mushrooms and stir well.  Cook another 35-45 seconds.
  • Add the hot chilis now unless you have people that will not be eating it.
  • Mix the sauce again with a whisk while pouring into the wok or skillet.
  • Stir well and cook for another 30 seconds until sauce is bubbling.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Serve with fresh steamed white rice.

Thank you!