Chahan is a dish that many who grew up in a Japanese household would think fondly of. Whenever we were younger, our mothers would take the leftover rice and stir fry them in a wok to make this tasty dish.
The delicious scents of wok-fried rice were so enticing, that many of us would have happily scooped spoonfuls into our mouths, finishing all the chopped vegetables hidden amidst the rice.
To learn more about how to make this magical fried rice dish, read further for a chahan rice recipe.
What is it?
The dish is said to originate from Chinese immigrants when they arrived at the port of Kobe, Japan in the 1860s. This fried rice dish has gradually become the staple food for many Japanese households. We read it became popular as it is such a convenient method of cooking leftover rice.
Rice, onions, garlic, chopped vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, pork, salmon, eggs - and any other ingredients you fancy can be stir-fried to create the mouthwatering chahan.
While it may have originated from China, there are subtle differences. Chefs use dry long-grain to cook Chinese fried rice, and ingredients include savoury meats such as diced pork. In contrast, short-grain sticky Japanese rice is the main staple of this dish. Chahan is often served with beni shoga, pickled ginger.
Different Types of Fried Rice
Another type of fried rice dish commonly seen in Japan is yakimeshi. What are the differences between chahan vs yakimeshi?
In Japanese restaurants, chefs cook the latter dish, yakimeshi on a griddle. After cooking the rice, other ingredients like eggs, cabbage, and fishcake are added. Whereas for the former dish, eggs are stir-fried with the rice.
As you travel around Malaysia and Singapore, you might also see nasi goreng served in Malay restaurants. This dish will seem very similar to the Japanese counterparts. Nasi goreng is distinguished by its aromatic, smoky flavour.
This flavour comes from the spices and seasonings. They include chilli, pepper, turmeric, and especially the bumbu paste (a mixture of garlic and onion). The shrimp paste and sweet soy sauce also differentiate its flavour from the Japanese chahan. Preserved pickles are served with nasi goreng, giving it a distinctive sour, spicy taste.
In Thailand, there is also a fried rice dish known as khao kluk kapi. It is fried rice mixed with shrimp paste (‘kapi’ in Thai). The dish is also served with various different side toppings, including sliced mango. Moreover, Khao Kluk kapi is usually served as a salad accompaniment.
Since the components of the rice meal depend on what you stir-fried with the rice, its nutritional value is solely dependent on the ingredients you use.
If you use more vegetables such as carrots, onions, and garlic, topping it off with a light seasoning of soy sauce, and toss it all with olive oil, the one serving should be around 800 calories in total.
How To Make Chahan
This Japanese rice recipe uses short-grain rice. Rice stored overnight in the fridge is actually the best for making this dish since the grains are dry and will not stick to the wok when you are cooking. The exterior of the rice becomes dry, but each grain retains its original chewy texture, which provides a mouthwatering experience.
Still, if you want to use fresh rice, then ensure the wok is hot before you throw the rice in. Keeping the rice warm will do the nifty trick of avoiding burnt rice that sticks to the wok.
For meat-lovers, beef or bacon chahan tends to be a popular choice. Other typical meat ingredients include shrimp, salmon, roe, chicken, pork belly, crab meat, and octopus. Some people like using chicken broth for a stronger meat flavour in their fried rice.
For vegetarians and vegans, a vegetable version would include peas, mushrooms and tofu alongside chopped carrots, garlic, and onion, for a chewy texture. Vegans can avoid the usual scrambled eggs mixed in the dish, but should not skip sprinkling bonito flakes or dried seaweed over their dish for flavour.
Chahan (Japanese Egg Fried Rice)
- 400 g white rice
- 30 g char siu
- 1 pc egg
- 2-4 pcs long green onions
- 30 g carrots
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp sake optional
- seaweed flakes optional
- sesame seeds optional
- pickled red ginger optional
- Heat the rice at the stove to keep it warm. This will help prevent the rice from sticking to the wok and burning.
- Chop the onions into small cube pieces. Dice the char siu and carrots into small pieces. Cutting them into about the same size will allow them to cook evenly.
- Heat the frying pan, and pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the onions, carrots, and bacon first. Once cooked, remove the cooked ingredients and place them aside for mixing into the chahan rice later.
- Then, heat the frying pan again, and pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Make sure the olive oil is spread evenly over the pan. Crack one raw egg into the pan and fry it.
- Before the egg becomes cooked, pour in the warm rice. Fry the rice and egg together and mix them well.
- Once the egg is cooked, add the chopped long green onion, char siu and carrots to the mix. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce and mix it all up.
- Finally, add salt and pepper to taste. You may also add 1 tablespoon of sake if desired. Make sure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
- Serve the chahan in a rice bowl while it is still hot and fresh from the wok. Garnish the fried rice with seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, and pickled red ginger (beni shoga).
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Additional Notes On Ingredients and Cooking Method
Use peas or mushrooms to substitute bacon for a vegetarian chahan recipe.
For the rice, use rice that has preferably been stored in the fridge for at least half a day. This is so that the rice will not stick in the wok.
If you have a small wok or frying pan, cooking the ingredients first on medium heat. This will help to enhance flavour. Additionally, frying the rice on medium heat will also allow rice grains to expand to a nice, fluffy texture. Lastly, serve it piping hot in the pan to preserve that authentic taste.
In Japan, they garnish their fried rice with all types of furikake. They are mainly made of nori seaweed strips and sesame seeds. So, if you have any seaweed flakes or sesame seeds, sprinkle them over the rice. This enhances the flavour of the entire dish.
Gomoku chahan is a popular version of this dish. It is a great way of making the dish with only 5 key ingredients: onions, carrots, peas, eggs, and ham.
Here's a great video showing how to make gomoku chahan.
Another popular variation is called Takana Chahan. Takana is Japanese for pickled mustard, and this variant is essentially rice stir-fried with pickled mustard. Therefore, this gives the fried rice a slightly salty tang to it.
A Simple Yet Irresistible Rice Dish
This fried rice dish is eaten in many Japanese households as a staple lunch. It is served with gyoza and alcohol in restaurants.
So the next time when you have too much rice and company coming over, you might want to try the chahan recipe above and pair the dish with some sake or ice-cold beer. It makes for an easy, yet delicious dinner.
Looking for more Japanese recipes to try? Make this easy duck ramen next.