fried rice with takeout leftovers

Fried rice: Leftover Chinese takeout makeover

11 October 2010

Fried rice is the chinese grandma way of rescuing the old and making it new. In today’s modern version we’ll use tired leftover Chinese takeout and turn it into a fresh one-bowl meal.

Fried rice is made with cold rice (hot fresh rice is too moist), so by definition it’s a leftover meal. This is why the old-school Chinese people I know would never order fried rice at a restaurant. Eating out, they’ll always have steamed rice, which is almost certain to be freshly made.

Fried rice is a staple of Chinese home cooking. It’s also a chinese grandma way of stretching a dollar, as a small amount of meat and vegetables can make a generous amount of fried rice. There are infinite variations on fried rice, depending on what ingredients the cook happens to have on hand (meat, shrimp, tofu, egg, any variety of vegetables).

If you’re not Asian, your primary opportunity for making fried rice at home is after you’ve had takeout Chinese food (aka carry out or takeaway, depending on where you live) or eaten at a Chinese restaurant and brought home leftovers. This recipe may give you a good reason to get extra rice next time.

Today I have a scant half-container of chicken and veg and a packed full container of rice. It would make a mediocre meal reheated in the microwave, but turned into fried rice it will take on a new and delicious life.

Chop the chicken and veg (or whatever you have) into small pieces.

Next put cold rice (this happens to be a mix of white and brown) into a hot skillet with 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil. You could add a small amount of chopped onions or scallions to the oil before adding the rice, but I find restaurant leftovers generally have such strong flavor that this step isn’t necessary.

Use a large spoon to break up the rice. Cook several minutes until rice is soft and heated through.

Add a small drizzle of soy sauce and stir well to distribute.

Add chopped leftovers. Stir to incorporate.

There you have it. Fried rice at home, just like your real Chinese grandma would have made if she’d had a refrigerator and restaurant takeout at home.

Humble leftovers made good.

Fried rice (using Chinese takeout leftovers)
Fried rice at home – giving new life to leftover Chinese takeout.


  • Cold cooked short-grain rice
  • Leftover meat, seafood and/or vegetables
  • Cooking oil
  • Soy sauce


  1. Pick out the meat and vegetables you want to use for the rice. Ideally the amount of leftovers will be 1/4 to 1/2 the volume of the rice. The more leftovers you add, the heartier the rice will be.
  2. Chop the meat and vegetables into small (1/2″) pieces.
  3. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil in a skillet large enough to hold the amount of rice you have. Oil should be sufficient to glaze the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add cold rice to skillet. Use large spoon to break up rice.
  5. Cook rice for several minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rice is soft and heated through.
  6. Add small drizzle of soy sauce (start with 1 teaspoon for small amount of rice to 1 tablespoon for large amount) and stir well to distribute. Add more to taste if needed, but be careful as a little goes a long way.
  7. Add chopped leftovers to rice. Stir well to incorporate.
  8. Serve hot.

Here’s the link to the Fried rice recipe for printing.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

tables 13 October 2010 at 11:41 pm

This is a very nice idea of yours. But I would also love to eat in the box.


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