Fired Up About Fried Rice
In many parts of the world, fried rice is regarded as a side dish to supplement one’s meal, but I know I don’t have to tell you that in the hearts and minds of Hawaii’s diners, it’s considered to be just as important as any main dish.
With origins in Chinese cuisine, fried rice could more appropriately be named wild rice in my opinion, as it has spread like wildfire to other parts of the world, taking on a host of variations and ingredients no matter where you are.
Of course, I am staunchly devoted to local-style fried rice, cooked with Portuguese sausage, Spam, green onion and all the works! But since this dish lends itself to such a diverse collection of ingredients, it only makes sense to take time to appreciate some of the many cultures and cooking styles that make the dish one of the most versatile in existence. You’ll want to upgrade from steamed white rice to these treasures in no time at a few of our Ono, You Know hot spots.
Yang Chow Fried Rice ($11.95)
To get in touch with the roots of fried rice, I visited The Mandalay on Alakea Street, where traditional Chinese menu items abound.
Patrons may order up a number of these stir-fried goodies — five varieties to be exact — stemming from the classics we’re familiar with to some lesser-known gems.
The restaurant offers an exemplary version of Hong Kong-style Yang Chow Fried Rice ($11.95), which is commonly consumed in the Islands. I absolutely love the comforting combination of egg, char siu, green onion, peas and carrots.
What was more fascinating to me, though, was trying Cantonese-style Creamy Shrimp and Sweet and Sour Chicken Fried Rice ($14.95), which is slathered in rich, thick sauces unlike any fried rice I’ve devoured before.
“In America, (patrons are) more familiar with the dry-style fried rice. But in Hong Kong or in Canton, they are familiar with the gravy-style,” says owner Linda Chan.
Presenting the perfect balance of creamy and zesty flavors, the dish offers basic fried rice coated with two luscious sauces: one with shrimp and veggies and the other with shredded chicken and veggies in a sweet and sour sauce.
The eatery has an option for health-conscious customers, too. Representing a newer trend in Chinese dining, Dried Scallop with Egg White Fried Rice ($12.95) features light egg whites as opposed to scrambled eggs.
THE MANDALAY | 1055 Alakea St., Downtown | 525-8585
MAX’S OF MANILA
Crabmeat Fried Rice ($9.95)
Filipino fare is perhaps best known for its beyond-savory pork dishes and indulgently delicious desserts, but the widely adored cuisine also puts its own twist on rice dishes that deserve their own space in the spotlight.
You can sample exactly what I’m talking about at Hawaii’s go-to establishment for Filipino favorites: Max’s of Manila.
Picture ethereal piles of jasmine rice spotted with egg, peas, carrots and real — not imitation — crab meat. Now, go ahead and satisfy that craving with Crabmeat Fried Rice ($9.95), which easily is sharable among two to three people.
Next, add some extra flavor to your dining experience with Garlic Fried Rice ($3.50 small, three scoops; $4.95 large, five scoops), which general manager Maly San Luis describes as “a classic Filipino rice dish.”
San Luis points out that Max’s of Manila’s “fried rice is fluffy and not mushy because we use premium steamed jasmine rice for our dishes.”
Additionally, the general manager says the rice-filled recipes complement patrons’ entrees of choice — including Max’s signature fried chicken. “Both of the fried rice (dishes) are flavorful but not overwhelmingly, thus they enhance the flavor of our main dishes,” she says.
MAX’S OF MANILA | 801 Dillingham Blvd., Honolulu (and in Waipahu) | 599-5033