When most Americans think of fried rice, they tend to think of Chinese food. However, Japanese fried rice, while similar, is a dish all its own.
The main difference between the two types of rice is the actual grain itself. However, they also vary in flavor, texture, and cooking method.
When Japanese and Chinese fried rice dishes are placed side by side, they look similar. However, there are subtle and slight differences.
The most important difference between Japanese and Chinese fried rice is the type of rice. Rice generally comes in two forms, long-grain, and short-grain. Typically Japanese fried rice uses short-grain rice and Chinese fried rice uses long-grain.
One of the greatest distinctions between Chinese fried rice and Japanese fried rice comes from the texture of the rice grains. A sticker, more clumped together rice is often found in Japanese fried rice. Drier rice that stays separated is often found in Chinese fried rice.
Japanese Fried Rice
Japanese fried rice is made with short-grain rice. Short-grain rice gets sticky while cooking and is also starchier and, well, shorter than long grain rice.
Due to its sticky nature, short-grained rice is often used in puddings and risotto. It’s also used in sushi.
Short-grain rice, such as sushi rice or arborio rice, is often used in Japanese fried rice. This creates a stickier texture which makes it distinct from Chinese fried rice.
Chinese Fried Rice
Chinese fried rice is made with long-grain rice. Long-grain rice stays fluffy and dry when cooked keeping the grains of rice separate.
Due to its dryness, long-grain rice is used in a variety of dishes, as it won’t clump together. It’s often used as a side dish.
Long-grain rice, such as basmati and jasmine, is often used in Chinese fried rice. This creates a drier, less sticky texture, unlike Japanese fried rice.
Fried rice originally came from China. So classic fried rice flavors, such as barbecued pork, are often found in Japanese fried rice. However, while some similarities exist, there are also differences.
Traditionally, Chinese fried rice was made from the leftover meat and vegetables from the previous day. Cooked rice was added along with egg, soy sauce, and garlic. It was then cooked in oil or lard.
In addition to those simple ingredients, sometimes ginger, chili peppers, mushrooms, and scallions were added. They were cooked in a wok, a pot with a deep, round bottom, over a high flame.
Today, many people still chose to eat the same flavors as originally conceived. However, over time, Chinese fried rice has spawned some popular variants.
Hokkien style Chinese fried rice is full of expensive ingredients. No day old leftovers here. In this variant, you’ll find things such as scallops, shrimp, and roast duck.
Another hallmark of the Hokkien style Chinese fried rice is it’s topped with a sauce of oyster and soy sauce. This makes for a dish that can look almost like a soup.
This style comes from the Sichuan Providence, hence the name. It’s characterized by its use of the Sichuan pepper.
While we tend to think Szechuan style food means spicy. However, it’s often made with a peppercorn that produces a numbing sensation in the mouth. it’s not that it isn’t spicy, it’s just not as hot as it’s often perceived.
Szechuan Style Chinese fried rice here in America is known for its spiciness. It’s commonly made with chili sauce, garlic, peppers, and onions.
Japanese fried rice is an adaptation of Chinese fried rice. Because of this, many of the flavors are similar.
Japanese fried rice starts with many of the same ingredients as Chinese fried rice. In Japanese fried rice, you’ll also find rice, meat, and eggs.
After a base consisting mostly of traditional Chinese fried rice, Japanese ingredients are added. Some additions might be roe, salmon, and octopus.
Another addition that makes it distinct from Chinese fried rice is katsuobushi, dried and flaked tuna. It might then be seasoned with Shiso, a Japanese herb, and nori, edible seaweed.
In addition to the type of rice, the Japanese ingredients added also help make it different from Chinese fried rice.
When cooking fried rice of any kind, you are going to use only two methods. You aren’t going to make your fried rice in an oven or a microwave.
Traditionally, Chinese fried rice is cooked in a wok over a high flame. With the addition of oil, it cooks fried rice quickly and evenly. This is sometimes called Chahan style cooking.
As it isn’t uncommon for people, especially in China, to own a wok, it’s an easy and convenient way to cook Chinese fried rice.
Oftentimes, Japanese fried rice is cooked in this way as well.
While Japanese fried rice is often cooked in a wok, it can also be made on a griddle or steel plate. This is often found in hibachi type restaurants and can be called teppanyaki style.
It is less common to have a griddle in one’s home than a wok. So, more often, this style of Japanese fried rice is eaten at a restaurant.
The Big Takeaway
Japanese fried rice and Chinese fried rice aren’t so different. Perhaps it’s because Japanese fried rice is a meal that’s influenced by Chinese fried rice. Since both meals start with the same base, they have more similarities than differences.
The biggest difference between Japanese fried rice and Chinese fried rice is the type of rice. This makes the texture of the dish an important factor in their differences.
If you’re looking for a sticky, clumpier rice, choose Japanese fried rice. If you’re after fluffy, drier rice, Chinese fried rice is your best bet.