haam yu chow faan, or salted fish fried rice, is a cantonese-style fried rice made with haam yu, or preserved fish. it's actually crispy, and it's the kind of fried rice that is so flavorful on its own that you don't need to eat it with anything else.
i was supposed to to be basking in my 13 days of break between leaving a job that no longer fit my needs and goals by playing around on the met steps and walking off the pie i was already eyeing before hunkering back down for a new professional adventure. instead, here we are, stuck on a 24/7 covid-19 loop. it felt so irresponsible to even hesitate about cancelling my travel plans when people are talking about take out instead of dine in at their local restaurant. i’m now stocked up on packaged tapioca pearls in case boba shops shut down, i have a shift at the food bank set up tomorrow (they don't have enough volunteers, so help out if you can!), and i wouldn't be surprised if i end up addicted to love is blind by the end of the pandemic. if this isn’t the time for comfort food, i’m not sure what is.
cantonese food at home is particularly on my mind recently, since i’ve been going to cantonese classes after work for the past 2 months. haam yu chow faan, or salted fish fried rice, is my favorite kind of fried rice, and the kind of salty, carby side/meal that i’ve been craving. the haam yu, or salted fish, smells a lot stronger (sorry in advance! yes. your kitchen might be a little fragrant if you don't air out after you cook) than it tastes, but it adds that kind of salty, briny, seafood-y goodness that you get from fish sauce. it’s more of an aromatic here than actual protein, so there’s usually chicken involved. instead, i’ve included some lap cheong (chinese sausage) for good measure (and fattiness!).
what kind of haam yu (salted fish) should you use?
i’m not an expert on how to find and buy haam yu; my grandma had to come grocery shopping with me to help. we were in a shop with medicines and a bunch of dried things, and in the back in the freezer, was some haam yu. even though it was frozen, she was looking for something soft, rather than hard, because that’s going to carry into your food even if you re-hydrate or cook it.
she also recommended using a whole frozen fish in a cellophane package (and hacking off a piece), not the ones you find packed and canned.
how do i make sure my salted fish fried rice is crispy?
- i know someone’s going to ask about if you need to use leftover rice, or if you can use fresh rice. if you want crispier fried rice, i definitely recommend leftover rice, since it’s less wet than fresh rice. but it’s tasty no matter what kind of rice you use!
- you may not be used to cooking all the ingredients separately for fried rice; cooking the lap cheong first, and then using that oil to cook the rice separate from everything else helps the rice get crispy. if you cook the rice and eggs together, the egg coats the rice and hinders it from becoming as crispy as it can be.
- 4" piece haam yu
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1.5" knob ginger peeled and minced
- 2 links lap cheong sliced thinly
- 2 cups leftover cooked rice
- 4 eggs beaten
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 scallions chopped
Microwave the haam yu for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until it’s soft and pliable. Use your fingers or a fork to break up the ham yu into shreds, taking care to discard the skin and bones. Set aside the meat.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat a little oil over medium heat. Add the ham yu meat, onion, garlic, ginger and lap cheong. Saute for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the lap cheong has rendered its fat and become crispy. Move these aromatics to a large bowl, trying to keep some of the fat in the pan.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add some extra oil if there’s not much fat left in the pan. Add the rice, having it touch as many surfaces in the pan as possible. Cook, without touching the rice, for 5-7 minutes, or until the underside is crispy. Flip the rice so that the crispy bits are on top, and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the rest of the rice is crispy. Add the rice to the bowl of aromatics and set aside.
Return the skillet to the lowest heat possible. Add a big pinch of salt to the eggs, whisk quickly, then pour into the skillet. Stir the eggs around to make small wisps of egg, lifting up the cooked bits and moving them around so that the wet egg can contact the pan. Once the eggs are almost dry, add the rice and aromatics back to the pan. Add the white pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil, then mix to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, then top with the scallions. Serve hot!