Shrimp fried rice is a popular dish in Chinese cuisine that is made from rice and cooked shrimp, often alongside a medley of vegetables. It is generally prepared as a simple meal or side dish and is often made with leftovers or scraps from other meals. There is no right or wrong way to prepare shrimp fried rice, and various cultures and cooks have made their own adaptations. The dish is almost always considered Asian in inspiration, but the possible additions and twists are limitless.
There are two main ways to prepare fried rice with shrimp. The most common recipe requires cooked, preferably day-old white rice. Shrimp and other ingredients are then added in and cooked together, thus frying the previously steamed rice. Another variation uses dried rice grains that are fried in oil, then fluffed in liquid and cooked. Cooks can innovate with either preparation by using brown rice, long grain rice, or jasmine rice, though standard white grains are the most common.
The basics of shrimp fried rice are relatively easy to master, no matter which cooking method is chosen. In most cases, the only required ingredients are rice, shrimp, and a bit of butter or oil. Cooks must heat the fat in a wok or large skillet until it is bubbling, then add the rice and fry it for flavor. Shrimp are often added raw, as the heat of the pan will cook them and allow their flavors to incorporate with the rice and any other added seasonings. Pre-cooked shrimp are also common additions, however, and are often used if available.
Cooks often choose to add vegetables, egg, and other meats, particularly chicken or beef. Restaurants will often prepare fried rice to order. Combination fried rice is a common dish in many places that essentially includes all possible ingredient additions, including shrimp and other seafood. In homes, however, the dish is often much less precise and is often made with leftovers or odd combinations of extra food tidbits. It is an economical meal in many places that is easy to prepare.
All variations of fried rice, shrimp included, trace their origins to Chinese chefs. Modern preparations are in no means limited to Chinese cuisine, however. Shrimp fried rice is a very popular dish throughout Asia, particularly in countries in the southeastern part of the continent where shrimp are plentiful. The tropical waters along the shores of Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia are some of the most common shrimp ports and are accordingly regions in which shrimp fried rice dishes can be found with relative ease.
Thai shrimp fried rice is often distinguished by the addition of local spices, fish sauce, and the long-grain rice more common in that area. Indian shrimp fried rice, too, is unique in its use of curry spices and garlic. So long as shrimp is included and the rice is fried together, the dish can be called shrimp fried rice, no matter how it is prepared or what else is included.