I've been living in California for about 14 years and really miss the Chinese fried rice I would get at Chinese restaurants on the East Coast (Boston in specific).

The fried rice I get at Chinese restaurants in California is much lighter in color and flavor. I thought adding more soy sauce would do the trick. There's definitely something else in the mix. The rice that I'm trying to emulate has more of a malty, savory taste to it.

17 Answers 17


My fried rice started getting closer to east coast restaurant style when I started doing a couple of new things:

  • Use Chinese 5 Spice Powder - Like Indian Garam Masala, this is a spice mixture that is so common in Chinese cooking that it's sold pre-mixed. I've started using it in a lot of my chinese cooking. It makes a big difference.
  • Add a bit more soy sauce - This seems to be where most of your coloring comes from, so judge by look.
  • Use some sesame oil - I find sesame oil provides a nice flavor element in asian dishes.
  • Use more oil while frying the rice - I use a mix of sesame and vegetable or canola. This makes it quite a lot greasier than I was making it, but it's closer to restaurant style.
  • Let the rice sit while frying - Once the rice is in the wok, I don't stir it too much. This lets some of the rice on the bottom get a bit more fried than if you stir frequently.

Hope one of those helps.

  • 1
    I have a feeling the 5 spice powder might just be what I'm looking for. Also, do you know anything about thick soy sauce? Could this be something that is used in fried rice as well?
    – raji
    Aug 26, 2010 at 21:05
  • 1
    Thick or dark soy sauce is often pretty sweet because it contains molasses (often sold as kecap manis in Thai markets). It might be really nice in fried rice, but be aware of the sweetness before you start.
    – bikeboy389
    Dec 14, 2010 at 18:36
  • Does the 5 spice powder give it a smoky kind of flavor? Or perhaps that's from the heat?
    – milesmeow
    Dec 2, 2012 at 21:28
  • I've never once had five spice in commercial fried rice on the east coast. Does this occur regularly outside fo the northeast?
    – ChefAndy
    Jul 26, 2017 at 22:01

A basic ingredient of Chinese fried rice which nobody seems to be aware of is stock. That's right, you heard me right. Chinese fried rice is made with stock.

I kid you not. You should consider it an indispensable ingredient.

You can make a simple stock out of a stock cube and some hot water. You add the stock after you put the rice in the frying pan/wok.

Another basic ingredient is scrambled eggs. You should fry these separately from the rest of the ingredients and add them at the end of the cooking.

  • 5
    Can you elaborate? Approximately how much stock-to-rice? Do you add it immediately, or after the rice has fried for a while?
    – Bob
    Aug 26, 2010 at 14:55

What you're missing is monosodium glutamate (a.k.a. MSG, Accent, or flavour enhancer). Trust me: my girlfriend is from Hong Kong. Using stock, as The Galloping Gourmet suggested, is right on the money as most commercial stock contains MSG.


It's molasses, not more soy sauce, that you're after.

Use day-old rice and start with 1 teaspoon of molasses (less if the amount of rice is small), and add more to taste. You can always add more molasses but not take away, so be careful.

  • Does molasses give it the slight smoky flavor? That is one thing that I've noticed about restaurant fried rice. I could never get that nuance at home. Or perhaps my burners are not hot enough.
    – milesmeow
    Dec 2, 2012 at 21:29
  • 1
    @milesmeow: what you're looking for is what Chinese cooks call 'wok hay'– the smokiness that comes from using a wok so hot that the oil smokes like crazy immediately after you add it. A typical home range burner produces about 10,000BTU/hr, while a commercial one is more like 30,000BTU/hr, but a commercial wok burners blazes at over 100,000BTU/hr! If I'm looking for wok hay at home, I make a REALLY hot fire in my charcoal grill, put the wok right on the coals, and let it sit until a little drip of oil instantly smokes away into nothing. Your food wont burn if you keep it moving.
    – ChefAndy
    Jul 26, 2017 at 22:10

They use DARK soy sauce. One tablespoon per 3 cups rice is ideal. Stores like Whole Foods and Central Market carry it.It makes the rice much darker. Also, add large pieces of onion (1-inch by 1-inch) crispy tender. Some people add peas. Stir in scrambled eggs.


Not sure about East Coast but I know as a Chinese-Canadian that Oyster Sauce is a traditional ingredient in most fried rice dishes. That would shortly explain the darker color and savouriness.

Source: My parents from southern China


This is from a Polynesian Chinese restaurant owner and his daughters who are chefs as well. It's black Chinese molasses or sweet sauce. This is found mostly in New England Chinese restaurants. You take rice cook it the day before and refrigerate overnight. You need a gas stove or high temp wok to obtain about 400 degrees. Stir fry your scallions, egg, shrimp, bean sprouts etc in the molasses, soy sauce(sparingly), neutral oil, like grape seed, and whatever seasonings you like in the pan. Add a little more molasses and put the rice in. The whole idea is to flash fry it at this point, hence the high heat and very brief cooking time. About a minute or two. That's how it's done. I just released a trade secret, but it is soooooo good!

  • The common neutral oil is rapeseed oil, not grape seed oil.
    – Jay
    Oct 19, 2015 at 16:41

Dark Mushroom Soy Sauce is specifically the sauce. I call it antimatter because it is WAY BLACK.

  • A lot of people weren't seeing this as an answer, so I've removed the parts that were replies to other things, and left the part that appears to address the question.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:54

Try Maggi Asian Seasoning or Golden Mountain Seasoning.

  • I don't know who originally did -1 on this suggestion but I've tried this too and it also very savoury. :)
    – Pdxd
    Mar 24, 2014 at 13:51

My wife worked at Dan Chan's in Fitchburg in the 70's. She said they used a dark thick Oyster sauce. It was my favorite. Can't get it here in North Carolina either. They use a yellow rice.


Like the Californian, I too hate flavorless light-colored "fried rice." I am from the city of St. Louis, Missouri where the fried rice is dark, rich in flavor, not sticky (from stock during cooking), nor tasteless (from cooking fresh rice). While it is true that you want to make your fried rice with day-old cold rice, you want to add ingredients such as: 1) seasoned wok oil 2) chopped onion 3) mix in a separate cup 1 pkt of fried rice seasoning mix, DARK soy sauce, 1 tsp molasses, and 1 tsp fish sauce or oyster sauce. Add mixture to your rice when stir-frying over high heat.

Stir-fry until even in color and temperature. You can add scrambled eggs and green onions afterward if desired.

Never add lots of liquid to the wok when stir-frying pre-cooked rice unless you enjoy soggy rice clumps. The Chinese restaurants never serve clumped up fried rice because you can not get an even brown color throughout. Enjoy!


First, use whole grain par boiled rice. It is somewhat oval in shape. Do not use fluffy rice. I use garlic oil, good soy sauce, some oyster sauce and some MOLASSES, that is the secret ingredient. Add it all to the rice. fry up diced fatty pork then on a very hot wok add all the ingredients. Stir frequently for a minute or so. Add diced scallion.


I know what everyone means and it is frustrating searching for the recipe that anyone on the East Coast probably takes for granted. I have never achieved it. I am attempting to figure it out. Kekap Manis is a sweet and thick soy sauce. So to all those who might sneer at the molasses, do not doubt. I understand that if you cannot find the Kekap Manis it can be achieved by equal parts brown sugar and soy sauce, boiled till syrupy (Credit Recipe Tin Eats). Now this makes sense. The traditional Indonesian rice is called Nasi Goreng. The rice is dark, not sticky and it really is not fried at all as we might think: it is tossed in and heated with the aromatics and whatever else you actually fried first.. I understand that many if not most regions use shrimp paste. This is also not available easily. Nevertheless with these basic concepts in mind, this has to be close.

  • 1
    Kecap manis and terasi is more for nasi goreng than for Chinese fried rice. Like others have pointed out, you probably want to try Chinese dark soy sauce instead, which has a more richer flavor with a touch of sweetness. May 22, 2016 at 21:27

It is molasses. I was told this by my fav chinese restaurant owner in Taunton Massachusetts (where I am from). My father likes it extra dark so he adds more molasses. It gives a sweeter flavor and dark brown. And they use pork rib meat with asso sauce (not spelling that right I am sure).

  • Welcome to Seasoned Advice, Shelley. Your answer appears substantially identical to the one from rozzygirl, which was posted almost a year ago. If all you're trying to do is agree with her, the way to do that here is by voting up her answer. If you feel your answer is different/better, perhaps you could add more information to clarify?
    – Marti
    Nov 5, 2012 at 18:07

Dark Chinese soy sauce - not molasses is what to use.

  • Hello and welcome to the site! Your answer doesn't provide anything new, it seems more like a "I agree" (dark soy sauce) and "I disagree" (molasses) statement. The way we do express this here on the site is by upvoting and downvoting answers - just stick with us a bit and you'll quickly get enough reputation to do so.
    – Stephie
    Feb 20, 2015 at 5:59
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    Dark chinese soy sauce has molasses in it. Apr 27, 2017 at 8:04

I use black strap molasses a little at a time for the color I’m looking for and it comes out very dark. But like someone mentioned before don’t you don’t want to use too much.


Soy Sauces: Both dark and light are VERY salty....THICK Soy is sweet because of added molasses, very thick, and not that salty...HARD TO FIND at most grocery stores...seek out an asian market. BE CAUTIOUS a little thick soy goes a LONG way.


  • This doesn't seem to add anything not already in the other answers.
    – Sneftel
    Jan 26, 2020 at 16:32

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