Japanese Fried Rice: A Brief History and How To Make It at Home

June 24, 2024

Fried rice is not just a staple of Japanese cuisine. It has become a staple of many cultures and a favorite of those who enjoy Asian food. But how did this seemingly simple dish become the go-to international meal, and how can you make Japanese fried rice?

Here you’ll learn all you need to know about Japanese fried rice! We’ll touch on:

  • History of Fried Rice
  • Ingredients Used
  • How to Make Japanese Fried Rice

We apologize in advance if this starts to make you hungry, because we already are! Let’s learn more about the world’s go-to Japanese dish!

History of Fried Rice

First, a quick history lesson on the creation and popularity of Japanese fried rice!

Fried rice began in China, specifically during the Sui Dynasty (589–618 AD). It was initially a way to use up leftover rice and other ingredients, reducing food waste while creating a flavorful and satisfying meal. This approach to cooking became a staple in Chinese households almost instantly.

China and Japan are close trade partners and have been for centuries. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), many Japanese students would flock to China to learn about their culture and experience their cuisine which led to an increase in popularity of the dish. This popularization took off in the 19th and 20th century due to the Chinese Diaspora. Thus, Chinese immigrants opened Chinese restaurants in major Japanese port cities like Yokohama and Kobé (wink wink).

During this period, Japan experienced a rapid modernization of culture, technology, and cuisine to mimic Western culture. A westernized Japanese version of fried rice called Yōshoku was created as a result. While similar to Chinese fried rice, Yōshoku substituted imported Chinese ingredients for locally sourced Japanese produce and meats.

At the conclusion of World War II, the popularity skyrocketed due to its versatility. Fried rice was served as a side dish in a majority of restaurants, both local and international. Its popularity eventually led patrons to order the dish as their main course.

The journey of fried rice to Japan is a testament to the rich history of cultural exchange between China and Japan. Its adaptation and integration into Japanese cuisine illustrate how food can transcend borders and become a beloved part of another culture.


Fried rice is known for its versatility and ability to use leftovers to create a delicious meal. Japanese fried rice, sometimes known as Chāhan, builds on the foundation created by Chinese practices by adding in traditional Japanese cuisine.


top view of chopsticks in bowl with boiled rice on dark wooden board

You have to start somewhere, so obviously start with the rice here.

Rice is the base of the majority of Asian diets as it is readily available and easy to prepare. Rice soaks up the flavor of all of the ingredients used while cooking, creating a flavor profile that can be to anyone’s liking.

While cooking the rice, the traditional sauce used is Soy Sauce. It adds a salty tang to the rice and other ingredients used. This can be substituted for other sauces like eel and oyster sauce.

Why Use Day-Old Rice?

There is a popular notion that using day-old rice is the best rice to use for cooking fried rice. This is because the reduced moisture content makes the rice retain the flavors of the sauce and other ingredients better. It is also easier to handle.


Vegetables are an important part of Japanese cuisine and a healthy, balanced diet too!

Like rice, vegetables can soak up the sauce that is used and create a robust, delightful flavor when paired with their natural taste.

Some of the most popular vegetables used:

  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Green Onions
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Furikake
  • Seaweed

Each of these vegetables brings their own unique flavor and texture to Japanese fried rice making it more dynamic and delectable.


Eggs have become a very popular addition of protein to Japanese fried rice.

Adding eggs to fried rice gives it a different, rich texture. The crunchy rice and vegetables with the soft, fluffy egg can send your taste buds off world!

The eggs are traditionally done scrambled, but they can be cooked to anyone’s liking. Some people prefer their eggs served over easy when they are having fried rice as part of their breakfast!


Japan’s chief source of protein intake comes from seafood. Fishing culture and trade is a staple of Japan’s economy. It is only natural that seafood is included as part of Japanese fried rice.

The most popular of the seafoods used is shrimp due to its abundance and it is easy to handle over other seafood options. However, any form of seafood can work.

Other shellfish, like lobster and crab (even imitation krab), have become popular options for those looking to change their dish up just slightly.

Most fish are kept out of fried rice as they can break apart during cooking into pieces too small to eat.

Westernized Ingredients

You may be wondering, “Where’s the chicken or ham?”

Chicken is not a traditional protein in Japanese fried rice, but it has become the most popular version of the dish. In the Americas, chicken is the most widely available source of protein. When the dish gained popularity in the US, they opted to make it their own.

And thus, chicken fried rice was born!

How to Make Japanese Fried Rice?

Chef cooking teppanyaki style food

Now that you know the history of how fried rice came to Japan and how it became popular, along with the traditional ingredients, it’s time to cook!

Prepare the Ingredients

Take your day-old rice out of the refrigerator. Be sure it is not clumped together by breaking up any chunks with your hands.
For your other ingredients, be sure to dice them accordingly

Cook the Egg

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and scramble until fully cooked. Remove the eggs from the pan and set aside.
*Remember you can cook the egg any way you like, this is just the traditional way of cooking

Cook the Proteins

In the same pan, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the diced protein. Stir-fry until the meat is heated and slightly caramelized. Then remove from the pan and set aside with the eggs.

Cook the Vegetables

Add the diced carrots to the pan and stir-fry for about 2 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the peas, garlic, and half of the green onions. Then stir-fry for another minute until fragrant.

Combine Ingredients

Increase the heat to high and add the day-old rice to the pan. Stir-fry the rice, breaking up any clumps, until it is heated through and begins to crisp slightly. Then combine all of the ingredients evenly.

Season the Rice

Add your sauce and stir well. Season to taste.

Final Touches

Stir in the remaining green onions and cook for another 30 seconds then serve.

Try Our Japanese Fried Rice at Kobé Japanese Steakhouse

Now that you are equipped with a knowledge of how fried rice came to be one of the most popular international dishes of today, and how it’s made, it’s time to try some on your next trip to Kobé Japanese Steakhouse!

Kobé Japanese Steakhouse is renowned for its authentic Japanese cuisine. Try an amazing fried rice bowl or sample some of our favorite cocktails and sake!

And don’t forget about our Hibachi Dinner! Have a trained chef cook your dinner right in front of you! See how to make Japanese fried rice from a trained chef just three feet from you! They make sure you are entertained throughout the meal and you leave with a belly full of amazing Japanese food, even for your picky eaters.

Book your reservation today!

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