Fried rice, or chǎofàn (炒饭), stands line the streets of Guiyang from early evening on through the night. Their colorful arrays of sliced veggies are eye-catching and easy to order. To identify whether a street vendor sells fried rice, look for a wok. If they have a wok, chances are they do fried rice. Many places also have a grid of boxes or baskets filled with finely sliced vegetables. These ones are great because they give you the option of choosing exactly what you want. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to order from a signboard menu or just tell the proprietor what you want. Regardless, read on to figure out how to get fried rice in your belly.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN INGREDIENTS
If you find a chaofan place with the array of sliced vegetables, you should be able to locate a small stack of plates or bowls sitting somewhere on the stand. Find some tongs or chopsticks nearby and start stacking your plate full of your chosen ingredients. Commonly available ingredients include napa cabbage, red onions, cubed smokey tofu, green pepper, carrots and shredded potato. Stack the bowl or plate as high as you like. I’ve seen some bowls piled ridiculously high, and the cook never seems to bat an eye. Hand your bowl to the cook or set it near the wok if they’re busy.
You’re looking for fried rice and you’ve spotted the wok but no sliced veggies. You may have to actually speak to someone to order. If you’re in front of the stand, chances are that the owner has already begun to shout questions at you. Here are some common types of fried rice you can try:
dàn chǎo fàn — 蛋炒饭 — egg fried rice
qīngjiāo ròusī chǎofàn — 青椒肉丝炒饭 — green pepper and pork fried rice
guàilū fàn — 怪噜饭 — everything fried rice
Guailu fan (pictured here) really does have some of everything. It’s a Guizhou specialty. Recipes vary, but there’ll likely be carrot, some kind of cabbage, some kind of bean, pork in some form, and medicine root. Seriously, they’ll just throw in what they have on hand. I’m not a medicine root fan, so I order it without (guàilū fàn, bú yào zhéěrgēn).
Whether choosing your own ingredients or ordering a set style of fried rice, you’ll need to specify the level of spice you want. Remember, in Guiyang everything is spicy, so even your simple egg fried rice will come out full of hot pepper if you don’t specify otherwise.
bú yào làjiāo — 不要辣椒 — no spice
wēilà — 微辣 — a little spice
zhōnglà — 中辣 — spicy
chāolà — 超辣 — extra spicy
That should be all you need to know to get some fried rice/chaofan. Every street stall does things a little differently, and you’ll definitely find some you prefer and some that aren’t worth re-visiting. Good luck and report back in the comments with the best stands you’ve found!