This Pickled Mustard Greens Fried Rice—known as Takana Chahan—is a popular regional dish from Kyushu. Thanks to the tangy pickle, this simple fried rice is packed with comfort and plenty of umami! Add fluffy scrambled egg for extra protein and a pop of color. It’s a quick meal you can make in 20 minutes.
We all have eaten our fair share of fried rice. There are the classic favorites Shrimp Fried Rice, Chashu Fried Rice, Garlic Fried Rice, Kimchi Fried Rice, and endless variations that can be found across Asian cuisines. Today I’m serving up a very special kind of Japanese fried rice—Pickled Mustard Greens Fried Rice called Takana Chahan (高菜チャーハン).
What is Takana Chahan
Chahan (チャーハン) is the Japanese pronunciation for Chinese-style fried rice “炒飯” (pronounced [chǎo fàn]). We call fried rice Chahan or Yakimeshi (焼き飯).
Takana chahan is essentially simple and rustic fried rice made of rice, egg, and takana (pickled mustard greens). It may not be a familiar dish to many non-Japanese, but the takana chahan is easily one of the top 5 fried rice dishes you will encounter when you’re traveling in Japan. You’ll find it at restaurants or yatai (Japanese street vendors) or cafes.
If you live in a city where many Japanese people live, you may also find this fried rice on your menu. We have a local ramen shop here in San Francisco that serves Takana Chahan.
The key characteristic of the takana chahan is its minimalist approach to the ingredients—every grain of the rice should be fluffy, distinct, and slightly crisp on the edges, and packed with delicious tangy bits of takana.
What is Takana
Takana (高菜) is a type of Japanese mustard greens, which came to Japan from China during the Heian period (794 – 1185). It is one of the top three mustard greens along with nozawana (野沢菜) from Nagano prefecture and hiroshimana (広島菜) from Hiroshima.
When takana is soaked in a soy sauce pickling agent, the pickled dish is called takana or takana-zuke (高菜漬).
In Kyushu, takana-zuke is used in a variety of dishes, and one of them is takana aburaitame (高菜油炒め) or aji takana (味高菜).
It involves chopping the pickled mustard greens into small pieces, then stir-frying with sesame oil, chili, and sesame seeds. Takana chahan is typically made with this takana aburaitame, which lends the fried rice its unique flavor.
Although I can’t get takana, the Japanese mustard greens, in San Francisco, I can get a package of takana aburaitame from a Japanese supermarket. Besides using it in fried rice, we often use takana aburaitame to make onigiri (rice ball) and pasta, add to natto or steamed rice, top it over ramen, or stuff it into dumplings as a filling.
How to Make Takana Chahan
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Takana (Takana Aburaitame (高菜油炒め) or Aji Takana (味高菜))—stir-fried pickled Japanese mustard greens
- Tokyo negi (Japanese long green onion) or white parts of the green onions/scallions
- Cooked rice
- Seasonings: soy sauce, salt, and white pepper powder
Overview: Cooking Steps
- Beat the eggs and slice the Tokyo negi.
- Make scrambled eggs and set aside.
- Stir fry the Tokyo negi and takana.
- Add cooked rice and stir-fry. Season the fried rice.
- Finally, add the eggs back and toss all together.
3 Important Tips to Make Perfect Fried Rice
Tip 1: Do not overcrowd your pan
I use this 10-inch carbon steel deep frying pan (read more below) so I cook 2 servings (fried rice as a main dish) at a time. It’s important to have enough space in the pan so that the ingredients have space to move.
Tip 2: Use day-old rice or let cool the rice
Ideally, you should use day-old cold rice because it is more firm and has no excess moisture. But if you have to use freshly cooked rice, be sure to cook it ahead and let it cool entirely on the kitchen counter. I use a baking sheet to spread the cooked rice so the moisture will evaporate and cool down quickly.
Tip 3: Don’t be shy on oil
You will need a decent amount of oil to cook the fluffy eggs. Hot oil helps to distribute heat and prevent the eggs from sticking to the pan. Don’t worry about oily eggs because they will go back into the pan later and distribute the excess oil to the rice when everything will toss together in the pan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best substitute for takana?
I researched high and low and thought hard on this for a long time. I almost didn’t want to share this super popular fried rice recipe as I am aware that many people probably don’t have access to the takana.
However, at the end, I decided to post the recipe because the takana chana is a beloved comfort dish in Japan and it deserved to be made known, whether you can make it or not:)
If you really want to try this dish without the takana, Chinese pickled mustard greens (酸菜心) would be the closest substitute.
How can I use Chinese pickled mustard greens in this recipe?
It’s important to note that Chinese pickled mustard greens have a more vinegary taste and the flavor can be rather different from Japanese pickled mustard greens. Takana or takana-zuke has a soy sauce taste and a milder pungency.
So, how do we use the Chinese pickled mustard greens in this recipe so it renders the closest flavor?
You will have to chop the Chinese pickled mustard greens into small pieces and cook it with sesame oil and dried red chili. Once the vinegary taste is lessened, season it with a little bit of sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar (start with an equal ratio). Finally, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and it would be your homemade version of takana aburaitame. You’re all set for making the takana chahan. The final dish should have a similar look and taste.
What to Serve with Takana Chahan
This fried rice is delicious in its simplicity and makes a perfect lunch. I love it so much that I can just devour it on its own. But to make it a truly satisfying meal, I often serve a soup and a simple pickle to go with it.
- Miso soup with shiitake mushrooms
- Japanese Pickled cucumbers
Kitchen Tools from MTC Kitchen
I’ve partnered with MTC Kitchen to introduce quality kitchen tools for your everyday Japanese cooking. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JOC10 for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
- Summit Iron Hammered Deep Frying Pan 10.2″ dia × 5.2″ ht (currently out of stock)
- Kobiki Ivory Kobachi Bowl Shaved Design 7 fl oz / 4.25″ dia
- Kobiki Ivory Soup Cup with Handle Shaved Design 11 fl oz / 4.2″ dia
- Kobiki Ivory Coffee Mug Cup Shaved Desgin 10 fl oz / 3.5″ dia
Tableware from Musubi Kiln
I’ve partnered with a great ceramic online shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
Pickled Mustard Greens Fried Rice (Takana Chahan)
- 2 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice (cooled; day-old rice, preferably; if you haven't prepped the rice yet, cook 1½ rice cooker cups of short-grain rice and follow my instructions below on how to cool it)
- 1 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion) (use only white bottom part; use the white bottom part of 3-4 scallions)
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (for the eggs)
- 2 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.)
- 1 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
- 1 package stir-fried takana (pickled mustard greens) (4.23 oz, 120 g; the package has the name takana aburaitame (高菜油炒め) or aji takana (味高菜); read more about this and how you can substitute in the blog post)
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- ¼ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- ⅛ tsp white pepper powder
- Gather all the ingredients.
- If you are using 2 servings of freshly cooked rice, transfer the hot rice to a baking sheet. Spread it out and let it cool completely.
- Cut and separate the white and green parts of the Tokyo negi and set aside the green part for another use (I added it to miso soup with shiitake mushrooms). Thinly slice the white part of the negi.
- In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and salt and whisk together.
- Heat the neutral-flavored oil in a wok (I used this medium carbon steel wok) over medium heat. When the wok is hot, add the beaten eggs. After a few seconds, the egg will start to float on top of the oil.
- With a blunt-end wooden spatula, swirl the loosely set egg around the pan to continue cooking the rest of the egg.
- When the bottom of the egg is set but the top is not yet fully cooked, transfer it back to the bowl.
- Add the sesame oil to the wok, then add the white part of the Tokyo negi. Stir-fry to coat with the oil.
- Add the stir-fried takana and stir-fry for 2 minutes until well coated with oil.
- Add the cooked and cooled rice to the wok. With the spatula, use a slicing motion to separate the rice clumps and combine the rice with the takana mixture.
- Season the fried rice with soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. Taste the fried rice and adjust the seasoning since each brand of stir-fried takana is flavored differently.
- Add the cooked egg back into the wok and break it into smaller pieces. Toss everything together and turn off the heat. Serve the fried rice in individual plates/bowls. Enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a month.