Fried Rice II [Recipe]

As discussed in the above post, here’s my take on The Great Fried Rice, using key principles from Jaden of Steamy Kitchen.

I’m a convert to her key principles – cold cooked rice; fish sauce; lap cheong / char siew.  I’ve then done my own thing to a certain extent – I mean, fried rice is still fried rice.  Unless you’re on Top Chef or something equally m,ad and pretentious, the most pleasurable thing about the dish is it’s simplicity and tastiness.

In this house we like to add shredded cooked chicken, vegetables, sometimes even small prawns if we’re feeling extravagant, and shredded egg omelette.  We also like it spicy, so lots of chilli and ginger, or the use of one of my chilli pastes, as well as sloshes of rice wine and just a bit of soy sauce.  Oh and we’re garlic freaks too …

My humble apologies for the lack of times [stir fry 2 minutes, et al]; I’m more of an intuitive cook and go by taste and smell for how much longer something needs to be cooked at what temperature adjustment.  Also this dish is – like other stir-fry dishes, noodles, etc – a continuous process of adding, stirring, combining.  Trust the nose and taste buds – and tummy rumbling and drooling. 

Plus, a great deal also depends on your own individual cook-top, how powerful, whether gas or electric [noooooo! not electric aaaiiieeeee].  But if the lack of cook times concerns you, check out Steamy Kitchen and other great food blogs / sites.  But Tuxedo – who cooks an amazing steak and scrambled egg but not much else – has used this recipe easily without drama.

Serves 4 as a whole meal, or two with leftovers for lunch the next day, or 8 as a side dish [which I don’t approve of at all, authentically fried rice is a meal / snack on it’s own, not a side, but feel free!  Hey I don’t exactly follow rules either …].

. . . . . . . . . .

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked rice, cooled and refrigerated [see method]  [EDIT:  preferably good quality Jasmine rice; definitely not short grain rice, not Basmati rice;  generic medium grain rice at a pinch

250 g char siew / cha siu, sliced  [see recipe for Char Siew below]

Half a shop-bought barbecue chicken or leftover roast chicken, shredded

100 g small prawns, peeled and de-veined  [optional]

3 eggs, beaten  [for thin rolled omelette; optional]

1 red capsicum, finely diced

6 small white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 spring onions, sliced diagonally into 2 cm pieces

1 heaped tbs red curry paste or chilli and garlic paste, for extra heat and flavour [optional]

1 red chilli, finely sliced

2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced into fine matchsticks

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped [what can I say, we love our garlic!  Use 3 cloves only if you’re not such a fan]

2 – 4 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs rice wine

1 tbs sesame oil

1 tsp ea freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Canola oil

. . . . . . . . . .

Method:

Cook and cool the rice first – start several hours before dinner or even cook it the previous night.  I’m lazy, plus we eat so much rice that our rice cooker is an essential piece of kitchen equipment.  Cook rice in a rice cooker or by absorption method.

When cooked, oil a baking tray very lightly, then spoon the cooked rice onto the tray and spread out to the edges, being ultra-careful not to squash the grains.  Once cold and dry, the grains will break up with very little squish-age.  Leave rice on the counter-top until cooled then pop into the fridge for a few hours until cold before doing the rest of the prep and cooking.

Slice the char siew finely, and shred the chicken.  Peel and de-vein prawns if using.  If making the omelette shreds, crack the eggs in a small bowl and beat lightly with a little salt and black pepper.

Prepare the vegetables, finely dicing red capsicum, slicing mushroom and slicing spring onion into 2.5 cm diagonal lengths.  Finely slice the chilli, chop the garlic and slice the ginger into matchsticks.  Collect all other ingredients and condiments by the stove so you’re not rushing around trying to find things when you start frying.  Organise your meez, is what I’m sayin’.

I prefer to use a non-stick fry pan or non-stick wok rather than the heavy steel wok for this – you may well gasp in horror!  I don’t have the technique nor the necessary firepower [at least the cook top is gas] to manage this in a wok.  I probably could if using quarter the amount … Excuses excuses, a non-stick fry pan just makes this a hell of a lot easier.

Start with the omelette, if using.  Pour a teensy bit of canola oil [couple teaspoons] into the fry pan and heat on high, then pour in the egg and swirl around so it covers the entire surface.  As the omelette cooks, use a wooden spoon or spatula to lift the edges to allow uncooked egg to run under.  When the underside is cooked but not browned, gently shake pan and lift edges to release omelette and flip over.  Cook other side.  You should have a flat thin omelette, but no tragedy if it breaks up a bit.  Remove to a plate and allow to cool; don’t roll yet, wait until it’s totally cooled down then roll it up and slice as thinly as possible.

Quickly pan fry the prawns separately, if using, until just cooked.  The pan being non stick you shouldn’t really need any additional oil, dry-frying is fine.  Remove to a plate.

If using lap cheong or bacon, cook on a high heat allowing all the fat and porky flavour to run, and lightly char and crisp the edges of the slices.  Remove to a plate, leaving the sausage-y fat in the pan.  This is one of Jaden’s tricks; the flavour of the lap cheong fat brings the fried rice dish entire to a new level.  If, like me, you are unable to source lap cheong locally then use char siew, preferably homemade.

Bring the fry pan up to heat again, add another couple teaspoons of canola oil, and when hot add the diced red capsicum and the red curry / chilli paste, if using.  Stir-fry until the capsicum has begun to soften [sweat down] a bit, then lower the heat to medium before adding the garlic, ginger and chilli.  

Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to fry, stirring with your wooden spoon or spatula, again until softened – do not allow to burn, lower the heat even further if the garlic is starting to shrivel and char [if it does you will have to start from scratch].

Other vegetables which I’ve used instead / as well as are a few handfuls bean sprouts, green beans sliced into 2.5 cm pieces on the diagonal, a couple tablespoons of canned sweet corn kernels.  Don’t put in everything and the kitchen sink; though this may have been my strategy prior to discovering The Secret I prefer a more minimal approach which is why I usually leave out the prawns and omelette.

Now add the sauces.  A neat trick is to pour the sauces down the sides of the fry pan or wok, as they sizzle and add an extra “something” – something close to wok hei

Raise the heat a little and pour in the fish sauce [fish sauce is pretty pungent on it’s own and particularly if you’re not used to it, so use the lower amount for starters, then amp it up a bit to taste – I like LOTS], soy sauce and rice wine, then a few dashes of sesame oil – this is to add a little smokiness and something like wok hei.  Iit’s pretty impossible to get real wok hei in a domestic kitchen, even professional restaurants miss the trick.  It’s the one-dish hawkers of char kway teow and hokkien mee who specialise in that special smoky “breath of the wok”.

Combine sauces and vegetables well, then add in the shredded chicken and char siew / lap cheong and prawns, if using, and mix well with the sauces.  Add the spring onions at this point too.

Now the tricky bit, adding the rice.  Place the rice into the wok in handfuls – crumbling between your fingers to separate the clumps of rice rather than the spoon / spatula will keep the grains intact and not squished.  Do this in batches – say a quarter of the rice at a time, combining gently with the other ingredients in scooping motions before adding more rice.  If you add it all at once it will be difficult to combine thoroughly without – hey guess what I’m going to say! – squishing the rice.

When all the rice has been added, test for taste yet again [whoop, I taste-test pretty much at every stage to check on how things are going; eg placing a teensy bit of capsicum or a few drops of sauce onto the back of my hand to lick off and then correct if necessary] and adjust, adding more fish sauce or whatever.  I prefer to keep the amount of soy sauce used at a minimum; it’s too salty and overwhelms the rice and all other flavours.  Add a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt.

Stir through the omelette shreds, allow to heat through another minute then serve!  I like to use big bowls and chopsticks, with condiments [fish sauce, soy, extra chilli sauce] on the table for diners to further pimp their rice.

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