Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fried Rice

Today I'll be featuring one of the most popular Asian dishes - fried rice.  I typically follow a rough recipe for this meal, but I also tend to use it as a convenient way to get rid of some leftover vegetables!  I've been able to get this dish pretty close to the quality found in Chinese restaurants using the following method. 

I used Jasmine rice for this meal, which I was able to find easily in the grocery store in the Asian foods aisle.  If you can't find it, you can use any long- or medium-grain rice.  Fried rice is often made with leftover rice, which is drier than and not as sticky as freshly-cooked rice.  If you don't have day-old rice in your fridge, you can use the following method.

First, put a cup of uncooked rice in a pot and rinse it well.  You can accomplish this by repeatedly filling the pot part of the way with cold water and using your hand to swish the rice around.  The first time you do this, the water should turn milky white:

Carefully pour the water out, and repeat the process a few times until the water is relatively clear.  Then pour as much water out as you can, and add the water that will be used to cook the rice.  In order to give the rice that drier, day-old texture, cook it in 1/3 less water than what the package instructions recommend.  Note that this will cause it to take a little less time to cook as well.

After the rice is done cooking, spread it out on a jelly roll pan and stick it in the freezer.  This cools the rice, and you want your rice to be completely cooled in order to get the right texture.

While the rice is cooling, prepare around 1.5 to 2 cups of vegetables.  Today, I chopped 3 stalks of green onion and a small red onion, then found some leftover corn from yesterday's dinner and also threw in some of those matchstick-cut carrots.  [Side note - I love using those pre-cut carrots!  Anything to help save time, and I kind of hate cutting carrots.]  I've also used bean sprouts in the past, and you could really throw in anything you think would taste good in fried rice.

Once you're done preparing your vegetables, get out your wok! If you don't have a wok, you can just use a large skillet.  [Yes it is hard storing my wok in my little kitchen, but worth it.]  Add 2 tablespoons of a cooking oil that can withstand high temperatures.  I typically use coconut oil, although this time I wound up using up some canola I had sitting around.  Coconut oil can be on the pricier side, especially compared with regular old vegetable oil, but I think it's worth it.  If you get refined coconut oil, it doesn't taste like coconut, so it won't add any flavor to your meal.  Plus the price has come down a lot in recent years, and it has become a lot easier to find as it has grown in popularity.  But you can use whatever you want.

Heat the oil on high heat, then dump in your vegetables.  Keep them moving so they don't scorch.  Cook until they are soft.  Then, add 2 tablespoons of sesame oil.  This type of oil is absolutely essential for the flavor; your fried rice won't taste quite right without it.  I've been able to find it pretty easily in either the Asian food aisle or the cooking oil aisle of most grocery stores.  Lee Kum Kee and Spectrum are a couple of brands I commonly see.

Next, get your cooled rice out of the freezer and add it to the mix.  It will start out a bit clumped together, but as you stir and cook it you can break up the little clusters.  Add 1/4 cup of soy sauce right after adding the rice.  Again, keep the mixture moving so that it doesn't scorch as it cooks.

Eventually, the soy sauce will have absorbed into the rice, all those rice clumps will have broken up, and you'll have a nice mixture of fried rice and vegetables.  The last step, then, is to add some eggs.

To do this, make a little hole in the center of the mixture.  You'll need to work quickly so you don't burn your rice and veggies, but you could also turn the heat down a little at this point.  Crack an egg into the hole and start to swirl it around, breaking up the yolk and kind of "scrambling" it.  Then start incorporating more and more rice into the egg until you can only see small bits of the cooked egg in the rice.  It's kind of hard to explain, and it was hard to capture what I was doing on camera. 

This is pretty close to how it usually looks.  Repeat the process again to add a second egg.

The final product.  This is great as a dish on its own, but I usually pair it up with an Asian meat entree.  Tonight I made Maangchi's Korean bulgogi!

Today's relevant cultural item is Chinese pop music!

We often hear about K-Pop and J-Pop, but apparently there's C-Pop as well (makes sense, I'd assume most countries have their own pop artists.  Except maybe North Korea...).  The majority of it seems to be based out of Taiwan and Hong Kong, and in fact, one of the most popular artists is Jay Chou, who is Taiwanese.  Here is one song of his, called Hong-Chen-Ke-Zhan:

I thought the swordfighting and stuff was pretty cool.  It seems that a lot of C-Pop can be very ballad-y, though it has its share of energetic boy- and girl-bands as well.  I found a compilation of songs which, for the most part, I enjoyed:

(Apologies if I described C-Pop incorrectly in any way.  I am not at all well-versed in the genre; in fact, I only just began researching it for this post!  If I should change anything, please let me know.) 

The recipe:

1 cup uncooked rice
1.5 to 2 cups chopped vegetables, such as onions, scallions, carrots, bean sprouts
2 tbsp high-heat cooking oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 eggs

Rinse the rice well until water runs clear.  Cook the rice in 1/3 less water than instructed by package directions.  Spread cooked rice on a jelly roll pan, and put in freezer to cool quickly.

Prepare and chop vegetables.  Add cooking oil to wok or large skillet over high heat.  When oil is hot, add vegetables and stir frequently to avoid scorching.  Cook until vegetables are soft.

Add sesame oil, rice, and soy sauce. Again, stir frequently until rice is heated and the clumps of rice have been separated, and soy sauce has absorbed into the rice.

Make a small "hole" in the middle of the rice in the wok.  Crack an egg into the hole, and begin the swirl the egg around, almost as though you are scrambling it.  Continue swirling, and add more and more rice in with the egg until there are small bits of cooked egg throughout the entire mixture.  Repeat this process with the second egg.

Remove from heat and serve!

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