As it is with most ‘foreign’ cuisines, there are a couple dishes that make it mainstream. For Italian, it might be pizza and spaghetti with meatballs; Mexican might be nachos and burritos; and Chinese might be fried rice and stir-fry. And like it is with all food, no matter where it comes from, the home-made versions can sometimes be very different. As a foodie, I am always seeking out the ‘real’ thing which isn’t always easy to find. A lot of the time, the only way you’ll ever get a true version of a dish is if you have it in someone’s home or go visit that country yourself.
There is one particular dish whose mainstream version has always bugged me – fried rice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fried_rice). I’ve recently been looking a lot of things up on Wikipedia to see what ‘the world’ has to say, and the description for fried rice was pretty much what I expected. The first thing Wikipedia points out is that it is “a popular component of Chinese food”. However, with Chinese food becoming more and more mainstream over the past decade (example: Panda Express: http://www.pandaexpress.com/) I feel like the true flavors of dishes such as fried rice have lost their way. I have to point out though that I’ve never been to China (only Vietnam and Thailand), and I’ve never had fried rice in someone else’s house (who wasn’t family). But with that said, I have to confess my constant disappointment when someone orders fried rice from a restaurant (whether it be Chinese, Vietnamese or other) because I just know it is SO easy to make and would be a million times better home-made. Do you notice that the restaurant version is usually brown and a bit dry? Don’t you find it pretty salty too?
To be true to my last blog though, I have to remain unbiased here. Everyone has their version and their preferences. Nonetheless, I thought I’d at least share one of my absolute favorite recipes (it’s also the only dish my boyfriend will actually request that I make). It’s probably one of the first dishes I ever cooked before I was even ten. It’s one of those dishes that is seriously comforting on a Saturday morning or even for a quick mid-week dinner. (Note – it’s great for hangovers too)
It can be eaten for any meal of the day, and I’ll give you ideas for variations at the end. It really is best to use day (or two) old rice, but fresh rice is possible too. The best type to use is Jasmine or any long-grain rice (in the UK, Tesco sells what they call Thai rice). If you’re not sure how to make rice, just order a couple extra servings the next time you order in Chinese or Thai. My version is made with Chinese-style sausage which can be found at any Asian supermarket. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen this at a ‘regular’ grocery store but it can be easily substituted with any leftover chicken or pork. You could even use some leftover rotisserie chicken. Just be sure to add a bit of oil when heating it up so that it doesn’t dry out.
Serving for one (depending on your appetite just double or even triple the recipe!)
2 garlic cloves or garlic powder
Small handful of cilantro (aka coriander)
~2 cups of cooked white rice
Maggi soy sauce or any other light soy
Vegetable oil or any other plain oil
Fresh black pepper
* Fish sauce is optional
* Sriracha hot sauce also optional
If using cold rice, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature. This will help soften the rice a bit and speed up cooking. Try to break up any lumps while it’s still cold. It will allow the flavors to get into the rice easier.
Thinly slice your shallots. If using onion instead, chop into small pieces. Mince your garlic. See the picture for a little trick to mincing garlic. I cut it like I would an onion. Cut long slits into the clove. Then thinly slice it. This may not be the best description, but hopefully you get the picture. Roughly chop your cilantro and set aside to add in at the end. Finally, slice your sausage. If you’re using another type of meat just chop it up into small bite-sized pieces.(CLICK FOR MORE…)