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Aisian cooking is not my strength in the kitchen. My timing is often off. And when it comes to seasonings … even when I use a recipe my Asian style dishes never quite have the right balance of flavors.
Besides, it’s much more fun to go out for Chinese or other kinds of Asian food, isn’t it? :)
Recently I decided to change this. I realized, as with everything I do, that I had started my efforts too big, too complicated. I should learn Asian style cooking by starting at the beginning – by perfecting my ability to make Fried Rice – and even though Fried Rice is not a festive dish it seemed like a good dish with which to start my adventure.
Stop laughing. Fried Rice isn’t all that easy to get right. It takes a bit of balance too, but at least it’s not a spicy dish, so the big deal is getting the balance of vegetables right – and the egg trick. More about that later.
Cooking Asian food at home is completely different from cooking European food at home. Asian cooking demands my attention. From beginning to end – chopping to eating – the process of getting a dish on the table is intensive. Not so much labor intensive as it is attention span intensive. Paying attention to what I’m doing is half the process. One of the best ways to see this in action is to eat out in any of the Asian restaurants, preferably one that has an open kitchen and an open table or spot at the counter. Watching a professional make Asian food is one of the best ways to learn – it’s half the battle.
A few days ago I finally perfected my Fried Rice recipe. I’ve made this combination of vegetables, egg, and roasted peanuts a few times now with various kinds of rice, and even quinoa, and it works. Here’s the recipe:
You don’t need to have a wok to make Fried Rice. A large skillet will do, non-stick is preferable.
Also, you can’t be heavy handed when stirring this dish in the pan, otherwise it will all mash together. Think of stir frying this dish like flipping pancakes. Dig in and flip.
About 3 cups of plain white cooked rice, or whatever kind you like. I was out of plain white rice when I made the batch in the photo above, so I used 3/4 cup short-grained brown rice and 1/4 cup wild rice.
1/2 a medium onion (give or take)
1 stalk celery
1/2 bell pepper (give or take), which ever color you prefer
1/2 a cup of frozen peas (give or take)
1 or 2 eggs
A handful of dry roasted peanuts
peanut oil or if you don’t have it handy, olive oil will do
ground black pepper to taste
a clove or two of garlic
If you don’t have any leftover rice, make a fresh batch according to the directions for the particular rice you are using.
Chopping the Vegetables:
My rule of thumb for chopping the vegetables is to cut them into cubes, or cube like, and make them all a uniform size. I tend to cut them so that they are about the same size as the peas.
Finely chop the garlic.
The Egg Trick:
Heat some oil in the skillet or wok.
Scramble the egg/s.
Fry the eggs, chopping them up in small pieces.
When they are done, put them on a plate and set them to the side, somewhere handy.
The trick is that they are made separate from the vegetables. If you make the eggs in the pan with the vegetables, or with the vegetables and rice, it gets all gloopy.
Saute the Vegetables:
Put a little oil in the skillet or wok over a medium flame.
Add some ground black pepper.
Add the vegetables according to how long it takes for them to cook.
Add the onions, carrots, peppers, and celery.
Add some soy sauce, to taste.
Stir fry those for awhile.
Add the finely chopped garlic.
Add the frozen peas.
Stir fry for a bit, until they are warm all the way through.
Then add the scrambled egg, mix completely.
Add the rice, as much as you like.
Stir to mix it all up.
Add the dry roasted peanuts.
Stir again until it is mixed.
Add some more soy sauce if you think it needs it.
Note on Meat: If you want to add morsels of meat, add those to the skillet or wok prior to the first batch of vegetables.
Note on Vegetables: Fried Rice is a leftover dish, usually made with leftover rice and whatever vegetables that are in your refrigerator. Don’t hesitate to experiment!