Sunday, November 22, 2009
My Venture into Fried Rice
In the late 1980's, I made my very first trip to Asia. I was still in college and was traveling with a group of other Americans on business. Our first stop in Asia was the beautiful city Hong Kong. Even before we landed, the excitement flooded through my body as we flew over this awe-inspiring city. At that time, the old airport was still in operation and I had no idea what I was in for as we landed. The old airport was built amongst high-rise skyscrapers and, as you landed, you could easily see people going about their business in apartments that seemed to be only a matter of meters away from the wingtips of the aircraft. For those of you who complain because you live next to train tracks or a loud highway, try having a 747 flying by your bedroom window every 3 minutes.
There was so much to see and do in Hong Kong. One evening, I hung out with an American lady, Janet, who had been to Hong Kong several times. She wanted to go to the night market in an area called Mong Kok. Before we went shopping, she wanted to grab a bite to eat at one of her favorite eateries that specialized in a kind of fried rice called Yeung Chow Fried Rice (Yang Zhou Chao Fan) – which is a specialty in southern China. This kind of fried rice is made with barbecue pork called char siu (cha shao). Very tasty.
After eating, we walked along a street that had stall after stall of street vendors selling everything from bootleg music to fake watches. It was a sight to behold. Janet stopped at a stall selling women's clothing and she meticulously picked through several outfits. I was amused when the lady working in the stall exclaimed "We got clothes for fat lady! You like?" By American standards, Janet had an ideal figure. However, in comparison to the scrawny Chinese women in Hong Kong, she looked morbidly obese. Janet firmly retorted back, "I'm not FAT. I'm a size EIGHT!" Undeterred, the Chinese woman screeched "Don't worry! We got big size. Big size for fat lady." If she thought Janet was fat, I can't imagine what she thought about ME.
I decided to look at some of the goods being sold at nearby stalls. I came upon a stall selling these very strange-looking objects. They were pink and made out of plastic and were shaped like missiles about 6" high. I picked one up and couldn't figure out why these missiles didn't have any fins to help control their flight. If they weren't toy missiles, I couldn't imagine what they were so I flipped it upside down to see if there was any writing on the base. I'm sure I looked like a curious chimpanzee trying to figure out how to make a call on an iPhone. The old lady working the booth took the missile from my hands and twisted the base. I could hear it vibrating as she handed it back to me. I said, "Oooooh, I see. It's some kind of vibrator." So, I tilted my head to one side and started using the vibrator on my neck and shoulders . I turned and saw Janet starring back at me -- with her mouth gaping open and looking at me like I had two heads. She yelled, "WHAT are you doing?!" As I continued using it on my neck, I said, "This lady is selling these vibrator thingies. I don't know – they're not very strong. They don't seem to be logically designed."
Janet started laughing her head off. In between snorts, she explained what I was holding. I had NOOOO idea. I was just this young, naive kid from Kansas. Trust me, we don't sell these on street corners in Wichita! Upon hearing what it was, I clumsily tried to hand it back to the lady and it slipped out of my hands. I was so scared to touch it, I kept knocking it in the air like I was juggling a red-hot coal briquette. In trying to give it back to the lady, I knocked half of the missiles over on her table. Undeterred, the lady said "50 dollar!" That was 50 Hong Kong dollars, of course. I said, "No. NO!" She countered, "OK, OK. For you, 45 dollar." I grabbed Janet, who was still guffawing, and we left the area as quickly as possible. Of course, she had to share this horribly embarrassing story with the other Americans who were traveling with us so I never lived it down the rest of the trip.
I was so traumitized that it was years before I could eat fried rice again after that. This recipe is nothing like the fried rice I had in Hong Kong but it is good nevertheless. Enjoy – and happy eating!
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Garlic Fried Rice
6 TBSP butter, divided use
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/2 cup diced ham or cooked chicken
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups cooked rice, chilled
2 TBSP soy sauce or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 scallions, diced
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small glass dish in the microwave. Add the minced garlic and lemon juice to the melted butter and stir to combine. Set aside to allow the flavors to mingle.
This dish comes together so fast that EVERYTHING needs to be chopped, measured, and ready to add. Chop the onions and scallions then measure out the peas/carrots, ham, rice, and soy sauce. Finally, you should beat the eggs in a small bowl.
In a large, non-stick skillet, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft – about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and cook about 3 minutes then add the diced ham or chicken. Cook 1 minute. Push all of the contents of the skillet to one side to keep them from cooking too much. On the empty side of the skillet, add the beaten eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper and scramble until just set. Integrate the eggs with the veggies and move everything back to the edge of the skillet. Quickly add the garlic mixture to the pan and use a spatula to break it up. Cook it about 1 minute or so (longer if you do not want an intense, in-your-face garlic bite). If you are worried about the strong flavor of garlic, you can add the same amount of garlic but add it with the peas and carrots. This will give the garlic ample time to mellow and sweeten by the time everything is cooked.
Add the cold, cooked rice and mix it in with the other ingredients. Add the soy sauce and stir to combine. Stir it every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes. Add the scallions and stir. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and/or additional soy sauce, if desired. Stir one last time and transfer everything to a serving bowl.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 8:47 PM