Friday, March 7, 2008

CSA week 14 - A few thoughts on fried rice

I worked late yesterday so I get to go in late today; that gave me time to have breakfast so I decided to make fried rice.

Breakfast fried rice is a traditional in China and a few other places in east Asia and while I've certainly eaten fried rice for breakfast I don't think I've deliberately made it for that meal before. I figure there are two things that make fried rice breakfasty - bacon and eggs.

On the bacon side, I would have liked to use Chinese bacon, but the freezers were on the fritz the last time I went down to Lucky Oriental Market so I wasn't comfortable buying any. So I used the American sort. I bought some really good bacon (better than Oscar Meyer which was my previous benchmark for bacon when I judged the house brand or whatever was on sale) a while back for a recipe I ended up not making because one of the other ingredients stopped being available. (Thanks a lot Fresh Market. What with this and that lousy chicken, you're going on the list.) I recommend trying it once if you haven't; there's no going back.

As for eggs, there are two philosophies on adding them to fried rice; some people prefer to make an omelet in a separate pan, slice it up and then add it to the dish while others add the raw eggs directly into the rice. I'm normally in the first camp, but for breakfast it felt right to mix the eggs in. At first I couldn't place just why that was, but eventually I realized that it turned the dish into a porridge. Porridges--oatmeal, congee, grits or malt-o-meal--are traditional breakfast fare all over the planet. Probably because food that sticks together in a lump is the easiest to successfully transport from bowl to mouth while half asleep.

I'm not going to insult you by telling you how to make fried rice, (If you do wish to be insulted, e-mail me and I'll make arrangements.) but I do have some thoughts on the process worth sharing.

First, many recipes just add the cold rice at the end, but it's important to re-fluffify the grains by frying them at the start of the cooking. Once they've woken up, set them aside and return them to the pan at the end; it makes a big difference in texture and you don't end up overcooking the other ingredients while you're waiting for the rice to stop being crunchy.

Second, use dark soy sauce. It doesn't add a lot of extra flavor, but it does give that lovely dark color that most restaurant fried rice has.

And finally, unless you've only got a half cup of everything it does a lousy job of using up leftovers. I'm going to have to make another refrigerator-emptying dish tomorrow.


rina said...

"re-fluffify" :)

Hi Bill!

billjac said...

I do enjoy coming up with words I am patently incapable of consistently pronouncing correctly.