Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vietnamese fried rice

O.K., this is just fried rice and you don't need to be told how to make fried rice, but this quick-and-easy way to use leftovers is a little different from the more familiar Chinese version so it's worth documenting.

When I did it, it turned into a huge production number, but you can just consider the contents of each bowl a list of possible ingredients to choose from and you'll be fine. Use whatever you've got handy and follow the same procedure of fluffing the rice then cooking the vegetables in stages before mixing the sauce then rice back in. It is really easy if you are using leftovers they way you're supposed to and not prepping everything right there like I did.

In that first bowl are:
a few cloves garlic, chopped
an equal amount of ginger, crushed and chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 small handful dried kaffir lime leaves [I've been picking them off my kaffir lime tree and drying them myself. I'm finding dried rather easier to work with than fresh although not nearly as flavorful so you have to use a lot more.]
1 carrot, peeled and diced small

In the second bowl are:
2 links lop chong (Chinese sausage), microwaved 1 minute to partially cook, cooled and sliced
1 half cup peas
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
4 large shrimp, cleaned and cut into centimeter-sized pieces
1 small handful cilantro, chopped

On the plate are:
2 eggs, beaten, gently cooked into an omelet and sliced
2 scallions, chopped

In the sauce is:
2-3 Tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (milder than Thai)
2-3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon sriracha hot sauce (did you know that this was invented in Los Angeles? You don't see this brand or quite this formulation outside the U.S.)

Step one was to heat up in my wok:
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon chicken fat
1 teaspoon sesame oil

to which I added:
3 cups day-old rice
and stir-fried until the rice had regained its fluff.

Out that went and into the wok went another Tablespoon of canola and another Tablespoon of chicken fat. Once that was hot I added the contents of the first bowl.

When the aromatics were nicely aromatic and the carrot starting to soften, in went the contents of the second bowl.

When the shrimp was just about done (just a minute or two), I added the sauce and cooked it down a little. Then I returned the rice and tossed it around to get all of the rice coated before adding the eggs and scallions. A little more stirring to get everything well-distributed and warmed through and it all went out of the wok and into a big bowl.

To finish, I garnished each serving with:
chopped cilantro
ground peanuts
caramelized onion (I keep a small bag in the freezer)
crispy deep fried garlic (I keep a small jar in the pantry)
a squeeze of lime
and, after I took the picture,
thinly sliced hot pepper
a drizzle more of sriracha

So that's 25 ingredients all told. And you can really taste each and every one of them. Enormously complicated, but everything retains their own flavor and texture and works together. There are deep savory flavors infused into the rice, crisp fresh-tasting vegetables, aromatic citrusy notes and just a touch of heat. And all sorts of textures in there too. I don't know how I did it, but this is quite spectacularly good. Or maybe I was just very very hungry since dinner was two hours late?

Was it worth all the effort? Well, I am getting five servings out of it, so on average with the four zero prep-time meals, maybe?


rina said...

I just had to tell you how perfect your timing is. I'm leaving for Southeast Asia on Sunday, for a month! Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand. Looking forward to the food, of course.

kat said...

Wow, that is quite a process

billjac said...

Good for you, Rina! Good luck and have fun!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Bill, I think you are making a mistake in using the kaffir leaves dry instead of fresh. They lose a lot of flavor when dried. I also am able to "eek" out a lot more flavor by taking the leaf and cutting it into very fine strips with scissors and omitting the tough middle stem instead of just throwing them in whole. You will be able to eat the leaf instead of throwing it out when serving the dish. Try it this way and see how you go.