Seriously. As any cook will confirm, you never get it perfect on the first try. You could always add a touch more of this, cook this a little longer, add that at a different time.
It. Is. Never. Perfect.
I have achieved the impossible.
Sorry. Sorry. Perhaps I’m blowing my horn a little too loudly. It’s just that I was imagining a side dish that was subtle, yet not bland (oh, Lordy… there’s that word again), simple and focused, a side dish that didn’t need to overwhelm but simply showed off the ingredients in the best way possible, and I nailed it the first time.
Dinner last night was a Vietnamese beef salad which I do plan to share with you in the future but, case in point, it needs a few more tweaks to make it perfect. I wanted a side dish not just as a filler, but to compliment the salad. Since I was making Vietnamese, rice of course was the perfect choice, but my usual fried rice is Chinese-style with lots of vegetables and flavoured with soy sauce… nope. I searched the internet for a Vietnamese or Thai fried rice but the recipes I found weren’t any different from Chinese-style fried rice. So, a different tact, I searched ginger fried rice. Cha-ching badda-bing, up came what looked like a beautiful fried rice by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as interpreted by Mark Bittman http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/dining/27mini.html?ref=dining&_r=0.
The Vongerichten recipe looks lovely as a main dish with a runny yolk fried egg on top and one of these days, that will be dinner, but I took the idea (especially the topping of fried minced ginger and garlic… holy!) and made it my own.
To begin, I made the rice my usual way by first sauteing it in a bit of butter to coat the grains and added a tablespoon of coconut cream powder (basically, dehydrated coconut), while cooking the rice. This doesn’t make the rice taste like coconut, I think it simply boosts the flavour of jasmine rice when making Thai or Vietnamese dishes. If you skip this step it likely won’t make much of a difference in the end. I also used the trick of a friend (thank you, Jay) who makes the best Chinese fried rice; when preparing the eggs, separate the yolks from the whites, mix the yolks in with the pre-cooked rice so each grain gets a lovely yolky coating before stir-frying, and fry the egg whites in the wok beside the veggies. Adding the yolks to the rice elevates the flavour of the rice, and the entire dish.
Then, with the recipe as a general guide, I replaced the leeks with onion, added fresh ginger to give even more flavour the rice while stir-frying, added thinly sliced snap peas for colour, texture and sweetness, and replaced the soy sauce at the end with fish sauce to make it less Chinese, more Vietnamese.
Finally, it IS best if you cook the rice the day before and store it in the fridge, but I cooked mine in the morning and let it cool for an hour before putting it in the fridge for about 6 hours and it worked fine.
It sounds like a lot of steps for fried rice, and it is. But it’s worth it. If you try it, please let me know what you think!
For the rice:
a couple pats of butter
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice (to make 3 cups cooked rice)
1 TBS coconut cream powder (optional)
1 1/4 cups of water
1/4 tsp salt
For the topping:
3 TBS minced ginger
3 TBS minced garlic
3 TBS peanut oil
For the veggies:
1 cup diced onion
1 cup snow or snap peas, cut into 1/4″ pieces on the diagonal
1 TBS minced ginger
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated (yolks will be mixed with the rice before frying)
For the sauce:
1 TBS (or more) fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Rinse rice. Melt butter in pot until foamy. Add rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add water, salt, and coconut powder (if using) and simmer until the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in the fridge overnight. When cooking any white rice, I always saute in a bit of butter first and use 1:1 rice to water ratio, plus 1/4 cup for the pot. It always turns out perfectly.
About 1/2 hour before you start dinner, remove the rice from the fridge. Separate the egg whites and yolks. Add the yolks to the rice and gently fold until all the grains are coated. Set aside.
In a wok or large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 3 TBS peanut oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and fry, stirring occasionally, until brown and just starting to crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer the ginger and garlic to paper towels and salt lightly.
Using the oil left in the wok which has now been flavoured with garlic and ginger, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the onions frying until just starting to turn golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add the peas and minced ginger. Continue to fry until the peas are tender-crisp, about 3 more minutes.
Add more oil to the wok if necessary, push the veggies to the side and add the egg whites, stirring until almost set. Stir the veggies and egg together. Add the rice to the wok, and quickly stir-fry until the rice is hot and starting to pick up some colour. Mix fish sauce and sesame oil together. Drizzle over rice and toss to distribute the flavour. Taste and add more fish sauce to your liking. Sprinkle with fried garlic and ginger.
If you are so inclined, you could fry an egg until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny, and place on top of the rice. That’s dinner… maybe tomorrow. :)