Those days these dishes were some sort of special foods made only when all of them get-together at my grandma’s house . Down the road, somewhere I remember my mother getting all excited at the mere mention of the popular Chinese restaurant in town, Chiyang, and all of us visiting this chic restaurant, with uncles and aunts. In that dimly lit restaurant, I remember my mother ordering her favourite sweet corn chicken soup; somehow the sweet corns did not make a very good first impression with me and I sat there waiting for the rest of the food to be served……that tangy smell of the dishes and exotic look of the fried rice did tickle my taste buds even at that very young age. My mother tried different permutations and combinations to reproduce the same look and taste but still that fancy restaurant won over her daughter. After a while, Bimbis became the talk of the town, especially among the teenagers, with its fancy menu and self-service counters; and on one of my visits there, I saw the sous-chef throwing veggies into a huge pan, followed by that sizzling sound and then holding the pan effortlessly with his right hand and doing tossing technique quite impressively. The fried rice I tasted there had some resemblance to that of the first chic restaurant I mentioned earlier. From there it has been a relentless travel, finding the other pieces of the big puzzle, to dress up fried rice the way I wanted it to be!!
Till now, I have not come close anywhere to” that taste” of my childhood love, but here is what the best I have come up with and surprisingly, now this happens to be “the” recipe my friend R has been looking for and has been asking me to blog for a long-long time now. Fried rice, a popular Chinese dish cooked with leftover rice fried along with some veggies and meat and seasoned with soy sauce has been so popular in India that it has innumerable Indo-Chinese versions to it. It has become so accepted and admired among the Keralites that fried rice has become one main dish served at the time of family gatherings and this is mostly an Indo-Chinese or I am afraid to note, a Kerala-Chinese version!!! I would not be surprised, two-three decades from now, if a school kid claims it to be a staple food of Kerala!!! No offence to anyone here, but the frequency at which we whip up this dish and the adaptability to this one, combined with the fast pace at which the “cereal generation” is growing up, makes me wonder about such a probability.
When I first started cooking this dish, there were a number of times I had to cook the rice twice as the first batch would have got too mushy and sticky, making the final dish look like a sticky rice ball. Some cooking show that caught my attention while flipping channels came up with the best tip ever,” use leftover refrigerated rice when you make fried rice”. That’s when I realized, it is important that rice should be completely cooled and grains should be separated. My mother shared the second best tip, “never miss spring onions, celery and capsicum”. I always stick to these two pointers while preparing it and then adjust the seasonings and sauces, to my taste. Please note that this recipe is developed purely to appease my taste-buds so it may or may not suite your palate :)
Ingredients: To Fry & Cook the Rice:
- 1 ½ cup Basmati Rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp Olive oil or vegetable oil
- Salt to Taste
- 1 tbsp ginger & garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup boneless chicken, cooked and shredded into small pieces
- 1 large egg, to scramble
- 3 tbsp carrot, chopped into small pieces
- 4 tbsp bell peppers/capsicum (green & red), chopped into small pieces
- 2tbsp cabbage, finely chopped (Optional)
- ¼ cup celery, chopped into small piece
- 1 ½ tbsp white bulb of scallions/green onions/spring onion, chopped into small pieces
- ¼ cup green stalks of, scallions/green onions/spring onion, chopped into small pieces
- 2-3 tbsp Olive oil/vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ - ¾ tbsp soy sauce
- ½- ¾ tbsp green chili sauce
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tbsp ketchup
- ½ tsp black or white pepper, freshly ground
- Salt to taste
- Wash and drain the rice on a paper towel. When it is medium dry, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan and add rice to this and stir continuously for less than a minute in low heat and transfer it to a microwave safe bowl and pour 3 cups of water and sat to taste; pop it in the microwave and cook for 23-25 minutes or until rice is done. Stove-top Method: Boil water in a heavy bottom cooking vessel, and when it comes to boil, add rice and bring it to a boil again and then reduce the flame and cook covered in low-medium heat, until rice is fully done and water is absorbed.
- Using a fork, gently separate the rice, so as not to get sticky (or even transfer to a large platter) and the rice should be cooled thoroughly before you start the final cooking. (Note: You may use leftover rice for this preparation or refrigerate the freshly cooked rice to make sure that it is completely cool and not to end up with mushy rice.)
- Heat up 1 tbsp oil, in a large wok or any round-bottomed vessel, throw in chopped ginger and garlic, when it is medium hot and stir-fry till it turn transparent. Do not let it burn. Now add the white bulb of the scallions/spring onions , stir; add bell peppers, carrots, celery and stir fry, with a dash of salt and pepper, for 1 -2 minutes in medium heat and when it is soft yet crunchy, add the chopped cabbage and half of the green stalks of scallions/spring onion. Toss everything together as leaves get cooked fast and transfer to a plate or depending on your expertise and largeness of the pan, you may slide everything to the side of the wok.
- Add the rest of the olive/vegetable oil, and break one large egg, directly into the pan; with a quick salt and pepper action, stir the egg continuously to get fine scrambled egg and transfer to a plate or slide to the side of the wok. (Note: Alternatively, you can make an omelet and cut them into fine pieces on a chopping board.) Add the cooked shredded boneless chicken and toss them in oil with a mild seasoning of salt and pepper, transfer to a plate or slide to the side of the wok.
- Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil, add the cooked and cooled rice and stir well, in medium-high heat. When the rice is warm and separated nicely, add the cooked veggies, scrambled egg and shredded chicken and mix well. Now start sprinkling rice vinegar, sauces and ketchup one by one and stir and mix well. Do a taste test and adjust the salt and turn off the stove. Remove the wok from the stove and add the rest of the green stalks of the scallions/spring onion, mix well. The heat from the rice will slowly soften the leaves, leaving a nice aroma to the entire dish. (Note: the strength of the soy sauce and green chily sauce differ depending on the brands, so any addition of these ingredients should be in small drops if you use more than what is suggested in the recipe.)
Here’s a carry-out box ready for YOU with a fortune cookie :)
Have a great week ahead!