Last Fall when John and I were on our road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, we had Chinese takeout for dinner one night. We actually found a restaurant that was willing to deliver to the motel. Score! My expectations for a quality meal were quite low, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I have a personal taste preference barometer that I use to measure the quality of a Mexican or Chinese restaurant. I call it my rice barometer. If the rice at a given restaurant tastes good, then chances are high that the rest of the food will taste good also. It works for me every time.
When the Chinese food arrived at our motel room, I went after the fried rice first and did a double take as the flavors hit my tongue. I literally stared at the rice in the takeout carton as if someone was playing a trick on me.
Never, ever, has Chinese fried rice tasted as good as the rice I was eating at that moment. The flavor was deep and rich and completely undefinable. There was a hint of something that reminded me of sitting around a campfire at night in a quiet forest. It was so delicious!
My rice barometer held true for the rest of the meal, too. Everything I ate was the best of any Chinese food that I had ever eaten. The only sad things about eating that meal were realizing that 1) We would be leaving the next morning and I would never be able to order from the restaurant again, and 2) The probability of me ever being able to reproduce that meal at home was pretty darn low.
I’ve been in deep, ham fried rice mourning since October. It’s ridiculous. It’s just rice, for heaven’s sake! I’ve been making fried rice since…well…let’s see…since I found a recipe 30 years ago on the back of a package of rice. Oh, but that recipe is no longer in service. It’s kingdom has been overthrown because I’m wearing my big girl panties now. I have learned that there’s more to Chinese flavors than soy sauce.
In this rice I replace traditional soy sauce with hoisin, sesame seed oil and oyster sauce. Joo gonna love it, baby!
Well, this looks just like a Caribbean cruise! I love the color of this cutting board. Look how it makes those orange carrots pop! The ham looks a little questionable, but the carrots–WOW!
This is brown Jasmine rice. Jasmine is a wonderful aromatic rice and works so well with Asian cuisine. Whatever kind of rice you use, be sure that it has spent some time chilling in the refrigerator before you use it to make fried rice. Freshly made rice will turn mushy when used in making fried rice. Don’t let mush happen to you; use day old, cold rice! Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Break up the rice after it comes out of the fridge. Use a spoon, spatula, or even your clean hands. Note: Hands work really well.
Turn a burner up to high and heat up a wok or wok pan until it is quite hot (not smoking hot…smoking hot scares me because of the fire hazard). Add the oil to the wok and swirl the wok so that the oil coats the inside. There is not a picture of me swirling the oil around the wok because there is no way I was going to swirl hot oil in a hot wok and try to take a picture of that process at the same time. Add the onions, carrots and ham to the wok and stir fry for a minute or two; then add the garlic and stir fry for another minute.
Add the peas. Frozen is fine. They defrost and cook to the perfect stage of perfectness in a wink.
Pour the beaten eggs over the vegetables and ham.
Stir things around a lot.
Keep stirring. The egg is cooking, so don’t stop stirring.
Okay, stop. The egg should still look moist. Don’t cook it until it looks like the Mojave. It you do overcook it, nothing bad will happen, probably.
Now it is time for the rice. Dump it in the wok on top of all of the other good stuff. Look how that rice is just falling out of the bowl. It reminds me of kids jumping on the bed or dog piling while I’m sitting on the bed trying to type something on the computer. Yeah. I don’t want to ever have to take one of those Rorschach tests. “Terri? What does this picture remind you of?” “Umm…that one looks like an 18 month old smashing eggs on the kitchen floor one by one.” “And this one?” “Wellll…that one looks like a 4 year old filling up the exhaust pipe to the furnace with mud.” “I see. How about this one?” “Oh. Well. That one looks like new bedroom carpet painted with Desitin.” “Very interesting answers, Terri. Let’s try one more. Tell me about this picture.” “Ha! That’s easy. That one looks like some old lady getting conned by a kid with big brown, puppy-dog eyes into making 192 cookies to fill up a ‘rwilly big box’.”
When you’re done with your Rorschach test, quickly stir everything together.
This is the best part. Add the mixture of oyster sauce, hoisin and sesame seed oil. So exciting.
Stir well, but not too vigorously, to evenly distribute the sauce. Continue stirring until the rice is hot. Serve immediately. Or right away. Or while it is still warm. Or sometime within two hours of cooking. Food safety rules apply.