Thursday, May 19, 2011

Indochinese Fried Rice

Rice. Now there's something that billions of people around the world can agree on. And it also turns out to be something that Tricia and I both enjoy! There's so many things to do with rice, but one of my favorite ways to prepare it is fried. Fried rice is a highly variable dish- it originated as a way to take care of leftovers. Basically, you take last night's dried out rice and combine with other leftovers and maybe some fresh vegetables/sauces to create a new dish. Both Tricia and I have our own trademark versions of fried rice, differing in the sauces, vegetables, and seasoning we prefer to use. I like to experiment a lot though, so I recently decided to combine some Indian elements into fried rice to create something more distinctive. So here, I present the results for my "Indochinese fried rice"!

The first thing with fried rice is to have the rice. Ideally, it should be leftover rice or rice that was boiled a day ahead of time. Allowing the rice to dry out a bit makes it cook better and improves the texture of the final dish. When we want fried rice in a hurry, we cheat and boil the rice and let it sit uncovered after cooking for a few hours. Jasmine rice is our usual preference for fried rice, and I've used that here.

After preparing the rice, the next thing I do when I make fried rice is decide what meat/protein is going to be included. This is supposed to be a special fried rice, so I elected to go with not one, but four: chicken (I used breast), pork, shrimp, and egg.

For the chicken: I was trying to combine Indian and Chinese flavors, which is so I used sesame oil (Chinese) along with a standard battery of Indian spices. For the Indian spices: combine  chilli, cumin, and coriander powders in a ratio of 2:1:1. Add as much salt as you did chilli powder, and half a teaspoon of turmeric is good for chicken. Once all the dry powders are mixed, add enough sesame oil to make a paste and then coat the chicken and roast in the oven at 375 for 35 minutes. When it comes out, dice the breast and set aside.
Chicken breast after being rubbed with spice paste

For the shrimp: I marinated the shrimp (about 1/2 lb.) in a mix of soy sauce and sesame oil for about 10 minutes (it doesn't take long for flavor to penetrate the delicate shrimp).
Shrimp marinating in soy sauce and sesame oil
While they were marinating, I minced 3 cloves of garlic plus an equal amount of ginger, finely chopped 2 green chilies (Thai are good, but you can substitute a milder chili if you desire), and heated a few tablespoons of oil (canola is fine) in a wok. When the oil was out, I added the chilies and garlic/ginger, and cooked until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then I added the shrimp and cooked until they were done by still tender (be careful not to overcook shrimp!). Again, I combined some Indian flavors (green chili) with Chinese ones (soy sauce, sesame oil). Garlic and ginger are common to both cuisines, and act as a natural bridge in this dish.

Shrimp cooking in wok

For the pork and egg: I used salt pork (which if you follow this blog, you know I use a lot), so I just diced it, and set it aside. I also beat the eggs (I used 4 for 2 cups of rice), added some salt and pepper and set aside. Both the pork and eggs get cooked near the end.

At this point, I also like to steam my vegetables. This is a personal preference, as I like my vegetables tender in my rice. If you like the crispiness, skip the steaming. For my fried rice, I think that a mix of color is essential, so I used peas, carrots, and corn. After steaming, I wanted to impart flavor to the vegetables, so I started stir-frying them in the same wok that the shrimp was in. I then added a teaspoon each of chili powder and salt. When the vegetables had absorbed all the flavors, I added half a can of coconut milk, reduced the heat to simmer and covered, leaving me with a rudimentary Indian Korma.

Another thing I did at this point was to create a tasty garnish for my fried rice: fried chilies and shallots. I simply sliced some beautiful red cherry peppers, jalapenos, and shallots, lightly dusted them in flour and deep-fried them (I've done this for other dishes in my blog). Putting fried shallots on top of fried rice is done in certain parts of Southeastern Asia (so I've read), and I thought that adding some chilies to the mix would again make it a bit Indian. After frying, I set these aside for the end.

Now, it's finally time to make the rice. Have some minced ginger and garlic ready at this point, along with 4-6 fresh dried red chilies (you can substitute crushed red pepper if you don't half that). I start by getting my large wok out and heating it over medium high heat. I then put a few tablespoons of oil in the wok (canola) and add my salt pork, which also begins to render it's own fat. When the pork is pink (i.e. safe to eat), but not crispy, I add the garlic and ginger along with the chilies which I roughly break up in my hands as I add them (careful not to touch your face if you do this). Be careful here, because over high heat, the garlic and ginger cook almost instantly, so be ready with your next ingredient: the beaten eggs. Add these, and let them start cooking, but while they are still liquid, add the dried out rice on top, and start folding the egg through the rice. It will give a wonderful yellow color to the rice and keep the egg tender and fluffy. The process should go sequentially as below:


Now that the rice is cooking, I add the flavorings. First I added a few tablespoons each of soy sauce and sesame oil. Do this to your own taste. Tricia and I love the nuttiness of sesame oil, so I'm a little heavy-handed with it compared to what other might prefer. Continue stir-frying, and then add the chicken and shrimp back in to the rice, folding to mix everything (this is quite a work out if you're doing two cups of rice like I did!). Finally, add the simmering vegetables with the coconut milk back in. Once everything is well-mixed, transfer to another dish and garnish with the fried shallots and chilies. It's a really awesome looking dish at this point, and it's ready to serve!

You can modify so many elements of this dish along the way, but I've tried to create a harmonious melding of Chinese and Indian (and personal-taste based) flavors. I really think this is a unique but delicious meal, so let me know how it goes if you try it!


  1. So why dont I have any of this to eat, huh? WHY?

  2. Why? Because Tricia and I ate it in a hurry! If you want fried rice, you've got to get there early, because leftovers can hardly be taken for granted. Of course, I'd invite you to try it the next time I make it, but I don't know you Anonymous!