Thursday, December 31, 2009

Flied Lice

I learned to make fried rice when I was stationed in Japan. It generally comes out pretty good. Unfortunately, I've never seen a recipe that's exactly the same, although most are similar.

Old Rice is Best.

You want about two cups of COLD, cooked rice. Not sticky but properly cooked. I just wait for it to accumulate. When I have a couple of cups, I go ahead and use it in fried rice... then start accumulating rice for the next batch. (Does that make sense? Mebbe not. When cooking rice you generally cook a cup or two at a time but it's rare for you to EAT everything that you cook; there's usually a bit left over. So you save it. Then comes the day when you want to fix something to eat and see that you've accumulated a couple of cups of rice. So instead of cooking MORE rice you simply use the rice you have to make Fried Rice.)

You GOTTA have Green Onions.

Big flower pot. Buy some seeds or onion sets. Poke them into some sand or soil, keep it growing on a window sill or whatever. (If you've got the room, you can also grow your peas & carrots. Think SMALL. You're feeding yourself... and maybe one other. It's almost impossible to NOT find enough room to keep a few things growing. And a lot of things you don't even have to plant! Seriously! Buy a bag of Navy beans... those little white jobbies. Pour some in a jar. Add water. Let them soak for a while then put them under your sink. Rinse them out every day or two until they sprout. Then EAT THE DAMN THINGS! Call them a salad if you want. Or stir them into your Flied Lice... or simmer with a thin-slice of beef. (The thinner you slice it, the better.)

Snow peas... or whatever. About a cupful; mebbe less. If snow peas, you get to eat the pods as well as the peas. But experiment. If you've got a carrot, try chunking it up; mebbe some celery. Not too much. But not too too much. If you add carrot, remember that it will take LONGER to cook than anything else, so start it earlier.

MEAT.

Bacon works. Ditto for ham. In fact, ditto for damn near ANYTHING although pork is traditional. (Sausage is interesting.) No pork? Then think FISH, SHRIMP or CHICKEN.

(EDIT: We're not all the same. Thank God. Some of us eat pork but a lot of us don't. Take that sort of thing into account when cooking or inviting someone to share a meal... or a car-pool. It's not about Being Right or Being Wrong, it's about Being Human. We are different for a lot of different reasons and your job is to pay attention to the DIFFERENCES rather than the REASONS. If you've got a ship-mate who has different view of things dietary, respect them. The important part is accepting the differences rather than trying to change things. So there's your pard, working alongside in the same hangar. Except he goes around the corner four or five times a day to pray and you don't. Don't keep waving a cool one in his face -- he probably feels the same way about beer as he does about pork.)

The meat USUALLY takes the longest cooking time. Respect it. Low heat. You are RENDERING the meat. If it is too dry you'll have to add about one tablespoonful of oil.

You'll be cooking in a wok or fairly deep skillet. With the meat cooked, put it aside, increase the heat and stir-fry the vegetables. This should take only a minute or two -- big flame, LOTS of stirring. You know it's done when squeezing a pea causes it to pop out of its skin.

Okay, dump the veggies with the meat and add the RICE to the skillet. Not too much heat but lots of stirring; you're getting the rice HOT... but without causing the rice to turn into little plastic bits. So stir. And mebbe give it a sprinkle of water, if things look too dry.

EGG(s)

Two little brown ones, whisked up with some water. Or mebber one great big white one; same deal; whisk it up. Don't do anything with them right now EXCEPT to whisk them up; I'll tell you when to add them.

Now start putting everything BACK INTO THE PAN. Meat. Stir it in. ADD THE GREEN ONIONS (FINELY DICED). And the veggies. Stir & fold; everything is GETTING HOT. You can begin adding a little SOY SAUCE. The rice will have a characteristic CRACKLING sound. (No, NOT like that... kinda like steam or sizzling veggies.)

Got the EGGS? Okay, pour them all over the rice! Keep stirring. Briskly. You're just about done; you want everything to be FINISHED AT THE SAME TIME.

The egg holds things together... along with the bits of meat & veggies and rice and soy sauce...

It starts to SMELL like Fried Rice (which is what it is). Now you can fine-tune things to your particular taste, perhaps by adding more meat or more onion... or less. Or whatever! You are FEEDING YOURSELF. It isn't a contest, it is preparing something that TASTES GOOD and is good for you!

DIVVY UP THE SPOILS!

Fried Rice can be kept for a couple of days, assuming you don't let it lay about open. First, you divide it with whoever you're sharing. If there is anything left over you can decide if it's worth the trouble to save it. Packed in a plastic box, you can take it to work as a brown-bag type of lunch (nuke it for a minute).

Use your EYE to measure, as modified by your sense of smell and taste. Fried Rice takes only a few minutes to prepare so DON'T make a major production out of it.

I tend to view fried rice as a means of getting rid of left-overs. But that doesn't mean you can't start from scratch and build a meal around it. For example, you may prefer to have your fried rice with shrimp or even chunks of chicken; something to add a bit more horsepower to what would otherwise be rather plain fare. (Do you like frog's legs? I do! VERY good with fried rice.)

I like to add a lump of Chinese mustard to the plate, dobbing it up as an accent... or just to clear my sinuses :-) Some prefer to go all-vegetarian, serving the fried rice with fish, deep-fried egg-rolls or whatever.

One of the best compliments to fried rice -- in my opinion -- is crispy spare-ribs. This is definitely NOT a means of ridding yourself of left-overs but of preparing a real meal.

-R.S.Hoover
-31 December 2009

PS -- I'll try to add some snap-shots. But don't wait for them to appear; go ahead and give yourself a treat.

(EDIT. I think most American's call them 'chop-sticks.' I call them 'hashi' because that's what I was taught. Hashi are a couple of wooden sticks that you use to shovel food from it's container into your mouth. You hold the container right up against your mouth then get busy with your hashi shoveling the groceries down the hatch.

What you DRINK with your lunch is usually green tea. Or water. You don't use knives or forks but you MAY use a spoon if we're talking soup. Feeding yourself means getting the food INSIDE of you without making a mess. If you use hashi, it's pretty hard to make a mess. [Sip, slurp, shovel, shovel, shovel...] You don't need knives because you cut everything to bite-size during preparation.

The interesting thing about 'chop-sticks' is that you probably have some near you, no matter where you are. And if you don't, pick up some scrap spruce and MAKE a set. )
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