Chinese accompaniments: Umami-rich Egg fried rice and easy carrot pickle

Egg fried rice and easy carrot pickleTo my mind no oriental meal is complete without some rice and some pickles, and one of my favourite parts of any Chinese takeaway is the egg fried rice – for something so apparently simple it is something that has consistently gotten the better of me in the kitchen, never managing to recreate that wonderful simply savoury depth of flavour, so much so that I’d all but given up trying.

When I was planning some accompaniments to go with my Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce which I posted last week, I turned for advice to Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking and although I can never resist making a few tweaks to any recipe I follow, it turned out perfectly.  The pickles are a variation on hers too, and go wonderfully both with rice and dumplings, plus they keep for several days in the fridge so you can nibble them with anything else you have lying around – cheese or ham for instance.

Egg-fried rice
Serves 2

I love to put a little smokey prosciutto in my egg fried rice, as together with the soy it really gives you an umami whack.

135g uncooked basmati rice
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
4 spring onions
1 tbsp finely diced fresh ginger
3 slices prosciutto (or 2 slices smoked streaky bacon), roughly shredded
2 tsp caster sugar
1 & 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
splash sesame oil (or pumpkin-seed oil if, like me, you’re not a big fan of sesame)

Put your rice in a jug and check the volume. Tip into a medium saucepan and add twice the rice’s volume in cold water. Add a pinch of salt, bring to the boil, cover and cook on the lowest possible heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, cover with a clean teatowel then leave to steam for 10 more minutes, then tip onto a large plate or baking sheet, and chill (it’s even better if you can leave the rice overnight to chill – I think it’s because the fridge dries it out, helping it keep its bite later on).

When you’re ready to eat, finely chop the whites of the spring onions, then the green tops but keep the two separate. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok until almost smoking, pour in the eggs, allow to cook for 30 seconds then flip and cook for 30 more, then remove to a chopping board & roughly shred (leaving the oil in the wok on the heat). Fry the whites of the spring onion, with the prosciutto and ginger for 1 minute, then add the sugar and cook for another half minute. Add your cold rice, spring onion greens, soy sauce, nut oil, and shredded omelette then cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat until piping hot.  Serve at once.

Carrot & cucumber pickle

3 smallish carrots, peeled
1/2 cucumber, deseeded
2 tsp sea salt
75g + 2 tsp caster sugar
125ml rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice 1 lime
pinch fresh red chilli, finely diced

Slice the carrots & cucumber into fine batons. Toss with the salt and 2 tsp sugar and set aside for 1-2 hours, then drain off the juices (this ‘degorging’ process is not essential but it helps the veg keep their crunch).

Now dissolve the sugar with the vinegar in a small saucepan over a low heat, then increase the heat and simmer vigorously until it has reduced by about a third and is quite syrupy. Cool, then stir in the fish sauce and lime juice and taste to check the seasoning.  Pour the pickle liquid over the drained carrot and cucumber, and stir in the chilli.  This can be served immediately, or kept in the fridge until needed.

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