Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Vegetable fried rice - a continental favorite

Happy Women's day all you wonderful women out there!! More love, more empowerment to all of you. I am grateful for the influence and impact of several women in my life. I also want to acknowledge the role of many men that simply allowed me to be 'me'. If it hadn't been for a father who never once held me back from doing what I wanted to do, if it isn't for a husband who always supports every "crazy to good" ideas I come up with, if it isn't for the 2 brothers that never treat me differently because I am a girl (I know this for a fact because they never spared me in fights and treated me like one of their own:-)), I am sure my life would have been vastly different. I realize that my life is not the norm everywhere, wishing all the girls same opportunities to spread their wings and grow.
Finally spring break is here :-) and DD is home after more than 2 months. While it may not be spring break for all ages and in all parts of the world :-) I am sure you will share my joy this week. Lotsa love, food, laughter and stories..this week at home. For us, spring break seems to be here triple fold as DD came home with two of her friends. Home seems to be fuller, more alive and happier :-). The girls are having fun doing things on their own, driving in and around PNW and braving the unusually chilly weather.

I don't know how many of you notice the change in eating patterns when kids come home from school. With DD the change is very visible, almost 'in my face' kind of thing. There is no longer any fuss about the food, everything amma makes is delicious and she is almost always hungry. Looking at 3 of them this week has me really sad at whatever the school cafeterias serve as food. Even the simplest of the dishes make them happy and contented.
This fried rice is possibly one of the simplest recipes I have blogged but DD's explicit instructions this time is to make sure I blog it so she can use it when she starts to cook :-), so here I am, the dutiful mom catering to her wishes.

Long time ago (think a decade and half ago) when the Indian food diaspora was not bursting like it is today, all we had access to as quirky teenagers and 'acting' grown up young adults was Indian food at home and outside home. This was the time when the nation's obsession had not gone completely international on the food front. The number of restaurants was very small and the food choice just seemed like an extension of what we normally ate at home, forget the fancy American, Italian, Mexican food. One would go to a hotel (that is what we called them when we were kids) to eat a dose/dosa that had taken an oil bath or a plate of mirchi bajjis that you would not make at home on a daily basis.

But even in those days, one international (??) food had made its way surely into the food scene. Everyone from small road side cartwallahs to decent and trendy restaurants served a genre of food called Indo chinese food. This included the manchurians, crispy, spicy noodles and the very distinct fried rice. I have not visited china (unless you count the couple of lay overs in Hongkong :-)) and am not an expert at anything China, but I have a lot of friends, colleagues from the Chinese community, I would think that makes me somewhat of an authority :-). Indo-chinese food was and continues to be a craze in India even though people are getting exposed to other cuisines. What we know of chinese food in India is really a very Indianized version of the food, many dishes being unheard of and unknown in mainland China :-). But that is the beauty of good food, right? it evolves, morphs and adapts to suit the palate of the people that enjoy eating. I am pretty sure there is a cook's license akin to a poet's license and the creative freedom sets you free.
In any case, not being someone that frequented restaurants, my first bite of the Chinese fried rice was at a hotel infront of my office in namma Bengaluru. BH would stop during lunch time if he happened to be in my part of the city and we would try and catch some time together in the midst of schedules, projects and the deadlines. He being more worldly wise and definitely having visited this place many times before took me there for lunch one day and ordered the veggie fried rice. Crunchy vegetables exuding sesame oil flavor was a new taste on my tongue but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I was full by the time the bowl was half empty though. Those days, restaurants didnt encourage customers to take home the left overs and sadly I had to let it go waste :-(.

We didn't stock the necessary ingredients for making the rice at home in those days and so it became one of the frequent orders when we dined out. I make this often at home as we all love it. I wonder why it had stayed a restaurant food for such a long time given the simple ingredients list. We have a south indian joint here in town and he serves veggie fried rice along with his chettinad specials and dosa/idlis :-) and it is pretty good. So here is an easy to whip up and lip smacking vegetable fried rice.

What do you need to make fried rice? 
1.5 cups short grain rice (I used sona masoori)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1.5 Tbsp chili sauce
1 Tsp white vinegar (optional but recommended)
1/8 Tsp black pepper coarse ground
1.5 inch ginger made into a paste
2-3 cloves of garlic made into a paste
3/4 cup finely chopped green beans
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup thinly chopped cabbage
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1/2 cup finely chopped assorted colored pepper (I haven't used any this time)
1 Tsp salt
3 Tbsp oil (preferably sesame oil for that authentic flavor)
How do you make fried rice? (as you will see, it is very easy and simple :-))
  • Get the vegetables chopped and keep them ready
  • Wash & soak rice for 20-30 mins 
  • Heat 6 cups of water in a big pot and bring it to a gentle boil
  • Drain the water from the soaked rice and add rice to the boiling water. Add a couple drops of oil and stir it in. 
  • Lower the heat to medium and let it cook for about 10-12 minutes or until rice is just about done. 
  • Switch off and drain all the water out. I let this water cool completely and use it to water my potted plants (nammamma said that it actually helps bring out the flavor in the curry leaves plant and I follow the advice)
  • Run cold water on cooked rice, fluff it up with a fork and let it cool
  • Heat a big wok and add sesame oil. Let it heat up almost to its smoking point. 
  • Add chopped onion and saute for 30secs. 
  • Add ginger and garlic paste followed by finely chopped carrots & beans
  • Let them cook on high flame for a minute, add cabbage and half of the spring onions. 
  • Stir the vegetables constantly on flame and let them turn slightly tender.
  • Add the sauces and vinegar to the vegetable mixture along with salt. 
  • Add coarsely crushed pepper. 
  • Add cooked rice and stir them together. 
  • Taste test and adjust spices & salt to your liking. 
  • Garnish with reserved spring onions. 
  • Serve hot/warm.
  • BH and I added 1/2 Tsp/per serving of a green chili chutney to make a little hot for us
  • The girls scrambled a couple of eggs with a dash of salt and pepper and added it to the rice. 
  • A favorite way of serving this fried rice in India is along with a side of gobi manchurian, I didn't make them this time :-)
  • Vegetables in this rice are cooked al dente and retain a crunch.
  • Using a wide wok and keeping it on high flame is key to a well blended fried rice.
  • Make sure rice is cooked so as the grains are separate and fluff


NamsVeni Pothas said...

simple and tasty dish with colorful pictures.
Happy Women's day to all Sattvaa readers

R said...

My favorite, looks so yummy.