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What's Cooking?: My Dad's Fried Rice

My father was the chef in our house as we were growing up. He was a great cook and taught me both Chinese and American cuisines.  I remembered standing by his side as he was cooking, watching the measurements and portions he used.  Without any recipes, you learn what it means to add “a little bit of this or a handful of that”.  Whenever I make his classic meat loaf, a pork roast nestle on a bed of roasted vegetables or the uniquely tasting spaghetti made in a wok, sweet memories come back to me. Yet, it was his fried rice that I remember with a nostalgic comfort.  My Dad’s fried rice was the best.

Chinese fried rice is an easy quickly cooked dish which takes advantage of leftovers.  Meats such as chicken, ham or pork left over from a previous night’s dinner is great for this dish along with variety of vegetables such as peas and onions. The fried rice can be as simple as adding lightly scrambled eggs with chopped scallions.  Authentic Chinese fried rice is not overwhelmed with dark soy sauce that is typical in many Chinese takeout places.  An important tip is to use cooked rice that has been cooled.  Cold white rice is preferred because the grains of rice become firm and separated when it is cold, not sticky or mushy. Usually I think of making fried rice when I have gathered enough left over rice from several meals or prepare a pot of rice earlier in the day to cool before stir frying it for a later meal.

 My father’s fried rice was always made with fresh ingredients. That’s probably because we rarely have any leftovers.  His choice of colorful ingredients include finely diced Chinese sausage (Lap Cheong), Chinese bacon (Lap Yuk), sometimes shrimp, and at the very end he added the bean sprouts, scallions, eggs, and ribbons of thinly shredded iceberg lettuce.  It is seasoned with salt, light soy sauce, and a little ground black pepper.  As many times as I have made it, it still does not taste as good as my father’s.  Another fried rice recipe I’ve come to love is the Korean Fried Rice, using spicy kimchi.  Kimchi is a Korean dish seasoned with fermented chili peppers, salt, and raw vegetables usually napa cabbage.  Along with this starred ingredient, I add chopped onions or shallots, crispy bacon, scallions and strips of crepe-like eggs.  The secret is a couple of tablespoons of butter added at the very end.  There are so many layers of flavor in this dish.  It is spicy, tangy, salty, and crunchy.  Did I forget to mention the silky creamy fried egg that is placed on top of the kimchi fried rice?  Oh, my goodness, delicious!  I hope this will encourage you to try a variety of fried rice recipes from other Asian cultures and create your own signature fried rice dish. These satisfying bowls are full of comfort any time of the year!

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