Make fried rice–no take out required!
Once I started to get better at cooking in college, I used to use rare trips to restaurants to gather “intelligence”. I’d scan the menu for new ingredients, cool combinations, and even culinary terms that were foreign to me. Later, I’d try to either re-create what I saw at the restaurant back on campus–that way, I could trade the market for the dining hall, and get to work in my own kitchen–and usually for less money than the menu price. This approach definitely has it’s drawbacks…there’s a lot of trial an error when you cook without recipes–I like to think of it like jazz–you start with a basic framework, and weave your way in and out until your satisfied.
The best part about cooking restaurant-style food at home is that you control your own portion sizes, ingredients, and you can usually get multiple servings for the same price as one plate. It just takes patience.
I first had a version of curry fried rice at a Malaysian restaurant a few years ago, but it’s been hard to find it since. I tried to make it a few times with my sister, but it never really came out right. Then, the breakthrough–I learned that you need use pre-cooked rice (that was a fun mistake…) and green (un-ripe) mangoes if you want to make fried rice. It’s best to use rice that’s a few days old, rather than freshly boiled–you want the rice to dry out completely before you go tossing it into hot oil! You also need green mangoes because that are harder, and stand up better to high heat (otherwise, you get the same splattering situation as frying wet rice). The heat will soften the mango, and sweeten it just enough to make it perfect with the rest of the flavors.
Curry leaves, are another secret ingredient. First, a short lesson: “curry powder” is actually a mixture of different spices like turmeric, coriander, paprika, ginger, etc–the ratios of which depend on the person making the powder. I turns out, there is actually a curry tree–but it does not produce the powder you buy in the store. The leaves have a really unique flavor and aroma when they are flash fried, making them perfect for meals prepared in the wok. Toss them into the with your garlic and shallots to get the most flavor.
You can make this with chicken, pork, shrimp–or totally meatless–it’s all up to you.
Hungry yet? Give it a try.
1 chicken breast, cubed
2 cups cooked rice
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 in. Peeled ginger, minced
1 green (un-ripe) mango, cubed
1 jalapeño, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup curry leaves (optional, but recommended)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juice and zest
2 tbs vegetable oil
3 tbs curry powder
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs turmeric
2 tbs soy sauce
Salt, pepper to taste
1. Slice chicken breast into bite-sized cubes, and season with salt, pepper, and curry powder. Set aside to marinate for 20 min.
2. Mince garlic, thinly slice ginger and shallots, peel, and cube mango. Slice jalapeño, and zest/juice the lime.
3. Heat oil in your pan on med-high heat, sear chicken on all sides, and remove. Lower heat to medium.
4. Add shallots, ginger, and garlic, and deglaze the pan. Slide curry leaves off of the stem into the pan, and stir until fragrant.
5. Stir chicken back into the pan, and add mango cubes. Stir until the mango starts to soften
6. Stir in your pre-cooked rice, add cilantro, soy sauce, and lime to taste, and serve.