Saturday, February 21, 2009

By Popular Request

I am Chinese-American and the recipe I am asked most about is....drum roll please....fried rice! Fried rice is so simple, and like all great signature dishes of a country, is thrown together from leftovers. It's a dish that was intended to use leftover rice and is often served for breakfast. In fact, I didn't often have scrambled eggs or cereal or toast for breakfast as a child. I didn't actually start to like the stuff until I was a young adult. My mom usually made us leftovers that we ate hastily on the way to school. Most often, mom made fried rice. My favorites were a fried rice made out of a shredded, dried pork product that I haven't been able to find in Norway. The other favorite, and most often had, was Spam Fried Rice. Most Americans hear "Spam" and shudder. Not anyone in my family. We could have been Hawaiian - we love the stuff. For those in Europe, Spam is an American product made from meat...well, parts. Meat parts. Meat parts that get chopped together and formed into a cube that slips gelatinously out of its can and plops onto your cutting board - a quivering, pink block of meat parts. I know it sounds gross but it's fantastic. Mom used to dice up the Spam and make fried rice for us for breakfast.

In Norway, I haven't yet found Spam but they do sell cubed pieces of ham that are the perfect size for fried rice. I had some leftover rice, some eggs in the refrigerator and some peas in the freezer. After buying an onion and a box of the diced ham, I had all I needed for dinner. So, by popular request, I present to you - Fried Rice.

Fried Rice

2 cups cold rice, best if leftover from the night before. The best type of rice to use is a long-grained rice.
1 cup diced ham
3/4 cup diced brown or white onion, small dice
3/4 cup frozen peas (fresh can be used too)
2 tbs finely sliced scallions
2 eggs
3 tbs oil, divided
1 tbs oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
Ground pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbs of oil in a wide frying pan to medium high. Crack the 2 eggs into the pan and stir, lightly scrambling the eggs as they fry. Lightly season the eggs with salt and pepper. When the eggs are just done and tender, remove them from the pan and set aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 2 tbs of oil and the brown onion. Saute the onion until they are soft, then add the diced ham. Brown the ham and the onion. I like to do this to caramelize the flavors on the ham and it creates a nice texture when the ham is browned. To the browned onions and ham, add the rice, breaking up the rice as you add it to the pan so that you have individual grains of rice. You don't need to be neurotic about each piece of rice being separate, just do the best that you can. Stir fry the rice and the meat and onions until combined. If the rice looks too try, add 1 to 2 tbs of water and stir well. Let the rice fry/steam to soften. To the rice, add the eggs and the peas. It's ok if the peas are still frozen. Break up the egg pieces as best as you can. Then add the oyster sauce and the soy sauce and stir to combine. Let the rice stir fry an additional 2 or so minutes until the rice is heated through. Turn the heat off and stir in the sliced scallions. For additional texture, you can also sprinkle some dry roasted peanuts on top.

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