Nyonya Fried Rice

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fried rice is one of those things. It may be a great chef's finale for a grand Chinese banquet. Or it may be something rustled up by a hungry youngster snooping round the kitchen when Mum is out.

Brilliantly executed, fried rice is sublime. If not, it's (usually) at least edible.

Nyonya fried rice is easier than the Chinese version.

Chinese fried rice requires fierce, intense heat for best results (imagine a massive fire breathing dragon underneath the wok).

The Straits Chinese, however, use spices to create an alluring aroma. Finely pounded shallots, dried chillies, fresh chillies and candlenuts, along with belachan and dried prawns, are slowly persuaded over gentle heat to release their fragrance. Each and every grain tastes of the spicy, aromatic and umami paste, so the fried rice is delicious even when it's lacking in wok hei.

Leftover rice is great for making fried rice but, contrary to popular opinion, freshly cooked rice is perfectly OK too. All you have to do is use a bit less water than usual, and the cooked rice would be quite dry, as if it's been drying out overnight. If the rice is cooked at a lower temperature, by steaming instead of boiling in an electric rice-cooker, it's even better because the texture would be firmer and more chewy.

I don't wait till I have leftover rice to enjoy a bowl of fried rice. But I always make fried rice when I have some. Re-steamed overnight rice isn't very nice, but I hate throwing away leftover rice because I grew up singing: planting rice is never fun, bend from morn till set of sun, cannot stand and cannot sit, cannot rest a little bit . . . .

Planting rice is no longer the back breaking work it used to be. Nonethess, each and every grain is precious. Savour it, fried or otherwise.

Source: Adapted from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 4 persons)

375 g long grain white rice
wash and rinse thoroughly; soak 10 minutes in 340 ml water
45 g dried prawns, rinse
20 g candlenuts, rinse
3 g dried chillies
trim stems; cut 2 cm long; soak in warm water till soft, about 30 minutes; squeeze dry and discard water
30 g red chillies, rinse and trim
3 bird's eye chillies, rinse and trim
80 g shallots, peel and rinse

4 tbsp vegetable oil
12 g belachan, toast till fragrant and dry; pound or grind finely to yield 1 tbsp
8 medium size prawns (150 g), shell, devein, wash and dice 1½ cm
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp ground white pepper
1 large cucumber (450 g), peel, wash, core and dice 4 mm to yield 1½ cups

Steam rice over rapidly boiling water for 15 minutes, then check whether rice needs more water. If surface layer is cooked but still hard, this is the ideal texture. Steam another 5 minutes and remove from steamer. If surface layer is not cooked, sprinkle with 1 tbsp water and steam 5 minutes. Repeat if necessary, then remove rice from steamer. When surface layer is cooked and soft, remove rice from steamer immediately.

After rice is cooked, fluff and set aside.

Whilst rice is steaming, pound dried prawns finely and set aside.

Cut candlenuts, dried chillies, fresh chillies and shallots into small pieces. Pound or grind very finely. Stir-fry with 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok over medium-low heat till medium brown and aromatic. Add belachan powder and stir through. Push to one side.

Place 1 tbsp vegetable oil in the middle of the wok. Reduce heat to low. Stir-fry dried prawns with the oil till aromatic. Increase heat to high. Mix everything in the wok evenly. When wok is very hot, add prawns and stir through. Add rice and stir till thoroughly mixed and hot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn off heat. Add cucumber and stir through. Serve immediately with fried fishcake, fried eggs, achar timun, etc.


Anonymous said...

I love your recipes! Would you have one for bubur cha cha please? THanks!

KT said...

Hi hi

That's a great idea for this weekend's dessert. Will be right back (sort of) with the recipe. Bubur cha cha, here I come!

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