Chinese Van Vegetable Fried Rice

Growing up in India, I loved Indian-Chinese food (especially from the Chinese food vans) and miss it sorely in the U.S. So I tried my hand and making some vegetable fried rice that matched my memories. This was pretty good. I paired it with Chilli Potatoes (recipe forthcoming), which hit the spot!

The whole thing takes about an hour to put together.

You need:

  1. 1 cup rice, preferably basmati
  2. A handful of fresh green beans, julienned (cut into very thin strips, about 1-2 inches long)
  3. The same amount of julienned carrots
  4. 4-5 spring onions, sliced finely. Separate the greens and whites.
  5. 2 tbsp julienned ginger
  6. 1 cup bean sprouts
  7. 2 tbsp soy sauce (low-sodium if you have it)
  8. A pinch of Chinese five-spice (optional)

You can also use other vegetables like bell peppers or celery, but make sure everything is cut to the same size, which will ensure even stir-frying.

How to:

  1. Cook the rice with 1 tsp oil. While it is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Do not begin to cook them until the rice is done, as they will cook quickly.
  2. Put the cooked rice into a big plate and spread out to cool.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a hot pan. Keep the pan on a medium to high heat.
  4. When it is hot, add the white of the spring onions, and stir quickly. Add the rest of the vegetables and keep stirring until they are cooked. They should still be crunchy, so keep tasting them until they are cooked and then move to the next step.
  5. Add the soy sauce and stir. If you scrape the bottom of the pan gently as you do this, it will pick up the bits stuck to the bottom and they will add good flavor. Don’t scrape too hard–you don’t want any burnt bits.
  6. Add a pinch of five-spice and mix well.
  7. Add the rice and mix well, taking it off the heat as soon as possible.
  8. If you need more salt, add salt, not more soy sauce.

Enjoy! I hope you like it. It has a very simple flavor of soy sauce, with the vegetables in the foreground. The five-spice is a very subtle taste in the background.


Celery and Leek Risotto with Variations

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Happy new year!

I made this risotto for Christmas dinner this year, and it was light and lovely. The white wine is optional–I find it adds a sweet tang to the risotto, but if you don’t want to add it, it won’t hurt.

Risottos are a labor of love–they take about 25-30 minutes to cook, and you are stirring constantly, so don’t start this unless you have the time.

You need:

  1. Two medium-sized leeks, whites only, finely chopped.
  2. One medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
  3. Two sticks celery, finely chopped.
  4. 5 cups vegetable stock
  5. 1 cup white wine (a nice one you could drink while cooking)
  6. 1 cup arborio or other risotto rice
  7. 1 tbsp olive oil
  8. 1/4 cup grated aged gouda (I used Rembrandt–you could also use other cheese, like parmesan or romano)
  9. Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, or whatever salt you have), to taste
  10. White pepper (or black), to taste
  11. 2-3 sprigs of thyme

How to:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan or dutch oven. I used a saute pan, but make sure it’s a heavy-bottomed pan. Keep the heat on medium.
  2. Add the onions, leeks, and celery and sweat them–cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring frequently. Add the salt. Don’t caramelize them, but they should be near that point. They shouldn’t turn brown. If they are starting to stick to the bottom, lower the heat.
  3. Add the rice, stirring frequently until the rice turns translucent. This may take a few minutes. The middle of the rice will still be white.
  4. Add the white wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine is cooked off. If you are not using wine, simply skip this step.
  5. Add the thyme and stir gently.
  6. Add the stock, a cup at a time. Here’s how. Add a cup of stock. Cook, stirring often. When it is almost cooked out, add another cup of stock. Repeat. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked. It should be cooked al dente–still a little hard, but done through. Risotto typically has a creamy consistency.
  7. Add the pepper and stir gently.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, stir, remove the thyme, and serve hot.

I have frozen this risotto, but it lost something in texture and flavor when I reheated it.

Variations:

  1. Replace one leek with a small bulb of finely chopped fennel.
  2. Instead of the thyme, use rosemary or basil or fennel fronds.
  3. Replace the white wine with 2 tbsp 18-year balsamic vinegar + 2/3 cup water.
  4. Replace the white wine with red wine. Note: this will totally change the color of the risotto.
  5. Replace the white wine with a dark beer. Note: while wine adds a tangy aftertaste, beer can give it a hoppy, bitter aftertaste. Not for everyone.
  6. After adding cheese, add toasted almonds or crushed pecans.
  7. Top with panko breadcrumbs. Do not mix these in as they might (just might) get a wee bit soggy.

Rice Cooker Pulao

My mother keeps telling me to try this, so I experimented yesterday. Basically, you throw the vegetables in with the rice in the rice cooker and let it all cook together. It was pretty tasty, but one thing I did notice was that the vegetables were softer than I like. I started with frozen veggies, so that might have had something to do with it. All in all, though, time saver and very easy. I used frozen beans, cauliflower, and peas, and a fresh turnip and onion. I think I will try this with carrots and peas next time, and maybe potato and some other veggies. Maybe even dal.

You need: 1 cup rice of your choice; 2 cups mixed vegetables; 1 tbsp oil; 1 small onion; 1/2 tsp each cumin (jeera) and cayenne (lal mirch); 2 tsp garam masala; salt to taste

How to:

  1. Chop the onion finely.
  2. If you are using fresh vegetables, chop them into 1/4″ pieces. You can keep them together in a bowl.
  3. Heat the oil. Add the cumin, cayenne, and garam masala when the oil is hot, and stir.
  4. Add the onion. Stir.
  5. When the onion is cooked, add the rest of the vegetables. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the rice and stir well. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a rice cooker. Add enough water to cook the rice, plus 1 cup. Add salt and mix well.
  8. Cover and set to “cook”.
  9. Check to see if it is done. My pulao cooked before it switched to “warm”, and had started to catch on the bottom when I took it out.
  10. Eat hot.

Rice (Basic recipe)

It occurred to me that I should put a basic rice recipe on here. The thing is, the cooking time and water required varies greatly by variety of rice, so this is a little difficult. I’m going to put down how we cook it, and let you experiment. If you have rice:water proportions on your rice packet, follow those instead. Timings vary by microwave, so you have to figure out what works best for your microwave.

White Rice: For every 1 cup of rice, add 2.5 cups of water (2 if you are using a pressure cooker). Cook for 20-25 minutes on high in the microwave, or for two whistles in the cooker. If you are using basmati, cook for 10-12 minutes on high in the microwave.

Brown rice: For every 1 cup or rice, add 3 cups water. Cook for 35-45 minutes in the microwave until rice is done. Depending on your variety, brown rice tends to stay a little nutty and doesn’t cook as soft as white rice.

Lemon Rice (Elimichapazham Sadam)

Lemon rice is light and full of delicate flavors. I love to make it, because it’s so easy, and love to eat it, because it’s delicious. This recipe minimizes the oil used, so it isn’t greasy either.

You need: 1 cup white rice; 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi/manjapodi); 1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson/kadagu); 1 pinch asafoetida (hing, optional); 1 tbsp lemon juice; 1/4 cup chopped roasted cashews (kaju); salt to taste; 1 tbsp oil; 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (dhaniya/kothamali)

How to:

  1. Add the turmeric to the rice and mix well. Cook the rice. It will be yellow when done.
  2. Heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds.
  3. When they start to sputter, add the asafoetida and cashews.
  4. Stir and take off the heat.
  5. Mix into the rice.
  6. Add the lemon juice and cilantro and mix well.

Eat hot or cold.

Idli

Ingredients:

2 cups white rice
1 cup urad dal (small white dal)
1.5 tsp. salt

Preparation

1. Soak the rice and dal separately overnight or for at least four hours.
2. Drain the dal and grind it in a food processor until it is fluffy and light.
3. Drain the rice and grind it coarsely (it should look like sooji, or cream of wheat)
4. Mix them together with salt and beat well with a wooden spoon.
5. Leave in a warm dark place to rise. Make sure to put the batter in a large dish with high sides, and put a plate under it to catch any overflow.
6. If you are using a pressure cooker, grease the idli steamer bowls with a little oil. Fill them halfway with batter. Place in the cooker, add 1 cup water in the bottom, close without the weight and let them cook for fifteen minutes or until done.
7. To check if they are done, stick a knife in the middle of the idli. If it comes away clean, they are done.
8. If you are using a microwave idli steamer, grease the bowls and half-fill with batter. Follow the directions for your steamer.
9. If you do not have a steamer or pressure cooker, use small microwaveable bowls. Half-fill them with batter. Place them in a plate with a little water and zap them for five minutes, or until done.
10. Use a wet butter knife to scoop the idlis out of the bowls.

Eat with chutney or sambar. This makes about eight servings.

Yesterday rice mixup

rice-casserole.jpg

Sometimes you have rice left over. Sometimes there’s just three vegetables in the fridge, and none of them the same kind. What do you do? Rice mixup!

I tried this for dinner today, and it was pretty damn good. I love red chard.

You need: 1 cup cooked brown rice; 1 bunch red chard; 1 big onion; 1 red bell pepper; 2 small yellow squashes; oil; 1 bay leaf; and to taste: salt, crushed red pepper (chili flakes), oregano, thyme, rosemary.

How to: chop the vegetables. Heat oil, add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the pepper and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add the squash and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add everything else and stir well. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and mix the rice in with the vegetables.

Kadambam

Kadambam is a spicy rice dish cooked with vegetables. It has the consistency of porridge, sort of. The spicier it is, the better it tastes!

You need: 1 cup rice; 1/3 cup arhar (toor) dal; a pinch of turmeric; 1/2 tsp Tamcon or some other tamarind paste; 1 cup diced vegetables – carrots, green beans, onions, cauliflower, potatoes (1 smallish), zucchini, squash, peas, corn – no spinach or cabbage; 1.5 heaped tsp sambar powder (use pre-packaged, like MTR); 1/2 tsp mustard seeds; 2-3 curry leaves; 1 dried red chili; salt to taste; oil; ghee

How to:

Cook the rice and dal in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water, salt and a pinch of turmeric (4 whistles). If you’re not using a pressure cooker, cook till well-done (slightly mushy).

Dissolve ½ tsp tamcon in ½ cup hot water.

Boil the vegetables together. Drain. Return to heat and add the dissolved Tamcon. You could add a little more water if it gets too dry.

Add 1.5 heaped tsp sambar powder to the mix and boil for two minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a large pan, heat 3 tsp of oil and 1 tsp of ghee. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, and the red chili.

Add the dal and rice, salt, and the vegetables. Mix well and let it cook for two more minutes. Turn off heat.

Really quick stir-fry dinner for two

This was part of budget vegetarian, but I figured it needed its own post.

You need:
rice (about one cup uncooked), one packet stir-fry vegetables, red (or green or yellow) curry paste, salt, some oil, eggs if you eat them, a can of sliced water chestnuts and/or bamboo shoots, if you like them.
How to:
Set the rice to cook. A cup of rice usually takes 2.5 cups of water. But experiment till you get it right.
Heat a little oil in a big pan or wok. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of curry paste (this really depends on how spicy you like things; experiment). Stir it around for a minute. Add the vegetables. Stir till cooked as soft as you like them. Add the drained water chestnuts. Add salt to taste.
If you eat eggs: Clear a little space at the side of the wok, crack in a couple of eggs, and scramble. Mix it all up.
Add the cooked rice and stir in. Eat.

Optionally, don’t add either the eggs or rice, pour in a can of coconut milk, let it boil and simmer a bit, and eat with rice.