Sometimes, you just feel Asian….

May 10, 2013

Similar to above illustration. Fried rice looks like fried rice.

Similar to above illustration. Fried rice looks like fried rice.

I don’t have photos of last night’s dinner. It was one of those that had a lot of prep work but the dishes mostly came together at the last minute, and then it was time to eat, not take pictures. Sorry. It was good, and it was relatively attractive, too.

I’d invited a couple of friends, one of whom is engaged in a huge renovation/construction/business opening project at the same time as the other is preparing to stage a 10-day music festival (Oh! to be young again and have that kind of energy!) over for dinner. I’d thought about German food, as they’re both beer connoisseurs, but it had gotten warm, and, well, I hadn’t had any good Asian food in a while. So I hit three countries with a dinner that featured okonomiyaki, fried rice and bahn mi lettuce wraps, and added a side of steamed snow peas in sesame sauce, for good measure, before finishing up by a return to the South with strawberry shortcake.

The bahn mi is a recipe I pulled from the New York Times a couple of years ago; it can be found here. It’s not complex, it’s quite easy and quick to make, and it’s awfully damn good. (I may have gone a tad overboard on the fish sauce, or it may be that my fish sauce is aged to the point it’s quite potent…) I replaced the daikon with regular radishes, and sliced the whole concoction of veggies in the food processor. A sprinkle with rice vinegar and sugar took care of them. I opted to use lettuce leaves instead of bread because (a) I had them, and (b) if I used them, I could get them out of my sadly overcrowded fridge. I picked up cilantro at the grocery, and harvested mint from the back yard, to garnish, and set out a bowl of lime wedges. Worked.

They require leaning over one’s plate to eat, as they have a tendency to tear (cabbage leaves might perhaps have been better, but I’d shredded all those up for the okonomiyaki). But they certainly leave you less stuffed than the baguettes. And they leave room for another carb, namely the fried rice.

I will always be grateful to Mark Bittman, whose How To Cook Everything enlightened me as to how to make good fried rice. Bittman advises to make the rice a couple of days early and let it dry out in the fridge to make proper fried rice, vs. a gelatinous mass. I didn’t have that luxury. So I took brown rice, rinsed it thoroughly, chilled it uncovered for four hours or so, and it worked well enough. Could’ve been a bit more dried out, but it worked. So bear in mind to rinse the rice well if you’re compressing the time. I stuck with veggie fried rice, as I had protein in the bahn mi and the okonomiyaki. I used the standard onions, carrots and English peas, and added the kernels from an ear of corn, then threw in two eggs. Good stuff. Recipe, really more of a technique, is in my recipe index, or the original Bittman, here.

The okonomiyaki are simple, delicious little crunchy pancakes, bursting with cabbage and scallions and shrimp. I ran across the recipe on Food 52, which is a great site for wonderful, wonderful recipes, and have made them a dozen times since. They’re easy, quick, healthy, tasty, cheap. What more do you want? Recipe here. A tip — Kroger, and I suppose most other groceries, has little four-ounce bags of “salad shrimp,” cooked and peeled baby shrimp, that are a perfect portion for this. And that sriracha mayo? Sweet Baby Jesus!

The snow peas I just steamed, tossed with some sesame oil and mirin, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Hard to beat. The strawberry shortcake was heavy on berries, short on the cake, with creme fraiche. My guests brought two bottles of a most excellent Villa Pozzi Sicilian pinot grigio, which we pretty much decimated. Between that and an episode of vertigo brought on by clogged sinuses, I was pretty much worse for the wear by the time I wended my way to bed.


One Response to “Sometimes, you just feel Asian….”

  1. cleavelin Says:

    According to my sources, fried rice originated as a way to use leftover rice. Those same sources say that you have to let the rice rest in the fridge at least overnight. When I do it, I cook the rice sometime early the afternoon before I’m planning to make the fried rice, and let it rest somewhere between 24-28 hours. I’m not organized enough to have the rice cooked a couple days before I plan to make fried rice. 😉

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