3 articles Articles posted in rice

nasi goreng (javanese fried rice)

Nasi goreng, which means “fried rice” in Indonesian or Malay, is one of the dishes I was excited about when I visited Malaysia last year. I know — how exciting could fried rice be, right? But when I looked at James Oseland’s recipe in Cradle of Flavor and saw that it involved belacan (shrimp paste), I immediately knew I needed to try it. Unfortunately, when I got to Malaysia, the versions I got turned out to be simple fried rice with soy sauce. Nevertheless, I still like the James Oseland recipe, which is the classic Javanese version he learned from the Indonesian family he stayed with when he visited as a teenager. I will take any excuse to add shrimp paste to  a dish. Plus, “nasi goreng” is just so much fun to say. :)

Nasi Goreng (Javanese Fried Rice)
Adapted from James Oseland’s Cradle of Flavor
Serves 2-3

The original recipe was a bit too sweet for me, so I modified it a little by toning down the palm sugar and kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce that is a bit like molasses) and then upping the shrimp paste. :) I used the clay-like dried belacan I brought back from Malaysia, but you can substitute store-bought jarred shrimp paste, which is wet and I think more salty, so you might add less and adjust to taste. I also am too lazy to roast the shrimp paste in foil over the open flame of a burner, so I just dry toast it in the frying pan before I add the rest of the ingredients.

Be sure to use day-old rice when making fried rice of any kind. Freshly cooked rice is too soft and will clump and stick when fried.

Flavoring paste:
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1-2 Thai bird chilies
2 tsp belacan (dried shrimp paste)

2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3 cups day-old jasmine rice (I used brown rice in the photo)
1 tsp kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
Shrimp chips (optional)
2-3 eggs (1 per serving)
Kosher salt

1. If using the shrimp chips, fry them now and set aside. (See directions here for frying shrimp chips. You can also make it in the microwave, but the texture tends to be chewier that way.)

2. Heat a dry skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Dry toast the belacan until aromatic and the edges are a bit brown. Remove from heat.

3. Chop the shallot, garlic, and chilies. Pound these, along with the palm sugar and toasted belacan, with a mortar and pestle to release the juices and flavors. Grind until the mixture forms a paste.

4. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the paste and stir until the paste separates from the oil. Allow the garlic and shallot to cook but not brown. Using your fingers, break up the day-old rice and add to the pan. Stir the rice so that it gets coated in the oil and flavoring paste. Be sure to break up any clumps still left in the rice.

5. Add the Indonesian sweet soy sauce and stir to combine. Taste and add salt if needed.

6. In another skillet, fry each egg sunny side up until the white is set but the yolk is still a bit runny. (The original recipe calls for the yolk to be set too, but I prefer it runny.)

7. To plate, fill rice bowls with the rice, press to set, and then overturn the bowl onto a plate. Remove the bowl. Place a shrimp chip and a fried egg alongside the rice. If you like, you can also serve slices of cucumber and tomato with the rice.

steamed rice noodle sheets (banh uot)

Some people have childhood memories of their moms making pancakes on weekend mornings. My sister and I have memories of our mom making banh uot or Vietnamese steamed rice noodle sheets.

When I visited Vietnam last year, I got to watch the ladies at the markets making these fresh. It’s a painstaking process that involves pouring rice flour batter in crepe-like fashion over a steamer that resembles a drum. And then you use a chopstick to carefully lift the delicate sheet off.

Now, my mom never made rice noodle sheets from scratch. She bought them premade, rolled up in a bundle from the store. But my sister and I were delegated the task of separating the individual sheets from the bundle and tearing them into smaller pieces. It was perhaps almost as painstaking a process. But it also meant we were all in the kitchen making breakfast together.

A little while back, my husband and I took a short roadtrip to Philly and discovered a huge Vietnamese supermarket there, where I found fresh rice noodle sheets. I couldn’t resist getting some, bringing it back with us, and making our own Sunday morning breakfast of banh uot.

Steamed Rice Noodle Sheets (banh uot)
Serves 2-3

1 12- to 14-oz package of rice noodle sheets
scallion oil
1/4 steamed pork roll (cha lua, also known as Vietnamese ham)
bean sprouts
1/4 cucumber, julienned
Vietnamese herbs, such as mint, Vietnamese coriander, red perilla, etc., cut into a chiffonade
fried shallots
nuoc cham sauce

1. Separate the rice noodle sheets and tear into pieces about the size of your palm.

2. Divide the rice noodle sheets into individual-size servings and set on plates. Drizzle a bit of scallion oil over each plate. Heat each plate in the microwave for about a minute. (My mother always used the microwave, but you could also steam it in a bamboo steamer or a wok.)

2. Cut the steamed pork roll into thin slices. Lay over the rice noodle sheets.

3. Top the rice noodle sheets and sliced pork roll with a handful of beansprouts, julienned cucumber, chiffonaded Vietnamese herbs, and a sprinkling of fried shallots. Serve with nuoc cham dressing.

mango sticky rice

I’m preparing for another trip to Asia this summer, and one of the places I hope to visit is Malaysia. When I mentioned this to my mom, she immediately told me I have to eat mango sticky rice there. “It’s so fragrant.” she said. “Now I really want some.” (This is how conversations in my family go.)

Mango sticky rice is not something I grew up eating. But in Vietnam, my parents often ate foods from surrounding countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Even though mango sticky rice is actually Thai, my mom has somehow come to associate it with Malaysia, which goes to show some of the culinary interchange in that region. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to Southeast Asia, loving the flavors from that area that make me think of home.

So when I came upon mango sticky rice at an Asian street fair in DC a few weeks ago, I wanted to attempt making it myself. Traditionally this dish is made by steaming the rice. I don’t have a bamboo steamer, so I simply made this in my rice cooker. I realized later I might be able to steam it in my pasta pot, lined with a piece of cheesecloth, so I gave that a try. But I found that method made the rice more grainy, less glutinous, less sticky. So I actually prefer the rice cooker, which yields rice so sticky that, as I was mixing in coconut milk, it almost looked like I was making rice krispy treats with melted marshmallow. The fragrant aroma of coconut milk and the fresh taste of ripe, nectar-sweet mango in this dish evoke for me the cool tropical flavors of Southeast Asia.

Mango Sticky Rice
Serves 6
Adapted from Real Thai Recipes

3 cups of raw glutinous rice (also called sweet rice or sticky rice)
3 cups of coconut milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds, salted fried mung beans, or toasted shredded coconut (optional)
3 ripe mangoes, preferably yellow Champagne mangoes

1 1/2 cup of coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp corn starch

1. Soak the sticky rice in water overnight. If using a rice cooker, soak the rice in the amount of water you intend to cook it in (as indicated for sticky rice on the rice cooker), as you will not be able to tell how much water has been absorbed overnight.

2. Cook the rice in the rice cooker. Meanwhile, heat 3 cups of coconut milk in a saucepan with the salt and sugar. Stir over low heat until dissolved. Set aside.

3. To prepare the sauce, heat the 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk in another small saucepan with the salt and sugar. Stir over low heat until dissolved. Mix the cornstarch with a little bit of water and stir until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the coconut milk mixture in the saucepan, stirring until it begins to thicken. Set aside.

4. When the rice is cooked, spread it in a shallow bowl or pan and slowly add the first coconut milk mixture about 1/4 cup at a time, each time stirring well to fully incorporate the liquid. I used a flat rice paddle and kept folding and spreading the rice out. I like my sticky rice moist, so I keep adding the coconut milk mixture until just before the rice stops absorbing any more liquid. Make sure there are no pools of coconut milk in the rice, though. The liquid should be fully absorbed. Cover and let the rice sit for about 10-15 minutes to keep absorbing the coconut milk.

5. Peel the mangoes and then slice off two sides, leaving the pit in the middle. You should have two palm-sized sides now. Take each side and slice into thick strips. Arrange on a plate and spoon an equal amount of sticky rice next to it. Top the rice with the sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, fried mung beans, or toasted shredded coconut.