in line with what’s generally true of humans, I am a creature of habit, and like to stay within my comfort zone in my daily routine, my job and my cooking. I don’t like surprises, unforeseen events and disruptions, and I hate it when things don’t go my way.
Occasionally, however, I grow tired of my usual activities, I get bored with my food and thoughts, and I can’t stand the image of myself in the mirror. Over the past few days, I have been wallowing in exactly such a morass of exasperation, that has manifested itself in irritability, oversleeping, and cooking one of the most unusual dishes of my cooking experience.
The dish – fried rice, allegedly in the Asian style, is actually quite innocuous, but it was nonetheless unusual for me, as it combined frying – a technique I habitually avoid – alongside unconventional – for me – ingredients such as shrimp, anchovies and Bulgarian salted and dried fish, known as chiroz. If you’ve been following my other recipe entries, you’ll know that I am generally a no frills grilled-meat-and-salad, or a simple-pulse-dish type.
The starting point of my fried rice experience was a recipe in a Bulgarian economic magazine, mind you, for Malaysian fried rice, which featured ingredients that struck me as suspicious and non-genuine. These were peas, corn kernels, coconut flakes, lemon juice and frying in sesame oil, which is cold-pressed and thus, heavily unsuitable for frying. I consulted a very knowledgeable native Malaysian party, who helped me sort out the ingredients, alongside providing valuable cooking and general background tips. So, loosely based on this input, and adding a lot from myself, I produced a dish that does not hold any claims for authenticity, and featured the following ingredients:
- Bulgarian salted and dried fish, or chiroz. I used салака, or salaka, which is a herring-type fish native to the Baltic Sea. I bought only 100 g, so I complemented with an 80g jar of anchovies, which I washed, so as to clean from the oil in which they were marinaded. The chiroz has to be cleaned from bones and the backbone, which may be a bit tiresome to do. If very dry, it has to be soaked in water beforehand. I know workers in restaurant kitchens use surgical tweezers to extract the thread-like bones, as they are so slippery. The cleaned chiroz looked like this:
- Other ingredients – shrimp, chili paste, soy sauce, white pepper, onions, garlic, frying oil (I used sunflower), long-grain rice, and 2 eggs. Other vegetables were carrots and one courgette. I realise the courgette may be quite scandalous an ingredient, hardly better than the omitted coconut flakes. 🙂
To prepare, I cut carrots and courgette, mixed with pressed garlic and marinaded overnight in soy sauce, a bit of rice vinegar, white pepper and chili paste. I also grated some ginger.
I boiled 1.5 cups of Thai rice and put it in the fridge for the night, in an effort to make it dryer before the high-heat frying.
Before starting the cooking, I mashed several shrimp and all anchovies together with some garlic. I also beat the eggs as for an omelette, together with some soy sauce. Next time I will just add the egg drop by drop in the cooked dish, as beating it made it cakey, which I think is not what one aims to achieve.
I baked the eggs in a pan without oil and cut them in thin strips when they had set.
I heated the oil until slightly smoking, added onions, the marinaded vegetables, the anchovy-and shrimp paste and the chiroz, and fried for a while. Then I removed from pan, wiped clean, put more oil, heated until slightly smoking, and fried rice. Then I mixed sauce with rice and added the eggs. Right before removing from the heat, I should have added chopped green onion leaves for colour contrast, but in the haste I forgot. I did not forget to add a splash of sesame oil just before serving though.
Below is the final result. It was hot and tasted very noticeably of fish and soy sauce. The eggs were detectable too, and the carrots were a bit crunchy, which I liked. Hotter and darker would have been even better perhaps, but I’ll do that next time. I still have a lot of rice and chili paste to use up. 🙂
I couldn’t find small round chili peppers to soak in soy sauce as an aside, so I used my faithful dried chushkas, which are a bit hot too.
I am motivated to get this right, so there will definitely be a second round of fried rice cooking. The small amount, which remained uneaten at lunch, I gave to my mom, and she liked it but said it was very hot. Obviously our standards for hotness differ. 🙂
After eating so much rice, I felt like the poor boa to the left,
PS. A song for you. I heard this on the radio while preparing the vegetables late the night before. Hadn’t heard that song for a while, so it was a pleasure.