Cooking Experiences

Stir fried rice: A great dish in a city devoid of good Chinese takeaways!

Leeds foodies are lucky people! There are so many great places to eat out, a great market to get produce from and even our own excellent micro brewers. Simply put, Leeds is a great city for eating. We also have numerous cuisines well-covered, such as Indian, Persian, and Thai. Chinese restaurants in Leeds are also not hard to come by and some of them are pretty damn good.

Sadly, though, the luck we have and the joy we derive from all the great foodie treats comes to an end when you consider our local Chinese food takeaways in Leeds.

For this very reason, I have spent years trying to perfect one of my favourite dishes: special stir fried rice.

While I accept the fact that ‘special’ fried rice is not exactly particularly traditional, it is a westernised dish that really packs a flavour punch if done well and one that can act as a meal on its own without the need for a ‘saucy’ dish like black bean to accompany it.

My stir fried rice is based on the key tenants of soy sauce style Chinese food: ginger, garlic and soy sauce! Of course, there’s also a fair amount of chilli thrown in (bird’s eye being the preference). It is my opinion that the best basis for the dish is a good amount of sesame seed oil put in a wok that is already steaming hot, since the amount of time food spends in the wok should be as short as possible (unless you are looking to create a more sauce-orientated dish).

With the oil heated properly and the wok nice and hot, the best thing to do is to get your eggs in the pan and get them scrambled nice and quickly. For anyone experienced in making Chinese food, the next steps should be nice and quick but require some solid preparation. So, make sure that you have chopped your veg, meat and have your spices to hand ready for throwing in the wok so you can keep the food moving.

What you choose to put in the rice is up to you but I like to go for prawns (tiger if the budget permits!) as well as peas (frozen will do!) and then mange tout, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, lots of chillis and finally your usual mix of red onions and spices, with spring onion chucked in at the last moment! You could also add any meat you like, such as chicken or pork, although I usually don’t bother.

I have a particular belief that Chinese five spice can make the real difference with this dish. Also, one last point to consider: when cooking the rice before putting it in the wok, make sure you leave it with a nice bit of bite.

The dish takes less than five minutes to cook after preparation, and the joy of this is how much flavour you get from a meal that is so simple to make and so filling when you eat it! Add a little soy sauce, play around with the spice level and the ingredients you feel like throwing in and you really can find a dish you love, all for a much lower cost than the wet, nasty takeout that the likes of Fortune Cookie and Charlie Chan’s in Leeds seem to provide…

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