I love food! I guess that’s quite obvious by now! But seriously, I do enjoy a variety of cuisine – sambols and rotis from my homeland, Sri Lanka, pasta dishes characteristic of Italy, slow rendered duck breast and macarons from France, tacos and fajitas from south of the border, curries and rice dishes from India, Pakistan, China, Thailand….And the list goes on!
Each cuisine is unique and unparalleled with incredible flavor combinations, textures, colors and taste! I have a bit of a special fondness for Thai dishes – perhaps it’s the coconut milk and ample use of green chili. So, I had this craving for a yummy Thai fried rice, but without having to go for takeout.
I was pretty sure I had the basic ingredients handy – basil, fish sauce, palm sugar, rice, eggs and a medley of vegetables. A quick look through the refrigerator and pantry confirmed my hunch! So, after perusing through a few recipes for inspiration, I decided to use my own pseudo blend of Thai seasonings! I figured even it didn’t taste Thai at all, it will still be pretty darn good. And good it was! In fact, it was probably better than good. My family loved it and both my kids (one who hates fish sauce and the other who has a pretty discerning taste for fried rice) actually verbally acknowledged that the rice was good. That, in my books, is a pretty big win!
This rice is especially good, made with a day old rice kept in the refrigerator. If you are like me and have a freshly cooked batch, just spread 2 cups of the cooked rice on a plate and chill till you prepare the ingredients. It worked fine. I think day-old rice just helps to keep the kernels separate – like in restaurants.
Easy Basil Fried Rice
2 cups cooked rice, preferably a day old kept overnight in the refrigerator
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups of chopped vegetables of your choice (I used carrots, onions, savoy cabbage and celery)
1/4 cup roughly chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ketchup (I used tomato sauce)
1 tablespoon sugar (I used palm sugar)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Sprinkling of crushed red peppers, optional
1. In a small bowl, combine all the seasoning ingredients. Set aside.
2. Heat a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Add the oil and saute the vegetables for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the rice and seasoning mix. Toss to mix thoroughly. Spread the rice and vegetables across the pan to allow them “fry” a bit more” – another 3 minutes or so.
4. Push the rice and vegetables to the edge of the pan, creating a well in the center for the eggs.
5. Lightly beat the eggs and pour in the center of the pan. Let set and scramble. Mix the egg with the rice and vegetables.
6. Remove from heat and serve with meat or vegetable stir fry and/or an Asian cucumber salad.
There are myriads of recipes for fried rice. I personally love fried rice of any type or ethnic origin. This particular recipe is a blend of Indian and Sri Lankan flavors and textures.
Sri Lankan recipes typically will call for pandan (rampe) leaf which is not easily found in grocery stores in the US (although you can find them quite easily in Ontario, Canada). They impart a very distinct flavor to the rice and meat dishes. In the absence of pandan, I used mint leaves in this recipe, making it more Indian. In addition, Sri Lankan version is sometimes topped with bread cubes sautéed in clarified butter (aka ghee). They add a nice chewy texture and a unique flavor to the rice! When I was a child, I remember hunting for these bread cubes in my rice!
This is a wholesome vegetarian dish that could be served with Indian/Sri Lankan curries or a simple yogurt/cucumber relish or just plain yogurt. It is pretty straightforward to prepare – the most involved step is making the spice mixture. If you are crunched for time, you can easily use frozen vegetables in place of fresh (like I did in this recipe) without sacrificing the flavor.
I hope you give this a try!
South-East Asian Style Vegetable Fried Rice
2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
1 teaspoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced thick
2 Thai green chili pepper
3 cloves of garlic, cut up
1/2 inch piece of ginger, cut up
2 large tomatoes, cut up
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced thin
2″ long cinnamon stick
2-3 cardamom pods, lightly bruised (if available)
1/2 bag (8 oz) frozen mixed vegetables (carrot, green beans and peas or something similar)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Madras-style curry powder, optional
Salt to taste
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped up
2 slices of bread, cut in cubes and pan toasted in butter
1. Begin by cooking the rice according to directions.
2. While the rice is cooking, heat a teaspoon of oil in a shallow frying pan and saute thickly sliced onion, chili, garlic and ginger. When the onion begins to get golden, add the tomatoes and mint leaves. Saute for few more minutes and remove from heat.
3. Using a hand blender or food processor, grind the above till smooth. Set aside.
4. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add butter and tablespoon of oil.
5. Add the thinly sliced onions and saute till golden. Add cinnamon, cardamom and clove.
6. After a few seconds, add the frozen vegetables and turmeric powder and saute till the vegetable are cooked through and the carrot looks slightly caramelized.
7. Stir in the curry powder, ground spice mixture and salt to taste.
8. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so till the mixture is cooked through and the oil starts to separate along the edges.
9. Mix in the cooked rice along with fresh mint.
10. Top with bread cubes and serve with a curry of your choice, boiled egg or yogurt (or a combination of all!).