Yesterday’s post began a series which has been in the works – or at least in my head – for a long time, but hadn’t been realised until now: a series of pictures of random things T and I eat when the story of lunch goes something like this: wake up with a headache, mop around slurping coffee a while, realize it’s 13:30 and there is hungry squeaking emanating from T’s office as he types, and panic.
Or well, not panic precisely, but brainstorm in a rush about what can be cooked and fed to hungry academic in less than 30 minutes flat. So, to continue the story from yesterday, not having a single box of food in freezer that could be reheated, I run to pantry and fridge.
Things found in pantry without too much searching:
- Box of sushi (round-grain Japanese) rice
- Bottle of Ajipon citrus-flavored soy sauce (one of my favorite-ever ingredients to keep on hand whenever I can).
Things found in fridge:
- A red chili pepper
- Bag of slightly-sad scallions (salad onions)
- Bag of prewashed baby spinach leaves
- A pack of Chinese cured sausages that I’d bought a week or so ago for making Singapore noodles ‘sometime soon’. There’s more than enough sausages in there to make noodles five times over so grabbing two won’t ruin future noodle plans.
What does this make? It makes a very vaguely-Japanese-style fried rice. No, I do not have a recipe. What I did is remember the lovely and very simple Japanese fried rice I used to eat at (the now sadly closed) Tachibana in Saint Louis years ago, and thought that I have more than enough here to approximate it.
The how: (this makes about 3 portions – two got eaten, third got boxed and stuffed into freezer)
- Rinse the rice a few times and cook according to package directions (in my case, 250g of washed and drained rice into 330ml of cold water, bring to boil, simmer 10 min under lid, turn heat off and let stand 10-20 minutes). Except, as soon as rice is boiling and you are covering it with a lid, put 2 links of Chinese sausage on top of the rice. Cover the rice with lid and forget the sausages were there – cook as normal.
- In meantime, wash and dry scallions and chili. Seed the chili and slice it into thin crosswise strips. Trim and slice scallions thinly, all parts included (other than the trimmed-off roots and sad ends of green parts, obviously).
- Turn heat off under rice pot and run to take a shower while it sits for 10 minutes. Towel self off and take the sausages that have steamed and plumped up out of the pot. (Shower is optional but I had the time).
- Heat a tiny drop of oil in a large pan (nonstick is great here) on medium-high heat.
- Slice sausages thinly and toss them into the oil. Chinese-style sausage is very fatty and more fat will render out of them as they cook. Saute for a few minutes till the sausage slices begin to look a little golden.
- Toss in chili and scallions and stir-fry a few seconds to a minute.
- Dump the rice in and mix it all thoroughly, pressing any lumps of rice with a spatula to separate the grains.
- Toss in a large double handful of baby spinach leaves and fold rice around them to wilt.
- Grab your bottle of Ajipon and sprinkle a little bit of it (don’t overdo this) into the pan. Turn heat off, and mix the fried rice a little bit to combine with sauce.
- Scoop into bowls, grab some chopsticks, and eat!
So, here’s what an emergency fried rice looks like. And while I give the ingredients that I have used above, they are by no means a recipe. Take this as a guideline and use whatever you have in the fridge or freezer. Cook other veg a touch longer than a few seconds, if using shredded chicken or such, add a bit more oil, experiment. Tachibana used to have some tiny green peas and sometimes matchsticked carrots and such in their rice, they’d go great with this too. Ajipon is a lovely, very light and citrusy soy sauce that you can find at most Asian shops, but if I hadn’t had it, a splash of Kikkoman would certainly have worked.
Rice was cooked fresh for this, but cold rice from the fridge obviously works as well. And while long-grain rice such as used in Chinese-style fried rice dishes doesn’t take well to being fried while still fresh and warm, Japanese short-grain rice is more forgiving and thus friendlier in mini-lunch-emergencies such as today.