A great experience was had the other night. (As I write this on Monday, it happened last night.) With less than 2 weeks in America, our Chinese student was convinced she could make fried rice for dinner for us. We were not sure if the ingredients from Kroger would give her enough spice to be pleased with her creation. (There was minimum Asian spice options at Sprouts, and the local Asian market is still on our “to do” list.) We had a few unknowns. Despite these, we/she persevered!
She decided to make two separate batches of fried rice. Our jambalaya from earlier in the week convinced her smoked sausage would be an excellent ingredient in whatever she would attempt to create. This doesn’t rule out shrimp-fried rice, but it was not to be created this evening. Her ingredients and any applicable back story:
- Smoked sausage: (listed above) We love this stuff! When you buy the 3 lb package at Sam’s, it is always good to have multiple ways to use it.
- Rice: At home in China, her parents have a rice maker. She was a little skeptical I could make adequate rice in a pan w/ a lid on the stove. Fortunately, the goal was achieved. (The fact we misjudged the amount of rice necessary was a very small point!)
- Celery: She did not precook this at all. She probably only included a couple of stalks for both of the varieties.
- Carrots: Probably only 10 or so carrot nubs (what I call the small little carrots that are demanded by all children when they pack their lunches. 😉 She boiled them for a little while before cutting them into little pieces.
- Eggs: Prior to starting the frying process, a couple eggs were cooked and readied to be dumped into the fried rice. (So, they were fried before being fried.)
- Green onions: Cut and in a separate bowl. These were added at the end. Earlier in the week, after having a bit of Mexican food, she had mentioned using cilantro in the fried rice. Having established a baseline rice, we can now consider creating some mutations.
- Soy sauce: Not much, but the garden variety of stuff is probably fine.
- Lee Kum Kee Chile Garlic Sauce: This stuff added great flavor, although I am not sure if its spiciness may have created some chaos once it entered my body. Very flavorful, but…..???
- Ketchup: We just used standard Heinz. It probably amounted to a couple of tablespoons. She told a story of how for one week in China all she ate for all of her meals was ketchup fried rice. (I believe there was also some protein [shrimp or sausage?] with it.) When her mother found out, she scolded her.
- Lee Kum Kee Oyster Flavored Sauce: This sauce/seasoning did not go in the ketchup flavored fried rice. It may have just been her choice.
- Wok/pan: She claimed my wok was too big. So, we used our indoor pan-not the one claiming to be a non-stick.
- Heat source: When I got my wok, I got a outdoor burner to use it on. It can easily get to over 400 degrees if necessary.
- Good meal: Both types of rice were very good. The ketchup version was good, but I probably enjoyed the other version better. It had a little more heat and flavor. And, even though I have confirmed with our Chinese student that they have ketchup in her refrigerator at home, it still seems sooooo American. Something without ketchup is certainly more exotic and interesting.
- Warmups for school lunches: The next day, all remaining rice ended up in somebodies lunch. The little plastic containers were all packed full, and stowed away until the appropriate school lunch time arrived. To my knowledge, all who took the rice ate it cold the next day.
Since having this meal, we have discussed what other items we might make fried rice with. We had some pork the other night that was being considered for fried rice, but it ended up in pork and noodles. (We had never made pork and noodles before, but we were assured by our local fried rice consultant it was the better choice.) However, if we did the fried rice w/ pork, she thought the addition of spinach might be a good touch. When she first arrived, her often hear comment was, “Chinese….we eat everything.” And, I suppose if you have the capacity to eat everything, you should know how to accompany it. As a corollary to “eating everything”, there is “wasting nothing”. I am sure if we didn’t have spinach available, she would have come up with something else to throw into the wok w/ the rice and pork. There will likely be a seafood, beef and/or chicken fried rice before the final votes are cast on “best” fried rice.
As with all of the many experiences the exchange students have provided, we just sit back and watch and lend a hand when asked. To come this far from their family, they have to have a spirit of independence. It only seems logical we try and encourage their independence. Since we are not native to their countries, anything they cook us is going to be judged very much in their favor. Although we may have ideas on Chinese or Korean food, our daily interaction with them and how and what they eat gives us a much fuller picture of what life is like around their dinner tables when at home. Our palates can only become richer from the experience! Our teenage daughters cannot help but be more open to foods from other cultures. (In the past, there have been occasional reservations.) And, our refrigerator and I (official member of the leftover police and the excessive plastic container detectors) are grateful for other options as we effectively reuse our food overages in creative and tongue-pleasing ways!