Jean-George’s NYT Fried Rice Creation: Not All That Creative
I was somewhat bemused when I read Mark Bittman’s homage to Jean-George Vongerichten’s recipe for fried rice in the New York Times. “I was never more impressed than when he created his version of fried rice, topped with crisp ginger and a fried egg,” Bittman writes sycophantically. It’s not that I take issue with the fact – and indeed it is a fact – that Vongerichten is a culinary wizard with an enviable propensity to knock up delicious fare. But what I do find egregious is the assertion that Vongerichten created a dish that is a longstanding favorite in Southeast Asia. Of course I’m referring to Nasi Goreng. This Malaysian and Indonesian staple, which translates as “fried rice” in native speak, is a concoction of rice wok-fried with chili, garlic, onions and minced vegetables all tossed with a sweet soy sauce called kicap manis and served with an oozy, sunny side-up fried egg perched on the top. To spruce up this homely dish locals add diced chicken and/or shrimp. And for a truly sumptuous take it is served with a couple of sticks of grilled skewered meat - satay- and prawn crackers. One of the few Asian dishes that straddles the line between street fare and home-cooking, Nasi Goreng features in lunch boxes, picnic baskets and is a perennial go-to for a late night supper. Even Vongerichten’s mode of presenting his dish, carefully molding the fragrant grains in a high mound has been flagrantly poached from us Asians, sans attribution. I’m all for sharing and proliferating my culinary heritage (in the event you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a thoroughbred Malaysian), but please Mr Vongerichten, how about a little a respect amongst foodies. Credit where credit’s due is all I’m saying.
My Nasi Goreng Recipe
Sambal olek is a concentrated chili paste with a fiery kick. It is often used to enliven Indonesian dishes such as this punchy meat and vegetable filled fried rice and can be increased or reduced in quantity depending on how much heat you like. If you have an adventurous palate and forgiving neighbors add a teaspoon of shrimp paste (available from Asian grocery stores) with the sambal olek. It may emit the most odiferous of whiffs but, trust me, it will imbue the dish with a sublime savory depth.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tbsp sambal olek or chilli sauce
1 large chicken breast, cut into small dice
6 1/2 oz. uncooked shrimp, chopped
3 1/2 oz. finely grated carrot,
6 1/2 oz. tinned sweetcorn, well drained
3 1/2 oz. trimmed green beans, finely chopped
1 lb. cooked and cooled basmati or jasmine rice
1 tbsp kicap manis or soy sauce combined with a 1/4 tsp sugar
4 large eggs
1. Heat 2tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan, add the onion when hot and cook for about 2 minutes until softened and golden, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the sambal olek or chili sauce, cook for 1 minute before adding the chicken pieces. Cook over a high heat for about 2 minutes then add the prawns. Cook until the prawns are opaque and just cooked through.
2. Throw in the carrots, sweetcorn and green beans and cook for about 2 minutes until the beans are cooked but still crunchy.
3. Add the rice to the wok or pan and mix. Pour over the soy sauce and stir until the rice is piping hot. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Heat a large, frying pan with the remaining oil and fry the eggs, two at a time, until the edges are golden and crisp but the yolks still runny. Serve the rice in mounds on four plates, each topped with a fried egg.