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Making Fried Rice (and Writing)

1 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on About Freelance Writing

My boyfriend showed me how to make fried rice last night. It was a wonderful batch, filled with turkey Spam, eggs, onions, peas and parsley.

In the process, I gained some insights about writing, too.

I have never made good fried rice. Even though I am Chinese-American, this is not a dish my parents ever cooked. My attempts at fried rice always had the right ingredients, but never the right consistency. It always came out too soggy or mushy.

My boyfriend, however, learned from friends who actually ran Chinese restaurants. His stuff always tastes like the real thing, even if the ingredients and seasonings constantly change.

He started with two pans. One was a frying pan, for scrambling the eggs. The other was a wok, for frying the rice. (Usually, you just use one pan, but since we had the space, we had two going at once.)

When the eggs were scrambled softly, he took them out and set them aside. Then, he put the chopped garlic, onions and turkey Spam in that pan to soften. (I come from a state where Spam is the national dish; you can always use a different meat, like roasted chicken or hot dogs.) Once the Spam was browned, we sprinkled it with frozen peas.

In the wok, my boyfriend poured oil and a bit of butter. I don’t think butter is a traditional Chinese ingredient either, but he said it would add flavor. When the butter had melted, we put in the batch of old leftover rice. (That’s another secret. You have to use old rice.)

As his lovely cooking assistant, I had the task of turning the rice and separating the clumps. I had to be careful not to break the grains, while mixing until each was coated with oil.

Then we folded the scrambled eggs into the rice, being careful not to crush the eggs. Once that was mixed, we slowly stirred the other ingredients in, little by little until it was all in. Finally, the seasonings and fresh parsley went in, and it was done.

As we folded in the last ingredients, I realized that my fried rice had never come out right, because I just threw everything in at once. I didn’t cook each ingredient separately, at different temperatures, for the right amount of times, before blending them all together.

Then I had a flash of insight. I realized that’s how I needed to approach my latest writing project – a big dish of about 225 pages with many ingredients, textures, tastes and seasonings. Now, I would cook each section separately, before folding them together slowly.


Follow Helen on Twitter @helenchang.

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