23 February 2011

Nasi Goreng - the power of a food memory.

Some twenty five years ago, my then boyfriend and I went to a baby's christening.  The baby's parents, Michael & Vida (they ran the Singapura Restaurant in Fulham), hailed from China and Singapore respectively and this was no ordinary christening.  Regrettably, owing to one of my horses being poorly at the time and requiring veterinary intervention, we missed a large part of the Christening itself but managed to get back in time for the reception afterwards.
This was a very good thing, as Vida's Mum was in the kitchen of the hired Hall, making Nasi Goreng (amongst other things) for all the guests.  Huge platters kept appearing, with piles of steaming rice, chicken and prawns on board - which tasted divine.

Now, I knew I liked Nasi Goreng, as because my father was in the Royal Engineers we had lived abroad quite a bit during my childhood.  I was born in Malaysia and we spent intervals in Germany.  I'm not sure about experiencing Nasi Goreng as a baby in Malaysia (I doubt it, somehow!), but my parents (or my Dad, to be specific) obviously enjoyed it because I recall that when we were in Germany, we would often buy a big tin of Nasi Goreng from the Naafi.  I can very definitely remember eating that and liking it a lot.

That flavour - of Nasi Goreng (or Fried Rice) - has stayed with me down the years.

I can remember getting very excited some years ago when Sainsbury's started stocking small packs of Nasi Goreng seasoning, which contained instructions on making Nasi Goreng.  I tried it out, but the flavour wasn't quite how I remembered Vida's Mum's Nasi Goreng tasting, so it wasn't quite right.

Since then, I've tried a recipe from the BBC Good Food website - and it's the first recipe that's ever let me down in a big way, as it was not only horrible, but didn't taste in the slightest bit right.

That has to have been some three or four years ago.

So there I was, on Monday evening, trying to think of something relatively easy that I could make on Tuesday evening (following a busy day).  I've described how, at moments like this, I examine how I'm feeling and what I would really like to eat - and there, out of the gloom, came the answer "Nasi Goreng".  As ever, my mouth watered at the very idea.

It occurred to me that I had some chicken left from the weekend's roast, which if I added a bag of prawns to, would do fine.  Next, I needed an authentic recipe so turned to the internet.  There are plenty of recipes out there, but everything is slightly different, but intrinsically the same.  Having read them all, I decided that none of them were right but the thought had occurred to me that maybe I'd be better off following my memory of the flavours.  After all, I knew what I didn't want - a very highly flavoured, saucy, mixture - and I knew the flavours I did want - heat, sweetness, savouriness, but in a dry rice mix.  I had some Mirrin (sweet Japanese rice wine) in the cupboard, along with Soy sauce and Fish sauce.  I had chicken and could get prawns.  I could get some spring onions, I had ginger and coriander .... the thought had formulated into a plan.

The recipe is below and if this isn't Nasi Goreng, then Vida's Mum must have been making something else!

24.05.2013 : I've cooked this Nasi Goreng recipe a number of times since the first go - but this time of trying made me realise how much better I am getting, at handling a blisteringly hot wok.  I very definitely cooked this attempt far more proficiently - which basically means far quicker - than ever before and it showed.  The flavours were beautifully balanced, the chicken didn't dominate and the prawns were still pinkly munchy.  Having been given the idea by my Facebook friend Viv Braznell, I put a few fresh lime wedges on the side, as they do in Thailand.  It was a bit of a departure from the Chinese/Singpore tradition, but is a wonderful addition - so thanks, Viv!  Good gracious, but I love this dish!


Ingredients :

2-300g Basmati rice, cooked and cooled
2 eggs, lightly whipped
salt & pepper
3 individual knobs of butter
1 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut thinly on the diagonal
a bunch (6 or 7) of spring onions , cleaned and chopped
a medium hot red chilli, stalk removed and chopped - seeds are optional
2 fat cloves of garlic, grated
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, grated
4 chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
a handful of frozen peas
fresh coriander, chopped, to taste
3 heaped tsp of red Thai curry paste
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1-2 tbsp mirrin (Japanese Rice Wine)
300g cooked and peeled prawns, drained but not rinsed.

Method :

1.  Cook the basmati rice according to the instructions on the packet, but stop the cooking a fraction before it is done, leaving a slight bite in the rice.  Drain it well and spread it out onto a plate (or two) to cool.  Fork the rice over from time to time to keep it fluffy.  Don't use a spoon, as this will encourage the grains to break and clump together.

2.  Empty the prawns into a colander and leave to drain.

3.  Using a deep frying pan or wok, melt one of the knobs of butter and add half the seasoned egg mixture.  Roll the pan to spread the egg out thinly and cook to form a thin omelette, then reserve to keep warm whilst you cook a second omelette.  Reserve to keep warm, on top of the first.

4.  Melt the butter with the oil until really quite hot and add the chicken.  Fry until the chicken is almost cooked through and has gained some golden colour.

5.  Add the spring onions and chilli.  Stir and fry until softened - around 4-5 mins or so.

6.  Add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir and fry for another 1-2 minutes, taking care not to let it stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the mushrooms and continue to fry until the mushrooms have gained some colour and softened a little.

7.  Add the Thai curry paste.  Stir well and cook for some 4-5 mins.

8.  Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and mirrin and reduce the heat to prevent it burning.  Continue to cook until a sticky and thick consistency has been achieved.

9.  Add the frozen peas and stir until they have defrosted and softened slightly.

10.  Add the rice and toss regularly to prevent it sticking. 

11.  Add the prawns and stir to combine.  You'll need to increase the heat slightly to make sure that the rice and prawns heat through properly.

12.  Take the two omelettes, roll and cut into strips.  Once everything is heated through and piping hot, add the coriander and omelette strips and stir through.

Serve at once.

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