Ever since I started cooking for myself, my taste for takeout has rapidly declined (pizza and sushi exempt). Take chinese takeout for example: when I was a kid, it was the ultimate treat. My Friday lunch if I used my allowance wisely. I’m not sure what you know about Bengali moms, but they are pretty militant in their meal regiment. Rice, vegetable saute/bhorta, some kind of protein curried, and daal. That is what you have for dinner, every night. Without fail. Every bengali kid who grew up here knows the struggle to have something different on the table (first world problems, I know). And the retorts that follow: “Eh? Pizza? How is that any kind of food? What with all that cheese…and they wonder why American kids are so fat!”. This is usually said as one or more uncles are stuffing their faces with beef or goat curry and are working away at a Mt Everest sized mound of rice on their plate.
Anywho, takeout became less of a treat as I started making things like fried rice, fried chicken or tacos at home. The takeout versions just seemed laden with MSG, salt and grease. I used to be a little incredulous of Rachel Ray always insisting that the food you cook at home is so much better than takeout because you control what goes in there. But once you wean your taste buds of those noxiously high amounts of salt and fat, you can appreciate well made food. Food that someone didn’t just throw salt and fat at to make taste good. Rather, food that took time and thought to cook. Tasting along the way to make sure everything came together at the end.
Not to say that this recipe doesn’t include oil or sodium. I make mine with light olive oil (as opposed to extra virgin) and soy sauce, along with fresh garlic, ginger powder, and a generous serving of sriracha afterwards. It’s very versatile though: use any leftover meat you may have. And it’s quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal. You can use any combination of vegetables you like, as long as there are some root vegetables (onions, carrot, celery, etc.) along with corn, peas or even zucchini. For the protein, you can substitute eggs, small cubes of beef, shrimp or even tofu. And the cilantro is optional (I would put cilantro on everything if I could).
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups mixed root vegetables, chopped small, comparable to the size of peas (I used onions, carrots and green peppers)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 2 tbsps soy sauce
- a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 cup cooked chicken, cubed (if using left over curried chicken, rinse under water to get rid of the spices)
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup frozen corn
- a handful of cilantro, chopped
- In a small saucepan or pot, rinse the rice with cold water. Then add water to cover (the water should cover the rice by at least an inch). Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium while preparing the vegetables.
- In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and let them soften (about 5 minutes depending on how big you cut them). Add garlic, ginger, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium.
- Working quickly, and keeping an eye on your vegetables so they don’t burn, drain the rice in a colander. Add to vegetables. Add chicken and frozen vegetables. Combine over medium heat. Be sure to break up any big chunks of rice (short grain rice is very starchy). Cook until frozen vegetables are heated through. Top with cilantro and taste for seasoning.
- Serve with Sriracha or any hot sauce of your liking.