Fried Rice

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My mom is the queen of the kitchen, which meant growing up I never cooked! Fast forward to 2005 standing in my kitchen in Connecticut I figured fried rice would be the easiest thing to pull off, right? Wrong! While it tasted good, the texture was completely off, more like awful, because of some obvious mistakes. What followed was a teary conversation with mom, mostly because I was really homesick and couldn’t even cook myself a decent warm meal. This post is more about the secret tips that mom shared with me that day, than about the actual recipe. This recipe is a basic one and can be modified to make your own. Add different vegetables, may be some protein…

The secret to a good fried rice is starting with cold cooked grains! Now that I think of it mom always cooked the rice the day before. The reason is simple, dehydration of the grains. Refrigeration makes the grains dry, and then when cooked it gets hydrated just right. Fresh cooked rice gets mushy! When in the moment spread fresh cooked rice in a baking sheet and chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 mins. This will take care of any residual moisture and give your dish the fried texture.

Heat! High heat is important. As my mom’s lil helper I would love adding things to the pan but I wasn’t that patient. So I would go “Aikhon Di”(should I add now) and mom would roll her eyes and say “Daada, gorom hoi ni”(wait its not warm enough yet) because it was probably the 4th or 5th time! High heat ensures that whatever is added to the pan gets fried quickly, so the rawness goes but the crunchiness stays.

“Ghatish Na”(Don’t stir it too much) was what she screamed at me when this eager helper, kept stirring the rice. Constant stirring will cause the grains to break and get starchy, then mushy. Also it prevents the rice from getting that crunchy crusty texture. So spread the rice out in the pan, let it sit for a minute or so before flipping it.

So the secret to Jhojhore (fluffy), slightly crusty fried rice is – dehydrated cooked rice, cooking in high heat and no to constant stirring! To never again mushy fried rice… Happy cooking!!

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4-5 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice, cooked.
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, ground
  • salt to taste

Process: 

  1. Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables (except scallions) and sauté in high heat for 4-5 mins, just so that the rawness goes but they still retain the crunchiness.
  2. Add cooked rice, salt, ground black pepper and butter, stir it in and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Pour the soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
  4. Remove from heat, garnish with chopped scallions and serve.

Peas Pulao

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This past week marked the 42nd wedding anniversary of my parents, growing up we celebrated the day with a gathering of friends and family and my mom like always cooked up a feast. Peas Pulao or ghee bhaath, always played an award winning supporting role, complimenting the flavors of the side dishes. In my opinion this dish is the underdog of bengali cuisine and never gets its due credit. Long grained basmati rice flavored with aasto gorom moshala (whole spices), jeere (cumin) and ghee makes for perfectly light and aromatic companion to pretty much any side dish, or to be eaten as is.

Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 15 mins     Yield: 6 Servings     Level: easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3.5 cup water or broth.
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan heat the ghee and add caraway seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns. Sauté for till you begin getting the spice aroma around 2-3 mins.
  3. Add the drained rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add green peas, cilantro, mint and sauté for a minute before adding water, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 12-15 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Serve with your favorite side dish or with just Raita.

Notes:

  • For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated drain and spread soaked rice on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so appetizing.
  • If your using frozen green peas, thaw it before using.

Burrito Bowl

Hari and I love traveling, especially long road trips. There is something very energizing about open roads, music, us singing along, stopping at random places to explore and debate about random topics. Chipotle is our favorite fast food places to go when on these trips, its healthy and wholesome with a delicious vegetarian option which is not just salad. But then there are those days where we crave the goodness of a burrito bowl and live the memories of travel without really leaving the house, this is our fix for those days. Plus this easy to fix meal is actually faster than getting in the car and driving.

I use Cilantro Lime Rice and homemade Salsa (Recipes posted earlier)

This is a vegetarian version, but if you are a meat lover then just top it with cooked meat of your choice in assembly and your all set.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cilantro lime rice
  • 1/2-3/4 cup beans and corn salsa
  • Chopped mixed vegetables:
    • 1/2 green pepper, Julienned (cut into thin strips)
    • 1/2 red pepper, Julienned
    • 1/2 yellow pepper, Julienned
    • 1 medium sized red onion, Julienned
    • 1 medium size tomato, Julienned
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Process:

  1. Cooking the vegetables:
    • In a heavy bottom pan heat oil over medium high heat, add all the vegetables and sauté for another 2-3 mins.
    • Add the cumin powder, cayenne and salt. Mix and sauté until they are cooked, stirring as needed.
  2. Assembly:
    • In a bowl arrange 1/2 cup of Cilantro Lime Rice, top it with the Beans and Corn Salsa, then the sautéed vegetables.
    • Season with salt and pepper if needed, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Cilantro Lime Rice

IMG_4123The freshness of the flavors of cilantro and lime makes this a perfect alternative to plain rice. Since burrito chains, like Chipotle made this dish popular we always think of it as a side to a Mexican dish. But this goes really well with traditional Indian side dishes as well. Serve this with basic yellow dal and you can make every day food feel special. I like it best with Mutton Rogonjosh or Bengali Kosha Mangsho.

For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated or like we call it in bengali ‘Jhojhore’, soak rice for 30 mins, then drain and spread it on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so apetizing.

Time for Prep:5 mins     Time to Cook:20 mins    Yield:2-4 Servings    Level:Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1.75 cup water or broth
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter or oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (Juice of 1 lime)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped + 1 tbsp for garnish
  • zest of 1 lime for garnish

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan over medium heat add butter/oil. Add garlic, cumin seeds and bay leaf, sauté till you begin getting the spice aroma around 1 min.
  3. Add the drain rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add water/broth, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 10-12 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Garnish with the lime zest and cilantro, serve with your favorite side dish.

Jeera Rice (Cumin Rice)

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Jeera Rice and Aloo Gobi was the very first thing I had ever cooked for Husband, his taste buds approved and the rest is history. This is a simple rice dish ideal for those days when you had a tough day at work and need a touch of richness in everyday food without too much effort. It is also great for dinner parties. It goes with pretty much every dish, in our household it is a must whenever we make Basic Yellow Dal.

Time for Prep:5 mins|Time to Cook:20 mins|Yield:2-4 Servings|Level:Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1.75 cup water or broth
  • 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black cumin
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for Garnish
  • 1 tbsp Fried onions/caramelized onion for Garnish (optional)

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan heat the ghee and add caraway seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns. Sauté for till you begin getting the spice aroma around 1-2 mins.
  3. Add the drain rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add water, salt and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 10-12 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Serve with your favorite side dish.

Note:

  • After the rice has been soaked, Drain and spread it on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out. This ensures that you get nice seperated grains of rice.

Bangali Style Pulao

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This is one of my all time favorite! Long grained basmati cooked with cashew nuts and raisins with a hint of sweetness that tastes heavenly with spicy Kosha Manghso (Slow cooked mutton) or Deemer Dalna (egg curry) or just by itself. I call it Best Friender Pulao, since growing up this was a staple made by my favorite aunt, Monju Kakima (who I refer to as my best friend). Even today, whenever I visit India I make my demand for this pulao.

Over the years, this has become one of my go-to recipe for whenever I am entertaining and a big hit among my friends, a recipe I share often. A few posts back I wrote about how food to me is about re-living and/or creating new memories. This dish is rich with a lot of memories, some of the best memories of my childhood and a whole bunch as an adult. Hoping it does the same for you as well!

I like adding a lot of fresh vegetables because they add favor, make the dish look beautiful with all that color and then there is also the healthy aspect. You can use a bag of frozen mixed vegetable as well and it will taste just as good.

Time for Prep: 45 mins     Time to Cook: 20 mins     Yield: 6-8 Servings     Level: Medium

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • Chopped mixed vegetables:
    • 1/2 cup carrots
    • 1/2 cup green beans
    • 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
    • 1/4 cup green pepper
    • 1/4 cup red pepper
    • 1/4 cup yellow pepper
    • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1 tbsp cashew nuts
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3.5 cup water or broth.
  • Salt to taste

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan heat the ghee and add caraway seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns. Sauté for till you begin getting the spice aroma around 2-3 mins.
  3. Add the cashew nuts and raisins, cook for 1 min.
  4. Add all the vegetables, cilantro and mint, sauté for another 2-3 mins.
  5. Add the drain rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  6. Add water, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
  7. Cover and let cook for around 12-15 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  8. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Serve with your favorite side dish or with just Raita.

Fried Quinoa

Nasi Goreng, Chaufa, Khao Pad, Sinangag, Buteko bhaath, Htamin Gyaw, Arroz Fritto… all different names and variations of the most cooked dish in the world, Fried Rice. While the dish originates from China, it has become popular across the world for its versatility and ease of cooking. A classic way of whipping something delicious from left over rice and in my case all those half used vegetables sitting in the fridge.

Like every household in the world, fried rice is a favorite in our household too and is a regular on our dinner table. But every now and then I feel it’s time for some clean eating, so I make a simple swap – high protein quinoa instead of the carb heavy rice.

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I love fried rice and fried quinoa with loads and loads of vegetables cooked just enough so that it doesn’t feel raw but still remain crunchy. This does a few things – (a) adds a whole lot of color to the dish making it look so pretty when served, (b) the flavor they add to the dish, (c) the texture of crunchy vegetables with soft quinoa (or rice) and (d) then there is also the thing called nutrition.

I get my vegetables from the local farmers market and mostly cook with fresh produce but on occasions after long (12-16 hour) workdays I have reached inside my freezer and cooked this with frozen vegetables as well. It tastes just as good, just lacks crunchiness.

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Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 15 mins     Yield: 4-5 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa, uncooked.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, thick slices
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, ground
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped

Process: 

  1. Cooking the Quinoa:
    1. Rinse the quinoa first always, this helps wash away the bitter coating. Make sure to use a fine mesh strainer.
    2. Heat a sauce pan, melt 1/2 tbsp of butter, add the quinoa and sauté for a couple mins. This really brings out a slight nutty flavor.
    3. Add salt and 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper, 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10- 15 mins in low heat or till all of the water is absorbed by the quinoa.
    4. Turn of the heat and let it sit for 5-10 mins before fluffing it with a fork.
  2. Cooking the Vegetables:
    1. Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables (except scallions), ginger and sauté in high heat for 4-5 mins, just so that the rawness goes but they still retain the crunchiness.
  3. Add the cooked quinoa, chopped scallions and the remaining butter, stir it in and cook for another minute or so.
  4. Pour the soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
  5. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Notes:

  • Cook the Quinoa like how you would cook Risotto. Add some chopped garlic and onions to some butter along with (rinsed and drained) quinoa. Mix and coat with oil and dry roast for a few mins before adding the liquid little at a time, stirring every batch of liquid, until its cooked through.
  • You can also use Broth to cook quinoa for extra flavor.
  • Spread cooked quinoa in a baking sheet and chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 mins. This takes care of any residual moisture and gives the dish a more fried texture. The same holds true if you are using rice as well.