October 16, 2015
When visiting India, most folks immediately envision eating Indian food. I, on the other hand, think Chinese. Strange? Not really, if you know and understand the amazing tradition of Indo-Chinese cuisine.
The concept of Chinese prep with Indian spices is thought to stem from the small Chinese community living in Kolkata (Calcutta) in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Most of this now about 2,000 member community is of Hakka origin. Their cuisine is delicious and well celebrated in many parts of India and Asia, but the food now popular in India and known as Indo-Chinese cuisine has very little to do with original Hakka dishes.
Regardless, it is hands down down delicious and addictive. So amazing that whenever I visit Delhi likely my dear cousins get tired that I insist they take time off work and head off post jet lag to Connaught Place for shopping and a lunch of noodles dipped in spicy vinegar sauce, Gobi Manchurian, and fried rice - all with hints of all of the Indian spice blends we grew up eating.
Dip your toe in this cuisine with this fried rice. You'll love how easy it is to make but also how intriguing the spices all pulled together with the layers of chiles and extra flavors on top of the traditional Indian long-grained rice, basmati.
My mouth is watering as I type. My original fried rice recipe appeared on page 201 in book 2, Vegan Indian Cooking. All I've done here is add a few more bells and whistles including toasted quinoa and shredded kale. The recipe and tips for the unique chile sauce and toasted quinoa are at the end of this post. If you want to simplify life, just stick to the veggies you already have and save the quinoa and kale for another time. You can even sub a different protein for the tofu - try chicken or even pork. Just be sure to adjust your cooking times to cook your protein through first so that you can just throw it in later.
Tip: Leftover grains, drier than fresh, are better in this recipe. This dish is perfect for leftover rice or just cook it and your quinoa a day ahead of time. Make your chile sauce a day early as well. It keeps about two weeks in the fridge - you can even freeze it. You'll love having it on hand and using it in everything that needs a little heat included scrambled eggs or tofu.
Indo-Chinese Toasted Quinoa-Shredded Kale Fried Rice
Makes 12 cups
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, divided
1 cup organic, extra-firm tofu, diced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated or minced
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 medium yellow or red onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
2-4 Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced
1 green or red bell pepper, diced or sliced thin lengthwise
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 cup shredded kale (you can also use white cabbage or spinach)
1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
12 snow peas, trimmed and sliced thin lengthwise
4 cups cooked basmati rice
1 cup cooked quinoa - toasted (tip below)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup instant chile sauce (recipe below)
6 scallions, sliced lengthwise or thinly sliced
1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook about 2 minutes until lightly brown. This step is not necessary, but certainly helps the tofu hold up in the dish.Transfer to a plate.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add cumin seeds and cook about 30 seconds until they sizzle and turn reddish-brown.
3. Add ginger, garlic, and onions. Cook until slightly brown and the onions are opaque. Add the remaining veggies in the order above. Always add the veggies that take longer to cook first - give them a minute or two, and then add the next ingredient. Remember, you want your veggies al dente - cook them until just wilted. Transfer these veggies to a plate.
4. Heat another tablespoon of oil and add the rice and quinoa. Cook 2-3 minutes, mixing in between. Add soy sauce, vinegar, salt, black and white peppers, garam masala, and chile sauce (recipe below). Mix and cook until heated through. Add the previously cooked tofu and veggies and mix well.
5. Add the scallions and cook another minute. Serve immediately.
Instant Chile Sauce
20 whole, dried red chiles, roughly chopped (pictured above)
1 cup boiling water
1 Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stem removed
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons oil (any vegetable oil will do-I use grape seed or sesame)
1. Soak the chiles in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Dump the mixture, fresh chile, garlic, sugar, and vinegar in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a container.
2. In a small pan, heat the oil until hot. Add it to the chile sauce mixture. This mixture can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and in the freezer as well.
You can purchase these chiles in most speciality grocery stores like Whole Foods Market or a spice store.
Toasted Quinoa: I love quinoa, a high-protein seed, for its nutritional value, but it's not always welcome by my family in their meals because of its funky texture. I now just toast day old quinoa on a dry, non-stick pan (no oil) for a few minutes. Once it's browned and toasted it's ready to be added to fried rice, salads, and soups. There's many ways to toast quinoa - you can even do it in the oven, but we'll cover that another time.
Anyone who knows me knows I love love love my Le Creuset. They sent me their wok from their Cuisines of the World line, and it's been so much fun to experiment with. It's perfect to cook in and it's pretty enough that you can even bring it right to the table for your guests.
If you like this post, check this one out where I not only explain what garam masala is but give you the recipe in case you're feeling extra ambitious and want to try it at home.
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November 28, 2023