This is something I first had when I was a teenager, from the House of Lam restaurant located along Rte, 3 in southern Illinois. Lee Lam made some of the best fried rice ever. It wasn’t difficult to get him to wax poetic about some of his cooking. He told me how home cooking in the U.S. was very distanced from the food that was cooked, and when he was learning to cook, something like chicken or duck started with the live animal and proceeded from there. There was no meat market handy in his day. I would always listen intently as if I were about to be told the secret of life itself.
For good fried rice, he recommended starting with cold leftover rice, and crushing it so the grains separate. If the rice was warm, he said, it would become sticky while it cooked. Of course, that is all common knowledge now, but back in the 1970’s Chinese for me usually came out of a La Choy box from the grocery store and rice was often parboiled minute rice. If we had “fried rice”, well everyone thought that was made like rice-a-roni with the vermicelli browning in the skillet, hence the “frying.” Boy, were folks ever wrong.
I was sad when a fire destroyed his restaurant during the 1980’s. Fact was, he could often be found sitting when he wasn’t busy, reading the paper and puffing on a cigar. I suspect he left one burning while he popped into the kitchen to cook up an order, but I will never know. He moved away and never opened again. Perhaps he decided it was time to retire. He was long in the tooth and his knowledge of Chinese cuisine was extreme, even if it wasn’t haute cuisine. He had the air of a peasant, who knew how to cook food from scratch and with great love. There can be no greater skill than that.
I wish I could have worked with him, and needled out more of his secrets. He liked me, And I liked him. And I really liked his food. Over the years, I have always hoped my rice could excel and match his. I try, I really do try. I have tried a thousand different ways, from complex to simple. I like to think that he would approve, albeit with a wink and the hint of another secret I have yet to learn. Always the student, I am. But it is one palatable pastime, discerning the secrets of the fried rice universe. Not too many places have duck fried rice on their menus. Not sure why. It is awesome to the nth degree.
This recipe uses leftover Peking duck, which is commonly found in many Chinese restaurants. It is commonly ordered for special occasions, during the winter holidays through the Chinese New Year in February. I don’t include a recipe for Peking duck because in this, I used a small quantity of duck I purchased at CAM market in Cincinnati. They offer it at their “deli”, along with char siu pork (roasted red pork). They used to sell the ducks whole, but they now cut it up and put it in smaller packages. Just the right size for making a nice little batch of fried rice I think. But if you order the duck in the restaurant and manage to have leftover, you could use that as well.
I’ll post a recipe for Peking duck sometime. I always hope to post things sooner than opportunity arises. It is a small small world and so many recipes to do, so little time. You know how it is. 😉
Have a great holiday season no matter what you celebrate, and do enjoy the rice.
Chinese Duck Fried Rice
- 4-6 ounces Chinese roast Peking duck, chopped
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 cups leftover steamed white rice
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- salt and black pepper
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- soy sauce (amount to taste)
- Remove bones from duck and discard; chop the meat. A little bit of skin of okay, but not excessively.
- Heat oil in a large skillet and add duck, rice, onion, peas/carrots, garlic ginger and salt and pepper.
- Cook, stirring util onions soften and start to brown.
- Make a well in the center of the rice in the skillet and pour in eggs.
- Pour sesame oil on top of eggs.
- As eggs begin to set, stir them around without stirring into the rice, and as eggs set, then stir it all together.
- Serve with as much soy sauce as you like- some people like a little, some a lot, some none at all. I serve it on the table.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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