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I love rice. It is so versatile and I could quite happily eat rice every day, much to Ms Onion’s chagrin, although we don’t eat it every day for exactly that reason. Sometimes I wonder if I was born on the wrong continent.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m very glad I was born in Australia. I don’t understand how people can be hostile to those from poor countries trying to make a better life for themselves when their own good fortune is just pure luck (or perhaps more accurately random chance) of having been born in a developed nation. But I could certainly tolerate more rice in my diet than is found in a typical Australian one.

The facts and figures about rice are quite astounding. It is cultivated in over 110 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, and is the staple food for over half the world population. I’ve talked about the influence of immigration on our diet before, and rice consumption is no different. Nowadays rice goes in or with many dishes, including stir fries, but if I think back to my childhood it would have been primarily in rice pudding or creamed rice (which I’m still looking for a recipe for if anyone has a good one), arranged tastefully in a ring with a ‘sweet curry’ in the middle, or as what remains one of my most favourite things to eat – rice and currants.

nasigoreng1 Get everything ready before commencing cooking.

Rice and currants is not really any more complex than the name suggests – take leftover boiled rice and throw in some currants, sprinkle on some sugar and pour in milk. It is very simple but utterly delicious. The best was when Mum made it specifically for dessert rather than just making opportunistic use of leftover rice, because then she would put in the currants while the rice was still hot and they would go soft and impart some of their flavour and seep out some of their colour to make little purple blotches on the white surface.

nasigoreng2 Stir fry the chicken until browned and just cooked.

An easy and delicious meal you can make with rice is fried rice, of which there are countless varieties, probably consistent with the status of rice as the staple grain for over half the world and 98% of the university students! One of my favourites is the Indonesian version known as nasi goreng, which simply translates as fried rice in Bahasa. Again there are lots of ways to do it, but the recipe provided here is one I’ve used for a long time. Don’t be too tightly wrapped if you don’t have some of the ingredients – just chuck in whatever else you have in the fridge. If you don’t want the prawns put some additional chicken in. I like to make the egg as a sort of chopped up omelette and include it in the rice mix, but traditionally nasi goreng has a fried egg on top, which is another variant I do from time to time.

nasigoreng3 Throw in the onion, bacon, carrot and garlic.

Whenever stir-frying, always make sure everything required is chopped, measured and near to hand before applying heat to the wok. You don’t want to have to take time out to chop up a carrot as the moment of climax approaches, as it were! The secret in stir-frying is to keep the heat high and everything moving around constantly so it cooks quickly and doesn’t get an opportunity to stew (which also made it tricky to get some of the photos for this blog entry). For the rice, stir-fries work best when the rice has been cooked in advance and had time to cool and dry out. If you’ve got day old rice great, or you can achieve this relatively quickly by spreading it out on a tray and popping it in the fridge for half an hour.

nasigoreng4 Add all the remaining ingredients.

Finally, treat your wok with care. When it’s new, find out how to season it properly - there’s heaps of videos and instructions available on the internet, or follow the instructions on the little card that comes with it. After that, wash it by giving it a scrub under clean hot water and never wash it in soapy water or the natural non-stick surface that forms will be destroyed. Then threaten the family with death if they ever do wash it using soap. If it’s not new and you’ve done it wrong wash it in soapy water and season it as if starting from scratch.

nasigoreng6 My wok has never used soap!

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nasigoreng5 Complete with cute Shinkansen chopsticks we bought in Japan.

Nasi Goreng

Cooking: About 10 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (any oil suitable for high temperatures will do, not olive oil)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 brown onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 rashers bacon, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 cups cooked white long grain rice (about 1 12 cups uncooked)
  • 300g peeled cooked prawns
  • 1 small red capsicum, finely chopped
  • 12 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons kecap manis or soy sauce
  • Heat the wok over medium-high heat, add half the oil and swirl it around to coat the wok. Add the egg and tilt the wok around to coat the base. Let the egg cook until there is no more liquid and chop it up into chunks. Tip out onto a plate.
  • Increase the heat to high and add the remaining oil, then add the chicken. Stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes until just cooked through, then transfer to a plate. Add the onion, garlic, bacon and carrot and stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Add the rice, prawns, capsicum, peas and kecap manis and stir-fry for a minute or two, breaking up the rice.. Add the chicken and egg and stir-fry until heated through, then serve.