So we come to it.
The fusion dish to end all fusion dishes.
The culinary equivalent of a bastard love child between the movies “Deliverance” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Hillbilly Fried Rice.
Oh, I hear the giggles. The laughter. The disbelief.
That is only because you haven’t tasted it, friends.
Because this here stuff is good.
You know why?
Because it involves bacon.
Oh, yes. Bacon. Bacon makes everything better. Ummhmm. Bacon, bacon, bacon. That fine fatty goodness that comes from the belly of the sacred swine, the sweet, salty, sexy bad boy of the kitchen: bacon.
The other thing it involves is greens.
Which isn’t just an attempt to counterbalance the nutritional deep-six that the bacon provides.
Far from it. It is meant to give flavor to the dish. It is meant to further anchor the fusion between the Chinese wok and the hillbilly cast iron skillet.
You see, because the hillbillies and the Chinese both are great lovers of the pig and the greens. And, both groups being frugal by nature, there are within both culinary traditions many dishes which start out as a means of dealing with leftovers in the most tasty manner possible.
Therefore, as silly as one might think it, Hillbilly Fried Rice is something that is inevitable. It is natural. It is something that was meant to be.
It is an idea whose time has come.
How does one make it?
Well, first, one must be in the right mindset to make it. One must have several things in the kitchen. A wok, of course, is a necessity, because believe me, I don’t care what Mr. Alton Brown has to say about how impossible it is to stir fry in a wok on an American stove, if he so much as even tried to make fried rice in a prissy little saute pan, he would rue the day he had that particular doomed idea and would run home cryin’ to his mamma about it. You cannot fry rice in a saute pan, not unless you enjoy scattering little grains of cold rice all over your kitchen.
There are very few times I will say something like that, but here is one of those times. If you don’t have a wok, don’t even try to fry rice.
Secondly, you need cold, leftover steamed rice to make this dish.
I don’t care what kind of rice it started out as: jasmine, basmati, texmati, brown, short grain, long grain or saffron, it has better be cold, and a little bit dried out before you start this recipe. I am telling y’all that if you start out with nice warm, fluffy steamed rice and put it into your wok it is going to do three things in this order: it will get smooshy and mucky, it will stick to your wok no matter how much oil you pour over it, and it will burn and smell hideous.
I did this at a very young age, so I know. It is a lesson I never forgot, so I pass it on to you, free of charge, so you never have to go there and experience the horror of smelly, sticky rice burned onto your once happy, innocent wok.
Another thing–before you try and stir fry the rice, break it up from its big clumps into mostly separate grains and a few small clumps. Otherwise your wrists will want to jump ship and run away from you as you struggle trying to stir fry it and turn it into a nice happy wok full of fried rice.
And at least one giant rice clump will break apart in mid-stir and go flying around the kitchen in a scatter of little grains that coat the cooktop, the floor, your hair, your cat, the rugrat in the highchair, everything. You’ll find rice three months after you tried to fry it up in the light fixture on the ceiling when you go to change lightbulbs.
So, break up the rice.
Oh, and one more thing–don’t try to do this while intoxicated. Hand-eye coordination goes right out the window, and the rice goes on the floor, and before you know it, your face is in the wok and your hair’s on fire, and someone stepped on the cat’s tail and your housemate is laughing so hard she can’t help you. (I am exaggerating just a little for comic effect, but not by much.)
The other things you need for making a proper batch of Hillbilly Fried Rice are some leftovers.
You can put near-about anything in fried rice and it will taste good. Everything from tofu, to vegetables, to meat to left-over stir fried stuff to left-over ham bits to Chinese sausage to smoked sausage to bits of Thai curry to some Mexican carne asadas. At one time or another, any or all of those have made their way into a batch of Hillbilly Fried Rice and tasted downright fine. There are just a couple of rules to keep in mind when assembling your leftovers: one, if you can’t identify it–it don’t need to go in the wok.
And two: if it has Spam in it–it is no longer Hillbilly Fried Rice and has fallen into the category of Redneck Fried Rice and you are no longer in my domain, but have ended up over in one of my cousins’ kitchens. You know, the cousins who are named Duck and Jick. (I do too have cousins named Duck and Jick–don’t y’all dare and try to contradict me.) Those guys. Once you are in their clutches, I cannot rescue you. Obi-Wan is your only hope for salvation from redneckdom.
He’ll use the Force and I’ll sit on the sidelines and watch. (Well, actually, we might could use the John Deere to pull y’all out, but the Force is a mite bit more reliable than the old Deere these days.)
Oh, and the other thing–don’t put your neighbor’s kids or pets into the fried rice because it riles them up a bit. So, no matter how annoying and loud they might be, they have to stay out of the wok. It just isn’t neighborly otherwise. Put the cleaver down, and walk away.
So, anyway, I bet at this point, you are wanting a recipe. I guess I should just write it down then, and let y’all go on about your day now that you know all about the Hillbilly Fried Rice.
Y’all come back now, y’hear?
Hillbilly Fried Rice (serves as many as it needs to)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
3-6 strips thick cut country style bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces (or more if you like)
1 small onion, sliced thinly –optional
2-3 cloves garlic sliced thinly–optional
1″ piece fresh ginger cut into thin slivers–optional
thinly sliced chile–optional
1-2 cups of assorted leftovers from the refrigerator, hopefully cut to the same basic shape and size as the bacon. Recut if you have to
1/2 cup of fresh vegetables like carrots, cut into julliene. You can also use mushrooms here, or water chestnuts or broccoli stems whatever you like
2 cups fresh greens cut into shreds–I like collards best
soy sauce to taste
Shao hsing wine to taste
2-4 cups cold steamed rice, broken up into individual grains again
2 eggs, lightly beaten
handful scallions, thinly sliced
handful cilantro leaves–optional
1 teaspoon thick soy sauce–optional (this is what makes restaurant style fried rice brown)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
(A quick note before I begin. See all those optional aromatics I have listed there in the beginning? They are optional because I have no clue what leftovers you have in your refrigerator. If, like I had tonight, you have mu pad prik king, you don’t need any other aromatics because it is plenty aromatic on its own, and is enough to flavor all the rice. I just added three thinly sliced scallions, some carrots, the greens and some cilantro. But if you have Cantonese leftovers or something else mild, then you might need some more flavor boosters–so start slicing. In other words–it is up to you. Only you know the contents of your refrigerator.)
Heat wok until it smokes and add oil. Add bacon. Stir fry quickly, until it renders its fat and is medium done–still chewy, in other words. (If you are using the onion, cook it with the bacon. It will be golden brown when the bacon is ready.)
Add your aromatics if you are using them, and then your leftovers and stir and fry until everything is nice and warmed up. If you are using carrots or other crunchy fresh vegetables, add them at this time. Add the greens and keep stir frying until everything is quite hot and fragrant.
Add the rice. Then stir fry. This is an utter bear. The rice is heavy. Keep stirring it anyway. You have to kind of stir it and chop it with the edge of your wok shovel. Rather like chopping weeds with a hoe. It sucks. Pray to the Kitchen God to help you or something. He probably won’t but pray anyway. It might make you feel better for having tried. Keep stirring until everything is mixed together and the rice is starting to look glossy. Pour a tiny bit of the soy sauce and wine in, to deglaze anything that might be stuck on the sides of the wok. When everything is stirred in together and mixed nicely and hot, make a hole in the middle of the rice in the center of the wok.
Pour your eggs in and stir, cooking the eggs in the middle. I actually cook mine halfway and then mix it all into the rice so that it makes the rice stick together and there are no obvoius egg bits in the dish. Sneaky me. It makes everything taste good, too. But you can cook the eggs all the way in the center, and then mix it all up into the rice after. That way, you have little yellow-brown eggy bits showing in your rice, which is also good. It is your wok, your kitchen, your eggs–you do what you want.
Stir in the scallions and cilantro, and the scant teaspoon of thick soy sauce if you want your rice to be brown.
Stir in the sesame oil, and serve it forth.
You are done.
A note: the mu pad prik king made an absolutely delicious version of Hillbilly Fried Rice, so much so that Zak liked it better today than he did yesterday.
Dan approved too, but then, it did have pork in it.
Oh, and while we are talkin’ about fusions fried rice, check out what Sailu had cookin’ recently: Indo-Chinese fried rice. I bet that is something right fine and dandy. Meena has some fried rice, too, here at Hooked On Heat.
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