FAIRY TALE FEASTS: What's number one?
If you asked me, "What's your favorite Chinese dish?" I'd shrug. Way too many choices!
If you asked, "What's your favorite Chinese food?" I'd say RICE.
The smell of steaming rice instantly transports me to my childhood, when a blackened pot sat on a wood-burning stove and bubbled directly over the flames.
These days, if I go a few weeks without eating rice, then I can devour a hot bowlful plain, without adding anything to flavor it.
It's no surprise that CHINESE FAIRY TALE FEASTS has two rice-related recipes, for congee and fried rice.
Rice was a big deal in our family. As children, we never left behind a grain of rice in our bowls. If we did, right away an adult barked out, "You know how much work goes into getting that one grain to you?"
To avoid the tedious lecture, we'd grab the errant grain and run.
Each day, after scooping the day's portion of rice into the pot, the cook immediately refilled the scoop with rice before leaving it in the barrel.
Each day, the hardened rice crust left from cooking at the pot's bottom was soaked with hot water to make a rice soup with a burnt taste (called fan-jiu 飯焦 ) or non-juk (burnt congee). Nothing was wasted.
On New Year's Eve, the rice pot wasn't washed. The rice crust was left overnight. Next morning, the pot would already contain rice to mark an auspicious start to the year. Yup, that's what I did last night... well kinda. We left the rice cooker unwashed.
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