Rice cake stir-fry

This is a dish that Hide offers to make me quite regularly, but I frequently refuse because ‘I don’t really like bacon anymore’ or ‘You really think that’s a good combination?’. But then, when, for whatever reason, he does succeed in making it for me, I always go crazy over it. I tell him he should make it for me more often, but he just sighs and shakes his head at me.

  1. Start the rice cakes.

    First of all, what do I mean by rice cakes? I mean the little ovals you can stir-fry. Sometimes they’re cylindrical, and that’s fine too. What I’m not talking about is some kind of sweet dessert thing that’s rectangular. You can buy the rice cakes ovals in Asian grocery stores; I don’t much care if it’s Korean or Chinese.

    Follow the package directions for cooking the rice cakes (if your directions are only in a foreign language you don’t read, they usually say something like, bring water to boil, place rice cakes in boiling water for a few minutes, then drain). Time it so that the rice cakes will be ready near the end of the stir-fry.

  2. Fry finely sliced bacon.

    Add a little oil to the wok to start the rendering process; fry until a good amount of fat has rendered. The more oil there is in the wok, the less problem you’ll have with sticking. In this picture we’re using Schaller & Weber double-smoked bacon. If we didn’t have that on hand, I would also use Smithfield pork jowls.

  3. Add chopped bok choy.

    Once the fat has rendered, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the bok choy. In the picture, we use baby bok choy, quartered. Normal bok choy is fine too. Either way, make sure you rinse the bok choy thoroughly. Depending on the batch, they can be very, very sandy. With the bigger bok choy, rinse them petiole by petiole, rubbing over the entire petiole with your hands to dislodge all the sand in the crevices. With the baby bok choy, you may want to let them float in a big bowl of water and let the sand sendiment. We do that twice; once before quartering and once after.

  4. Add sliced mushroom.

    In the picture, we use shiitake. This is our favourite mushroom among the commonly available varieties. You could also use oyster mushroom or king oyster mushroom.

    A lot of people discard the stems of shiitake, which I think is a waste. In the pictures below, I show how I prefer to process shiitake (a method my dad taught me).

    I separate the stem from the cap, then slice off the end of the stem.

    I rip the stem lengthwise, which is the way the fibers in the stem naturally run. I rip them into roughly the same width as the juilenned caps.

    Then I juilienne the caps. Talk about using the whole mushroom!

  5. Add cooked rice cakes.

    After adding the mushrooms, let the bok choy steam for a minute or two (not too long, otherwise you’ll lose the gorgeous green colour). Once the bok choy are ready, add the drained rice cakes. Toss them around. If you’re patient and good, you can get a bit of char on them which is always lovely. My technique is usually not good enough to allow it to happen, because you need to strike a fine balance between letting them sit long enough to char and not letting anything else in the wok char as well as not letting the rice cakes stick to each other. If I were really dedicated, I would remove everything else, make sure I had plenty of oil, and then fry the rice cakes all by themselves.

And there you have it! A quick recipe that provides you with all three major food groups: starch, veggies and meat.

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