For several months one year, we had two young women staying with us through the Canada World Youth Program; one was a Canadian university student from Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the other, an economics student from Jakarta, Indonesia. Language was one of the key components to their stay here, as well as volunteering in the community. While I struggled with Indonesian, finding it difficult to separate the words, as the language is so fluid, I did find my high school French coming back to me so quickly. The three of us would laugh, quite often pointing, or drawing pictures to communicate. But slowly it all started to happen. Often just a quick sentence, but the intent was picked up on.
Besides language, food was a huge part of us getting to know each other and our cultures. Our household became used to the scent of rice in all its cooked forms. During Ramadan, the two of them would get up before dawn, and start cooking the early meal. Usually it was a simple assembly of fried rice. A few pieces of garlic, onions, and hot peppers, fried with leftover rice from the evening meal. Other bits of vegetables or meats would be added, and served with sambal oelek and ketjap bentang. This meal would last them right through until the late meal. Our Quebec guest found it very hard to manage the long days of fasting, but did it to experience her counterpart’s religion. Our tiny, Indonesian friend explained to me, that if you eat less, it is far easier to make it through the day, as she watched with glee as our young Canadian friend wolfed down a bagel with cream cheese following her fried rice.
Frying the rice before cooking it (instead of frying leftover rice) gives it a nuttier flavour. The recipe still uses small amounts of vegetable, meats, and egg to make it a complete meal. Be creative with this, as it is a very simple meal, using what is at hand. It can easily be fully vegetarian, or just use the egg if you like.
Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side dish
3 T canola oil (1 + 2)
¼# mushrooms, chopped
¼# cooked ham
1 onion, chopped
1 c basmati or long-grained rice
2½ c chicken or vegetable stock
1 t salt
1 T soy sauce
1 T water
Reusing the same skillet, add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, heating over med-high heat.
Add in the chopped onion and celery, stirring well to distribute. If the mixture looks a bit dry (move some of the rice and see if there’s any moisture in the pan), you could add another ¼ cup of hot water.
Cover the pan again, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Essentially steaming the vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water.
Uncover the rice, and clear an area in the center of the pan.
Serve on a platter, sprinkled with chopped green onions.
Use chicken or turkey in place of ham, or even some bacon.
Add in some steamed, chopped vegetables such as broccoli.
Add in a sliced garlic clove, or two with the onion and celery, and/or some minced ginger.
Add in a minced hot pepper (seeds removed), with the onion and celery.
Try different types of soy sauces, such as Ketjap Bentang.
To make it spicy, stir in a small spoonful of Sambal Oelek, or Garlic Chili Sauce.