Fried Rice

It doesn't happen very often but once in a blue moon I'll receive compliments for being a good cook. I felt happy to get acknowledgement of course but I had to keep quiet because I knew what a pretender I was. How can I accept the acknowledgement without being able to cook the most basic of dish. Today I killed a ghost which haunted me for 25 years. 25 damn years.


Fried rice.


The memory was getting fuzzy. All the more the motivation to pen things down. If I were to fall victim to alzheimer in future, perhaps my close ones would be able to get me to read my own thoughts long ago - if I could still remember how to read.


When I was 10 years old, I was one of the kids known as key children back then. It refers to a child being handed the key to the house and given the responsibility to find him way home after school, lock up and stay alive till his parents return from work.


Everyday my mother would prepare dishes and place them on the dining table in our small but cosy 3-room flat in Holland Village. She would instruct me to take my lunch once I reach home and revise my school work. If the latter was not possible (and she probably knew it was not), I was supposed to do whatever I had to with just one key thing to remember - stay out of trouble. That would include setting the house on fire, running after girls, mixing around with kids that messes around with cigarettes and whatnots.


One fateful day, I decided that enough was enough. I would take cold food no longer and transform myself into chef that afternoon. That was way before Junior Masterchef was hip. I managed to reach the wok standing on a dining table chair, fired the stove on the way I saw my mother did and started my cooking career.


Down went the plain rice, caked due to chill and I began to stab clumsily with the 'chan'. It was probably a comical sight to some, a horrific sight to others. Not knowing what I was doing, I just kept going. In went the soy sauce and other side dishes on the table as the intensity of my first cooking attempt went into climax.


Tasting session was a sorry experience and despite how hard I tried to vanquish the data lurking around in a small corner of my memory, the images had been sadly burnt into mind. As burnt as part of my fried rice while the remaining parts soggy and cold. The saltiness of my master piece was at extremes ends due to poor mixing during cooking.


I wasn't sure if mother came to know what I did that day. She could have, if she was sharp that day. Over the years, I did attempt to cook now and then. With guidance of my mother, I could cook basic things like fried eggs. Gradually, I managed to learn how to cook useful dishes of respectable complexity. As for fried rice, I never attempted it again until recently. For 2-3 consecutive nights, I made vigorous attempts on it. Each time I declared "we'll cook this tomorrow", Jen and Penny would give me the kind of expression that I didn't need to know I screwed up royally yet another time.



The combo breaker came when Jen suggested we should have char kway teow the next day. I could do a very average version of that learning from Penny a month or so back. Edible food was important in winter. I forgotten about damn fried rice though the flame inside never ceased. I was fuming inside. 


Last Sunday morning, I woke early. I made a good breakfast the morning before for Jen in double quick time. After brushing a couple of potatoes clean, I cut them into deliberate uneven portions and dump them into the microwave for 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes, I managed to fill the kitchen with the aroma of crispy bacon and finished a sunny side up egg for Jen. The next 10 minutes was spent pan frying the potato chunks. They ended crispy brown on the outside, soft on the inside. The breakfast set was completed with a piece of pre home-made bread with a quick toast using the pan rather than a toaster. We concluded it came out better than a toaster.


Back to that Sunday morning, I was contemplating what breakfast to prepare for Jen when I found a pot of steamed rice left overnight. It was a fresh full pot that I subconsciously prepared. I decided that I would attempt damn fried rice once again. This time, I seemed to be relaxed yet focussed. Unlike the previous attempts, I prepared very little ingredients. I figured that if I were to fail, each of us would had to pay less for my sins. 10 minutes later, I found myself circling a plate of fried rice curiously.


In the freezing winter morning, it was steaming furiously, basking in the rays of the sun that pierced through my half drawn blinds. It was plain and unglamorous but each grain of rice was defined. I pinched a few grains, popped them into my mouth and stood there emotionless, chewing. It was not dry, yet not oily, bland yet not tasteless. The modest portion was mixed vegetables and finely chopped meat was spread homogeneously across the body of the rice. Not anywhere near world class standard of course but a successful basic humble plate of fried rice. 


It was beautiful.


3 comments:

  1. NPNT, bro... where's the pic of the fried rice? Or the bacon and egg. You gotta follow up these foodie posts with some pics, dude. Otherwise we are just salivating with our minds here, and nothing to see, ahaha!

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  2. He s not wrong bro!

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  3. Congrats on enjoying your cooking of food!

    I've cooked for myself since young to keep myself from starving, and because our late mother firmly upheld that as boys, we had to be independent in all ways we can.

    I've cooked for others when I was 'forced to' (for my younger brother when we were children / schooling teenagers, while home alone), and nowadays, if I'm asked to (imagine that! I'm no chef!).

    But I almost don't, can't follow recipes.
    If some venerable great masterchef were to try passing down his/her precise recipe to me, s/he would probably die in a fit, simply because I would end up mixing and matching my way!

    So I tell myself to tell others if need be, "No, I can't cook Chinese, or Hokkien/Cantonese, or Singaporean."I just put together what ingredients and flavourings there are, with whatever available cooking methods — voilĂ .
    Eat my food at your own peril."

    Imagine, as I mentioned above, that my family doesn't mind I throw in everything my way, and actually occasionally ask me to cook, if only for a change of taste, and actually love the outcomes.
    I don't feel proud about it; just grateful that they filled themselves up with tasty-enough edible nutrition — and relieved that I did not cause upset stomachs or poisoning! ;-P

    I tend towards stir-frying meat, seafood, eggs, tofu and vegetables, canned, packaged and fresh, in a buffet of seasonings, before turning them into soup/stew (and adding noodles), then draining to serve on rice (if no noodles), with the stock left behind as gravy/soup on the side.

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