Two weeks ago, our dearest neighbour friend Insaf gave birth to a baby boy, a small, delicate human being who instantly brought so much joy to the family upon the minute he was born. When we visited them a few days later, the whole household was filled with delight and the smell of a new born baby. I was besotted with the touch of his porcelain smooth skin, his tiny soft fingers and the warmth of his body when I hold him in my arms. Then I realised I have forgotten how small and dainty Lilly was when she was born seven years ago, but what I do remember was I could just look at her petite face enthrallingly, for as long as she allowed me to.
As I thought nothing would be better than having a warm, delectable meal after hours of labour, so naturally, cooking a few meals for Insaf would be my ideal gift for her. Therefore I have cooked her a couple of meals for the first few days after the birth. Having to see the satisfying expression (for both having a baby and after devouring my food) on her otherwise exhausting face made me realised how food brings a sense of togetherness between all human relationships.
I would love to cook her something nice again this week, so I decide to make her this ginger fried rice which I know almost all my life. A special dish that my mother used to cook for all my sisters after they gave birth. In Asian (mainly Chinese) culture, ginger fried rice is a dish that is particularly nourish for woman post birth, alongside a soup which is made with large quantity of fresh root ginger, black vinegar, big trotters and hard boiled eggs in a large clay pot, a month before the birth. And the mother will be eating this soup everyday for at least one month post birth (some families also give this soup with honour to friends and family member as a gift to mark the birth of the new born baby). Because Chinese people believe that the mother who gave birth would more likely to pick up invasive cold during labour, and the warming and anti-inflammatory effect of ginger can help fighting against it. Plus ginger also promotes blood circulation, therefore it is an absolute essential food for postpartum recovery.
My mother adored ginger fried rice, I remember the redolent of fried ginger would linger in our home regularly when I was growing up. I grew to love it and there is something incredible about this golden spice freckled rice, it is piquant, earthy, comforting and almost heart-warming. As soon as I start to fry the finely chopped ginger, the smell brings me immediately back to my home in Macau, seeing my mother with her steel spatular with a wooden handle in one hand, and the flames blacken steel wok in the other, tossing and stirring these golden jewels skillfully and the kitchen was filled with this sensational aroma. Eating this delicious warming dish reminds me of being a child, a daughter, a devoted mother and a very caring friend.
Cook the rice a day before you plan to make this dish (or if you have left over rice), since day-old rice works particularly well for frying. Break up the rice with your hands until there is no lumps of rice sticking together, it makes the frying process a bit easier later on. Use less starchy rice such as Jasmine or basmati rice.
The ratio of rice and ginger is 1 cup of cooked rice/1 tbsp. chopped ginger, if you are not used to eating ginger in large amount, use 3 tbsp. of ginger to start with, taste along cooking and add more if you like it a bit more spicy.
I love using flaky salt to season this dish as it is somewhat thrilling to bite into the larger flaky of salt, but feel free to use fine sea salt if you prefer.
This dish is a wonderful base of many great meals: you can fry it with additional vegetables of your choice, or as a side for a traditional Chinese meal, or simply topped it with a perfectly fried egg, sliced avocado, steamed Chinese greens, stewed meat and so on. Be creative!
Crispy Ginger Fried Rice
- 4 cups cooked Jasmine rice or basmati rice (over night)
- 4 heaped tbsp. of finely chopped fresh ginger, about 3 pieces of 4cm root ginger (scrape of the skin off with a tea spoon)
- 1 to 2 sticks of spring onions, chopped, for garnish
- 2-3 generous pinches of flaky sea salt (like Maldon Sea Salt), or regular fine sea salt (see note) plus more if desire
- 1 tbsp. peanut oil
- vegetable oil
Serving suggestions: See notes.
Warm the peanut oil in a wok or sauté pan, fry chopped ginger on medium high heat until golden brown but not burnt (about 3-4 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat a splash of vegetable oil in the same wok, or pan (without washing it) on high heat, fry the cooked rice until it is warm through and starts to get a bit crispy. Add all (or 3/4 of) the fried ginger, toss and stir-fry until everything is combined well. Add salt and fry for another minute, have a taste and add more ginger or salt if desire. Garnish with chopped spring onions. Served immediately.