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Do-it-yourself fried rice

As a full-time student, I haven’t had the time, energy, or finances to experiment with interesting and exotic dishes that I could turn into eye candy for this blog. As much as I hate to admit it, for the past few months, ready-made tortellini, pour-and-serve pasta sauce, frozen pizzas, and Chinese and Filipino take-out have been my best friends.

I still make the effort, though, to make simple dishes from scratch whenever I can. Maybe because I bought a new rice cooker a few weeks ago, we’ve been consuming a lot of rice-friendly dishes lately. I always cook more steamed white rice than we can finish, so the next day I can turn it into fried rice, which is fast and easy and makes a good packed lunch.

I’ve learned to keep certain condiments handy: sesame oil, sesame seeds (I prefer the black ones—they look so much more dramatic), green onions, frozen green peas, garlic cloves in soy sauce, lop cheung (Chinese sausage), and salmon belly strips (available from my local Filipino grocery store for a few dollars a bag). All of these make tasty additions to fried rice.

I’ve also learned anew that good food doesn’t have to be fussy, elaborate, or expensive. Even on a tight budget, with the simplest of ingredients, you can still eat well. 
I learned this technique of curing garlic cloves in soy sauce from my former roomie.

Peel a few heads’ worth of garlic cloves and place them in a clean jar. Pour in enough soy sauce to cover, fix on the jar lid, and store in the fridge. The cloves are ready to use after 4 weeks; they turn crisp and nutty, while the soy sauce becomes deliciously garlicky. Add a minced clove or two, along with a few spoonfuls of soy sauce, to your fried or steamed rice.

Fried Rice with Salmon Belly
Serves two

2 cups cold cooked jasmine rice
4 salmon belly strips
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic (fresh or cured in soy sauce), minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 sprigs green onions, cut into thirds and julienned
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Sprinkle the salmon bellies with coarse sea salt, spreading it around with your finger and let stand for about half an hour. Fry the strips in a cast-iron skillet or roast them in the toaster oven for 15–20 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, heat half the vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet or wok. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. When the oil is hot, pour in the eggs and cook, turning repeatedly, until just set. Remove the eggs from the pan and place in the same bowl you scrambled them in. Set aside.

Add the remaining vegetable oil to the pan and sauté the minced garlic and ginger until fragrant and lightly golden. Add the rice (sprinkle with a little water if it’s clumped together) and stir to distribute the garlic and ginger.

When the rice is heated through, add the scrambled eggs and sesame seeds and drizzle on the sesame oil. Make sure everything is mixed together well.

Serve the rice with the salmon bellies on top, garnished with the green onions.

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