LUCKY RICE: EXTREME COMFORT FOOD
On the beauty of amor fati, how to make Lucky Rice, what to do with celery seeds, and how Josh Niland’s sausage roll blows everything else out of the water.
Amor fati is such a great mindset for right now. Literally the love of fate, it’s about making the best of things, embracing what is happening and not fearing it. As Friedrich Nietzsche noted, “Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.”
And as Ryan Holiday, whose writings have guided my splashing in the shallows of Stoicism, says “it looks at what’s happening with enough strength to say, I have what it takes to make this good for me.”
Such philosophising brings me to dinner, of course, and one of the world’s great fried rice dishes, known variously in my household as Dirty Rice, Refrigerator Rice, Nicey Goreng, and now, prompted by amor fati, Lucky Rice.
What else could I call golden, turmeric-stained rice threaded with caramelised onions and chewy dried shrimp, crunchy with peanuts and hectic with chilli and sambal oelek? Especially when it’s topped with a lacy-edged fried egg, crunchy beer nuts, quick-pickled cucumber and more sambal.
It started life as nasi goreng, veered into nasi goreng kunyit (with turmeric), went rogue when I opened the fridge, and has survived all the shortcuts I’ve thrown at it (no pounding the base ingredients into a rempah, dried shrimp instead of fermented shrimp paste, etc). Talk about lucky.
THE KEY INGREDIENT
The key to Lucky Rice is the sauce, so don’t even think about it if you don’t have a bottle of kecap manis sweet soy sauce on hand – the one that’s so thick you have to hold it upside down for three-and-a-half minutes before the sticky black lava oozes out.
But first - cook up some rice. Not today, yesterday. Or do it today, for tomorrow. Or order too much jasmine or basmati (doesn’t matter) with your home delivery order. Next, refrigerate it overnight, it has to be a day-old. You can even spread it out on a baking tray in the fridge, uncovered, to help it dry out, because the drier it is, the more it will absorb your sauces.
Start with any sort of onion or red shallots and garlic, and push it until those first toasty notes of almost-burning hit your nose. Toss in anything else that needs a fry-up – maybe soaked and drained dried shrimps, steamed and sliced lup cheong sausage, chopped chilli, a handful of spring onion greens. Next add the rice by hand, breaking up any clumps as you scatter it into the pan. Toss to coat, but also leave it on the heat undisturbed for short intervals to get a bit of scorch.
Add the turmeric and the sauces – kecap manis, soy sauce, some sambal oelek if you have it, or Sichuan doboujiang or Korean gochujiang – and toss again until all is dirty-golden. Maybe some bean sprouts? Certainly, some more spring onions greens.
In the meantime, fry up some eggs, quick-pickle some cucumber in rice vinegar, salt and sugar, and find those beer nuts in the cupboard ( so much better than peanuts). Chuck it all on top and serve.
Fresh prawns. Or pan-fry ocean trout and let it break up through the rice. Ditto, roast chicken or pork. Mmm, maybe crisp bacon instead of lup cheong, why not? Smoked tofu. Shredded cabbage. Peas. A touch of palm sugar might be nice.
THE RECIPE: LUCKY RICE
1 tbsp dried shrimps, soaked in warm water for 30 mins
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Half onion or 3 red shallots, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
1 lup cheong sausage, steamed then sliced
3 spring onions, both whites and greens, chopped
3 cups day-old cooked rice
half tsp turmeric
1 tbsp kecap manis
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp sambal oelek, more to serve
Heat vegetable oil in a frypan and fry the onion until browned.
Add the garlic, chilli, lup cheong sausage and the white parts of the spring onions, tossing well.
Drain the dried shrimp and toss them in, too.
Add the rice by hand, breaking up any clumps, tossing well.
Add the turmeric and most of the spring onion greens, tossing well.
Add the kecap manis, soy sauce and sambal oelek, tossing well. When all is golden brown and the rice is almost sizzling on the bottom of the pan, taste and adjust any sauces, and tip the rice out onto a warm plate.
Serve with remaining spring onion greens, fried eggs, extra sambal, beer nuts and wedges of lime for squeezing. Serves 3-4.
BONUS GIFT: WHAT TO DO WITH CELERY SEED:
As promised, when analysing the role of celery seed in sausage rolls last week, here’s what else to do with it. First, let it be known it’s not actually the seed of the crunchy green celery we know and love, but of ‘wild celery’ or smallage. Also, it’s not terribly attractive, and some people dislike its bitter medicinal, savoury note. That said, I bet they’d love it if it came in their bloody mary.
Use celery seeds in pickles, brines and chutneys, and more judiciously in salad dressings and coleslaws. Best use, I think, is simply in an old-school celery salt, to serve with boiled, poached and scrambled eggs. Using a mortar and pestle, grind 1 teaspoon of celery seeds with 2 teaspoons of sea salt until smooth.
NOW THAT’S A SAUSAGE ROLL.
Last week’s sausage roll blitz was great – but wait ’til you see what Josh Niland has come up with for Mr Niland at Home, this week only (August 20) at The Fish Butchery in Sydney’s Paddington. Blue eye trevalla sausage in a sour cream pastry roll with parsnip puree and onion chutney – so next level.
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I would like to acknowledge that I live, work and play on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and wish to pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.