Indo Chinese Garlic Fried Rice is a delicious concoction from Indian Chinese restaurants that incorporates crispy little chips of burnt garlic. A gluten-free, nut-free, vegan recipe.
In case you’ve wondered about my silence on the blog, it’s because I was in India for the last three weeks, catching up with everything I have missed in the two years since my last visit.
Returning to India is like catching up with an old friend. I haven’t lived there for nearly 22 years now, and I am never prepared for the inevitable changes I see in her: both in how she looks and how she thinks. I feel just a little sad at how far apart we’ve grown. And yet, it takes just moments for me to slide back into an easy familiarity because we have a history together.
One of the things I love best about going back to India is the chance to eat real Indian food. While I do cook Indian food in my kitchen often, there’s nothing quite like eating the food made for you by family and friends and yes, even the food you can find in restaurants. It all tastes just a little different, and just a little more special.
More recipes to try:
When we do eat out, there are two types of food I make a beeline for: Indo Chinese, a genre of Chinese food that’s utterly flavorful and unique to India, and sanitized versions of street food, because risking a Delhi Belly during a hectic travel schedule is not fun. Jay and I were bold enough to have sugarcane juice — now sold by some vendors in disposable paper cups — a few times. It is really fun to watch the vendor pass the long canes through a press, making the juice right before your eyes. Add some lemon and you have the most delicious drink you can imagine in Bombay’s harsh summers. Desi sneeringly refused, but since we didn’t die of food poisoning, the laugh’s on him! 😀
One Indo Chinese dish I absolutely love, and tried to eat as often as I could, is Garlic Fried Rice.
One of my peeves while making garlic fried rice is that the garlic flavor simply doesn’t seem to stick, which can be harsh for someone who loves garlic as much as I do. But at the bustling Cafe Leopold on Colaba Causeway and at a few other restaurants, I found a version that incorporated little bits of brown — almost burnt — garlic, and they gave the rice an impressive garlic flavor that was to die for.
My version here is my own: Indian Chinese dishes usually include monosodium glutamate, a flavoring agent that adds a unique taste, but I prefer not to use it because it has been mired in controversy for possible side effects. I use a ton of garlic, though, and I brown it first starting with some cold oil to draw out the most flavor from it.
While here in the United States we tend to use short-grained rice for Chinese dishes, it is a good idea, and perhaps important, to use a long-grained Indian rice like Basmati for this recipe, because that’s what they use in India and it will give you the most authentic flavor.
When in a rush, I make this a one-pot dish, by adding to it cubes of baked tofu. You can leave the tofu out — Indian restaurant versions don’t have it — but I really like the texture that the chewy tofu adds.
I’ll be telling you more about India in the days to come, but for now I’ll leave you with this delicious and easy recipe for Indochinese Garlic Fried Rice. It’s a keeper, and one you’ll be making in your kitchen over and over, as I will.
Indo Chinese Garlic Fried Rice
- 1 1/2 cups dry basmati or other long-grain rice
- 20 large cloves garlic, smashed, then thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp sesame oil Another vegetable oil like avocado oil will also do
- 1 large green bell pepper (finely diced)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (tamari is good as a gluten-free substitute)
- 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 6 spring onions (trimmed and white and green parts finely chopped)
- Salt to taste (use kala namak or black salt if you have it)
- 14 oz baked tofu (cut into small cubes, optional)
- Cook the rice, like pasta, in a large pot of salted boiling water, until about 80 percent done. The grains should still be al dente. This will help keep your rice from turning into mush when you stir-fry it. Spread the rice on a baking sheet in a thin layer to help any additional moisture evaporate.
- Heat the oil in a large wok and add the chopped garlic to it while it's still cold. Cook the garlic, sauteing frequently, until it is golden brown and almost burnt. Remove three-fourths of the garlic from the oil using a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the green bell pepper to the hot oil along with the baked tofu cubes, if using, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, then add the cooked, cooled rice along with the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Use more or less of the red pepper and vinegar, according to your taste.
- Stir-fry the rice in the wok over high heat, about five minutes. In the last couple of minutes of cooking, add the chopped spring onions and add salt if needed.
- Serve hot after sprinkling on the reserved garlic.