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In Hawaii, I was able to procure green onion, salt, vegetable oil, and I also got some Chinese cooking wine from Honolulu’s Chinatown. Additionally, I added Morri’s favorite sauce from Hong Kong called the “Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Flavored Sauce”.
After I prepared all the materials, I started making the authentic Yangzhou Chowfan. After classes ended that day, I went to the cafeteria filled with excitement. I saw that Craig was writing the day’s menu on a blackboard. Morri saw me walk in and greeted me with a smile, “Today, you are the chef! We will be your helpers.”
I said, “No way, you guys are still my bosses”.
As I talked to Morri, I saw what Craig wrote on the blackboard. Hah! He already wrote “Original Yangzhou Fried Rice”, and to emphasize the authenticity he added the line, “cooked by a chef from Yangzhou, China” on the bottom.
After I saw this advertisement I felt that I had a tremendous responsibility to create the best fried rice today to showcase the culinary arts of my hometown and country.
I immediately jumped into the hectic cooking process. First, the main ingredient of rice must be prepared correctly. Yangzhou Fried Rice isn’t exactly one single dish, but it is a dish mixed with the staple food of rice. In China the best kind of rice to use for this is called Yangshan Rice. It is a long grained rice that is not sticky after being cooked, and that is the best type of rice for frying. Hawaii didn’t have this type of rice so I used Thai Jasmine Rice. The Thai rice grains are rounder and smaller and gave off a pleasing scent after being cooked. The most important thing about making the rice is putting in the correct amount of water. If too much water was used then the rice would be soggy and not suitable for frying. However, if there is too little water then the rice would be raw and uncooked. At that time, we had a giant rice cooker and put in about ten pounds of rice. Then, I put in water that rose about 5 to 6 centimeters above the rice, and started cooking.
While the rice was cooking, I started to prepare the other materials. First I chopped the chicken leg meat and lean pork into tiny squares, and then I chopped up the shrimp. Hawaii didn’t have the small river shrimps we usually used in China, but they had giant prawns from the ocean. In order to make these ingredients tender in the rice, I added some cornstarch and a little bit of salt and cooking wine. In China, we would also add some MSG, but in America MSG is considered bad for health. Even though you could buy the best Japanese manufactured MSG for very little money, many restaurants in America would post a message in their menus that say, “No MSG”. So I also followed the local customs and stopped using MSG in our cooking. Now we haven’t purchased MSG for over ten years.
After all the materials were chopped and mixed, I asked Morri to light the kitchen’s large furnace. The cafeteria has a gas furnace that made a loud ping when it was lighted. I used a small frying pan first and put in some oil and fried the chicken,pork, prawns, and snow peas for about three minutes and then took them out. Since these materials will go back in the pot with the rice later they do not need to be cooked completely. If they are cooked completely and then cooked again they would not be as tender and would not taste as good.
Now the rice was cooked, so I told Morri to take all the rice out and put it in a large flat pan to cool a little bit. Also, I asked her to break the large clumps into smaller pieces so the grains could dry a little bit and be better for frying.
Five minutes later, I put a very large wok on the furnace and added vegetable oil. Then I poured in the scrambled egg mix with some chopped green onion. The eggs sizzled and jumped in the wok and many white and yellow bubbles started to pop with oil. The sizzling paired with the howling of the fans and sounded like a kitchen orchestra.
The rice must be put into the pot not long after the eggs are in. This is so that the eggs can be cooked and mixed evenly with the rice. Then the other materials can be added with a little bit of oyster sauce and sesame oil. It would be ready after a few more minutes of mixing. This fried rice contains the yellow of the eggs, green of the onions, red of the various meats, and the white of the rice. Additionally, the sweet smell of the jasmine rice and the flavor of the oyster sauce made it a perfect dish full of color, scent, and flavor. Morri immediately ate two bowls and said that it was delicious. She also bought some additional bowls for her family.
That day lines were forming before I even finished cooking my rice. Since it was a student cafeteria, the price couldn’t be very high so they decided that they would sell my dish for $4.00 per bowl. After I was done cooking, Morri and another student helper scooped the rice into plastic bowls and passed them to students to teachers as Jane and I collected the cash. The ten pounds of rice were sold extremely quickly and by popular demand I cooked another batch, and similarly it was sold quickly.
Later, Jane did a bit of a cost/profit analysis and found that authentic Yangzhou Fried Rice may not be very profitable. Even though the main ingredients are not very expensive, a lot of man hours were put into chopping up and preparing the dish. Nevertheless, I brought the dish to the student cafeteria for one day, and Morri called me “chef” since then.
To be continued!