Asia: The Fried Rice Miracle

Everybody loves fried rice and, for once, this actually includes my partner!

Frankly, given his flavour-phobic nature, the fact that he will even consider eating fried rice is a miracle in itself, and has saved us from many a Happy Meal whilst travelling through Asia. China, Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia – it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I find fried rice on the menu! Whether it be called Khao Phad Gai in Phuket, Nasi Goreng in Java or 炒饭 in Sichuan, fried rice has been an absolute lifesaver!

However, as with all miracles, there is a strict criteria that must be adhered to before it can be fully realised: no prawn, no chilli, no garlic, no funny stuff. Wheter these “condiment commandments” are delivered verbally or on a printed card (thank God for Google Translate), these are instructions that have been communicated in a babel of tongues whilst on our many travels. Admittedly, “no funny stuff” is often lost in translation; but subsequent to the “Great Powdered Beef Floss Calamity” of ’07 in Beijing (which ruined a perfectly good plate of fried rice), this particular commandment has become almost as important as “no garlic”! For the likes of Brian it seems the world is filled with culinary pitfalls and devious chefs, just waiting to impart flavour upon their unsuspecting diners. Generally though, we seem to muddle through the minefield that is feeding Brian.

Sadly, his pedantic ordering instructions are not limited to ordering fried rice – even his beloved Big Macs are fraught with food dangers and require deconstruction. Typically the conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Please, wouldn’t you rather just have nuggets?”

Brian: “No, I fancy a Big Mac”

Me: Sigh

McD: “Next!”

Brian: “I would like a medium Big Mac Happy Meal please”

McD: “Okay. And to drink?”

Brian: “Coke Light. Okay, now on the Big Mac, I don’t want any cheese, gherkin, sauce…or mayo”

McD: “There is no mayo in a Big Mac, sir”

Brian: “That’s fine, I just want to make sure they don’t add any mayo”

McD: “Err, okaaayyy sir. So you just want the bread, meat and lettuce then?”

Brian: “Definitely, none of that other crap”

This exchange would be mortifying at the best of times…now imagine this entire conversation taking place in Japan!

Thankfully, through perseverance and experimentation, we’ve slowly been able to expand his list of edible foods abroad. And although still far from possessing a global palette, he has nevertheless come a long way. Of course, the “condiment commandments” still apply to these new dishes, but we are no longer confined just to the Golden Arches or to the Colonel’s Secret Recipe! In Tokyo he ate Japanese Curry almost exclusively for 2 weeks, and in Malaysia he now happily scoffs roti canai (but only with sugar) and murtabak…even Banana Leaf Curry has recently been given the thumbs up. But when all else fails, we can always rely on the tried and tested “Fried Rice Miracle”…just as long as they don’t try to add any of that “funny stuff”.

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