Sweet Potato and Green Pepper Fried Rice, for Weekend Cookbook Challenge #22

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My current location makes following other blogs much more difficult than in the past, so I haven't been participating in as many events. This months' Weekend Cookbook Challenge, hosted by fellow budget blogger $40 a Week and with an eponymous theme, is my first in a few months. In China, you could eat at nice restaurants several times a day on that budget, but this recipe would also fit the budget back in North America.

Fried rice (chao fan) is a common lunch dish at local homestyle restaurants. Most of the offerings are fried rice versions of more well known dishes - twice cooked pork fried rice (hui guo rou chao fan), kung pao chicken fried rice (gong bao ji ding chao fan), or beef and green pepper fried rice (qing jiao niu rou chao fan). One order usually costs three to six rmb (24 to 48 cents). I am always impressed by how the rice absorbs the strong Sichuan-style flavours from the other ingredients and by the textural contrasts in the best versions. I am also always a bit horrified by the amount of oil rice can soak up and still leave a pool of oil in the bottom of the bowl or takeout container. Lately I've been getting an extra order of rice with my takeout and making my own fried rice with the leftovers or with other things. I like about a half and half ratio of rice and other ingredients.

This fried rice has a lot going on - sweetness and a bit of char from the sweet potatoes, a burn from the peppers (peppers here are similar to mild Hatch chilies) and a bit of funkiness from the chili oil. (The chili oil is the chunky kind which may have peanuts or preserved black beans in it; use other hot sauces if desired.) You can also use a mixture of mild and hot peppers to control the amount of heat.

Cut one small sweet potato into thin slices and then strips. Cut one large or three smaller green peppers and half a small onion into strips as well. Heat two tablespoons of oil over high heat in a large wok or frying pan and cook sweet potatoes until tender. Add green pepper, onions, and half a teaspoon salt and continue to cook until all vegetables are soft. Mix one and a half cups cold cooked rice into vegetables and let sit for a minute or so until rice starts to get crusty. Continue to heat and stir til rice is heated through and stir in one tablespoon chili oil. Mix together, taste for salt, and serve to one or two depending on appetites.