Celery and Pork Thread Fried Rice

肉絲炒飯

Fried rice is one of my favorite midnight indulgences and rarely has it ever tasted so good as when prepared one wintry night by my Chinese friends, the Hu’s, in the kitchen of their restaurant. The crowds were gone, the cooks were beat, and everyone was warmed by this simple snack.

  • All that is needed is what was on hand—a bit of fresh pork butt, a few stalks from the tender heart of the celery, and a mound of colorful carrot cubes. The splash of wine is mine, a flourish to lend savor to the bowl.
  • Preparations take only 5–10 minutes, given cold rice. For peak flavor, work on your feet about 13 hours rolling hundred of springrolls and chopping until your cleaver seems a part of your hand, then sink down in a chair with a warm bowl and ready chopsticks.

Ingredients

  • cups cold cooked rice
  • ¼ pound trimmed pork loin
  • 1 large carrot, trimmed and peeled (to yield cup tiny diced carrot)
  • 2 inner stalks of celery plus the heart (to equal ½ cup thin slices)
  • 2–2½ tablespoons corn or peanut oil
  • 2–2½ teaspoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • 1–1¼ teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons thin-cut green and white scallion rings

Method

Preparations

Cook the rice as. Fluff, let stand until cool, then seal airtight and refrigerate overnight. Or, for use within the hour, spread the rice on a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool.

Slice the pork evenly into slices a scant ¼ inch thick, then shred them against the grain into slivers a scant ¼ inch thick. Cut any overly long slivers into 1-inch lengths. For precision shredding, chill the meat in the freezer, wrapped airtight, just until rigid enough to slice neatly.

Cut the carrot lengthwise into sticks a scant ¼ inch thick, then grasp the sticks together and cut them crosswise into tiny cubes a scant ¼ inch square.

Cut the celery stalks and heart on a slight diagonal into comma-shaped slices ⅛ inch thin. Include some pale, tender leaves from the heart; they will lend a pretty look and a nice texture to the dish.

Preparations may be done several hours in advance of cooking. Seal the ingredients separately, airtight, and store in the refrigerator.

Stir-frying the dish

About 15 minutes before serving, put a large serving bowl or individual rice bowls in a low oven to warm. Have all the ingredients within easy reach of your stovetop. Gently break the rice into individual grains with your fingers.

Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add the oil, swirl to coat the pan, then reduce the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one carrot cube, add the carrots and toss briskly to glaze with oil and heat them through, about 15 seconds. Next, add the celery to the pan, and toss several seconds to combine, adjusting the heat so it sizzles without scorching. Add the pork, and continue to toss until the meat is 90 percent gray. Sprinkle the wine at once into the pan, wait a brief second for it to “explode” in a fragrant hiss, then add the rice. Toss briskly to coat and separate the grains and combine the mixture, dribbling in a bit more oil from the side of the pan if needed to prevent sticking and lowering the heat if the rice begins to scorch. Once hot, sprinkle with salt, toss to combine, then taste and adjust with a bit more salt if required. Add the scallions, toss to combine, and remove the mixture at once to the heated bowl(s).

Fried rice is best served immediately. If the menu demands you cook in advance, cover the rice and keep it warm in a steamer set over low heat or in a low oven. Or, if you have cooked the rice in a heavy pot, remove it from the heat and cover it tightly; the heat of the metal will keep the rice warm for about 20 minutes.

Leftovers keep 3–4 days. Reheat, covered tightly, in a steamer set over high heat or in a hot oven.

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