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Updated: April 25, 2014 19:31 IST
melange: dinner in 20 minutes

Breath of the wok

Sala Kannan
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Chilli paneer fried rice
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Chilli paneer fried rice

I love rice. And I love paneer. So what better way to put together my two favourite things than in a fried rice. This is a quick and easy dish you can easily make even on a busy day.

Here are the secrets to making perfect fried rice.

First, use a-day-old rice. Freshly-cooked rice has too much moisture, and that will make your dish mushy. Day-old rice is drier, because it has lost some of its moisture. This keeps the rice grains nice and separate when you cook them. I have always cooked rice sitting in the fridge, so it's never an issue for me. If you don’t already have cooked, cooled rice, simply cook rice like you normally would, then spread it out on a platter or tray and leave it to cool completely.

Use a large, wide wok or kadai. This again will keep rice grains separate and firm. You know how the stir fries, noodles and rice dishes at a Chinese restaurant have that unique, almost smoky smell and flavour? That’s called “wok hei”, or breath of the wok. You can replicate this flavour at home — the trick is to use a lot of heat. Cooking this fried rice on top heat will impart that great wok flavour that you get with restaurant recipes.

You don’t need a side dish for this, it has everything in it to make a tasty, filling meal. And the best part? It’s a one pot meal, so washing up is a breeze. So these are the tricks to a successful fried rice — day-old rice, a large, wide wok and a lot of heat. Now on to the recipe.

Chilli Paneer Fried Rice

serves about 4

1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon oil

175 grams cubed paneer

2-6 dried red chillies, according to taste

1 cup thinly sliced onions

1 1/2 cups sliced capsicum

3 cups day old cooked basmati rice*

3 tablespoons soya sauce

1/2 tablespoon vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of pepper powder, optional

1/2 tablespoon ketchup, optional

A few spring onions chopped, or a few coriander sprigs chopped.

*Either use one day old, left over rice, or make fresh rice and cool it down. Place 1 1/2 cups basmati rice and 3 cups water in a vessel and bring to a boil. When it boils, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes, or till all the water is absorbed. Make sure the rice is not over cooked. Tip the rice onto a platter or tray, spread it out and let it cool completely.

Heat one teaspoon oil in a large, wide wok or non-stick kadai. If you don't have either, you can also use a large flat non-stick pan.

Add paneer cubes to the wok, and gently toss till the oil coats the paneer. Cook the paneer on medium heat, tossing occasionally, till

it is lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the wok and place it on a plate.

Wipe the wok clean, and return it to the stove. Heat one tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, break the chillies in half, and add them to the oil. Let the chillies sizzle in the oil till they darken just a little.

Add the sliced onions and capsicum and sauté for about 30 seconds. Now crank up the heat to high, and immediately throw in the rice, soya sauce, vinegar, pepper powder if using. Working quickly, toss the rice till all the sauce is absorbed. It should take about a minute.

Keep tossing the rice

so that it doesn't burn.

Turn off heat, add ketchup and paneer cubes and mix well. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves or spring onions.

Food blogger and enthusiastic traveller, Sala Kannan combines her passions for cooking, culture and photography in one delectable blog: Veggie Belly.

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