Saffron in fried rice? I couldn't help but wonder whether this twenty-year-old recipe from the New York Times had fallen prey to some kind of horrible fusion abomination. But it turns out author Julie Sahni had uncovered a very traditional dish from the Macao region of China. Portuguese traders had introduced saffron and olive oil to the area hundreds of years ago. But how would they work when mixed with traditional Chinese ingredients?
What I loved about this dish was how the little pinch of saffron seems to haunt every bite. It's never the first taste you get. The ginger and onion usually hit first—then the sweetness from the peas. But the saffron sticks around in the back of your mouth, pleading with you to eat more. I must have eaten three-fourths of this recipe because I couldn't tell the voice "no."
Luckily this dish is as easy as the many other fried rice dishes I've written about (such as kimchi fried rice or crab fried rice). This one is all about high heat and cooking in batches. I added a drizzle of soy sauce at the end for a salty kick. I'm not sure that was an authentic addition, but it sure tasted good.
Fried Rice with Saffron, Ginger, and Tomatoes (Arroz Frito Aortuguesa)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, minced
- 1/2 cup pureed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup onions, chopped
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/3 cup scallions, thinly sliced
- Soy sauce
- Small pinch of saffron
Sprinkle the saffron into a small bowl and pour in 1 tablespoon of water. Stir gently and set aside.
Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk in 1 tablespoon of water. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, dump in the egg. Tilt the pan to spread the egg out so it coats the bottom, much like an omelet. Once it has set, scrape the egg into a bowl and break it up with a spoon into little bite size pieces.
3. Pour the rest of the oil into the skillet and turn the heat to high. Once hot, add the ginger. Cook for about 15 seconds, stirring often. Then dump in the saffron water and the tomatoes. Cook this mixture until most of the water evaporates, once again, stirring often. This should take about 4 minutes.
Add the sliced onions. Cook for one minute. Then add the rice, salt, pepper, and oyster sauce. Stir well, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the peas and the cooked egg, stir, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Serve with a sprinkling of scallions and soy sauce to taste.