Yangzhou Fried Rice

Yangzhou Fried Rice1

So, I have this soft spot.

It’s pretty frequent that whenever I’m in a shopping center or a private small business or restaurant and I see that the workers/owners aren’t getting much business, I feel really bad and sympathetic towards them. Yes, even if they’re those people that set up the stands in the mall and try to accost you while you’re walking just to test/buy their product. I know that the retail/food industry business is cutthroat and very competitive. I know that it’s not my fault if they have slow business. I know that I’m not obligated to buy anything- and to be honest, I usually don’t. But it doesn’t keep me from empathizing with them either. They have to make a living like everyone else, and their ability to do so or not depends on whether or not they can convince complete strangers to open their wallets. It’s a real sticky, precarious situation when you think about it.

Yangzhou Fried Rice2

Why am I even talking about this? Well, when I was putting together this dish and this post, it made me think of this Asian restaurant that used to be in the food court of the local mall when I was still in grade school, years ago. I won’t say the name of the place, but it was independently owned by this couple that looked like they were in their mid-to upper 50’s. Every time I went to the mall, it just never seemed like anyone was buying anything from this place. The man and his wife would come in and out of the kitchen in the back, filling and emptying the dishes they had available, all the while looking at the passing shoppers as if wishing just a few of them to stop and buy something- anything- from their restaurant. If I can be completely honest, I’ll just go ahead and admit that there was a good reason that this place didn’t get much business. All of the ‘standard fare’ that you’d see in an American Chinese restaurant was on their menu, but the sad reality was that it wasn’t really well seasoned. Like, at all. Their recipes needed serious work.

I can still remember how sorry I felt for them, even as a little girl. And I wished I could’ve been able to tell that I really felt like they would’ve gotten more business if they changed up how they made their fried rice.

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It’s just my personal opinion, but I do think that a good Chinese restaurant starts with how they make their fried rice. In my experience, if they make excellent fried rice, then chances are the rest of the menu is pretty spot on too. Because let me just say up front one thing that I’ve learned: all fried rice is NOT created equal. I’ve had some really good fried rice over the years, and then I’ve had some that was frankly, pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I decided to make some for myself that I realized how easy it is for fried rice to go wrong. And to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants I’ve been to that make fried rice that taste even better than this recipe. But nobody’s perfect, and I do have to say that I’m pleased with how it came out for my first time….er, maybe my second. Technically.

Yangzhou Fried Rice4

See, technically my first attempt didn’t turn out so well. I maaaaaaay have ruined the first batch of Jasmine rice that I made. The rice is supposed to be one day old, so I made the Jasmine rice the night before I wanted to make the fried rice. It was really late at night and I was in a hurry to get to bed, so long story short, I don’t think I let it cook long enough. There was too much moisture still in the rice by the next day so the grains stuck together. Have you ever tried to ‘stir-fry’ gummy rice? It doesn’t work very well. And turns out, it tastes pretty bad too.

As rotten luck would have it, that was all the fresh Jasmine rice I had. All that was left in my pantry was Minute rice that you steam in water in the microwave. So I was forced to call in the cavalry on this one, folks. It’s still rice, it just didn’t need that long to cook. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, it turned out into a pretty yummy dish. And now, you guys know that this dish can me made with Minute Rice and still turn out pretty awesome. It’s all apart of Cooking is My Sport Quality Control, I swear.

I’ll be bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #39, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @Birgerbird, See you there!

 

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Yangzhou Fried Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Ching-He Hunag

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 ounces cooked Chinese pork (char siu) or ham, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, a day old
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal, for garnish

Directions

1. For the fried rice: Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Add the eggs and scramble, then set aside on a plate.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for less than 1 minute. Then add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

3. Add the pork, and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and cooked rice and toss together. Add the cooked egg back into the wok.

4. Season the mixture with the light soy sauce, salt and pepper. At the very end add the sesame oil, if using. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.

Checkerboard Layer Cake

Checkerboard Cake1

One year ago today, I thought that I was absolutely crazy.

I had tried to talk myself out of it for months, giving all kinds of excuses as to why the idea in my head was a bad, terrible, even abysmal one that would never lead to anything.

I didn’t know anything about blogging. I mean ANYTHING.

WordPress or Blogroll? How should I know? Wait. What’s the difference between them anyway? (This was a serious, actual conversation I had with myself at the time, I kid you not.)

Checkerboard Cake2

I didn’t know anything about photography.  I got my first real digital camera for my 24th birthday, and I knew virtually nothing about operating it besides pressing the button that would actually take the pictures. Food styling? Natural Lighting? Props? What were those things? I sure as heck didn’t know.

There were literally millions of other food blogs out there; what reason did  I have to think that anyone out there would take any notice of it? Not a single one.

Despite all of those misgivings and factors working against me, a year ago today I pressed the ‘Publish’ button. A year ago today, I published the very first blog post on Cooking is My Sport.

My tiny blog baby is one year old, guys. I can’t believe it. When I first started this thing, it was purely an experiment- I told myself that if no one showed interest in my posts, I could always just quit and delete the whole thing, with the world being none the wiser. And for some strange, but wonderful reason, that didn’t happen.

And it’s all because of you people.

Checkerboard Cake3

I’ve said it before, but today on my blog’s anniversary I can’t help but say it once again: to every single person who has ever visited CIMS, liked a post, commented on one, or followed my blog- you have my immense gratitude.

Thank you. Thank you. And THANK YOU.

Most of all, thank you all to the wonderful new friends and buddies I’ve made through blogging. Thanks for sharing your wonderful blogs with me and always showing mad support ❤

This has been such a wild ride of a year. I feel like I’ve learned so much- not just about blogging, but photography as well. Check back to my first posts if you don’t believe me.

Wait no, don’t do that. My photography is horrifyingly God-awful on several dishes.

Eh, whatever.  You’re welcome to look if you’re brave enough. And regardless of poor pictures, the food is still spot on, so there’s that.

I knew I wanted to make a special cake to celebrate my blogs’s birthday, and this one certainly is special. The checkerboard layer cake is one of those things that for a lot of people that haven’t made it before, is a real mystery. They just can’t figure out how it gets done. I used to be one of them myself. Then, earlier this year, my grandma and grandpa remodeled their kitchen. While emptying it out for the contractor, my grandma decided to get rid of a good number of her old appliances and cookware- fortunately, most of them got passed on to yours truly. One of the things I got was her checkerboard cake pan set. When I was trying to think of what type of layer cake to make for the blog anniversary, I thought of the set and immediately decided that this would be the one.

Checkerboard Cake4

Now, if you don’t have a checkerboard cake pan set, have no fear: you can still make this cake. All you really need are 8″ or 9″ layer cake pans, and bowls/cookie cutters that measure 4-5″ and 2-3″ inches. You also don’t have to automatically go with white and chocolate cake as your flavors: as long as they’re different colors to create the checkerboard pattern, it’s fine. I will say this though: try to use cake recipes that aren’t overly moist. Since this cake requires multiple steps of assembly, super moist cakes can have the tendency to be really fragile and crack with too much handling. The cake shouldn’t be as dense as pound cake, but not as soft as a twinkie either- a perfect medium is what you’re looking for.

I didn’t think I would like this cake a much as I did. Chocolate cake isn’t my favorite, and I’m honestly more of a yellow cake lover than a straight white one. However, I found this to be VERY good. There’s just something about the blending of flavors that creates the perfect blend between the sweetness of the white cake and the slight bitterness of the chocolate cake that just really works together. The vanilla butter cream is delicious enough to eat by itself on a spoon- straight up.

So, I know what you’re thinking: there’s a crap load of frosting on this cake. I know. And I can explain. See the original plan was to use the butter cream to make these lovely, artistic peaks with a spoon, and  needed a rather thick layer of frosting to do so. I just forgot one thing:

I am not artistic by any stretch of the imagination. It took me about 5-7 minutes of attempting this elaborate, peak design to figure out that it just wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t making peaks- more like craters. And no one wants to see craters on a layer cake. So, I just smoothed it all out and called it a night. Yeah, it’s thick, but so what? You get extra vanilla butter cream to eat- who’s gonna complain about that? Not I, said the Jessica.

I guess this about wraps this post up. Once again guys: thank you SO much for all the support you’ve given Cooking is My Sport over the past year- I can’ wait to see what next year holds 😉

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Checkerboard Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Hershey & Melissa@My CakeSchool

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION: Page 1, Page 2

Ingredients

For Chocolate Layer:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup, plus 6 tbsp. flour
  • 6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup veg. oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

For White Cake Layer:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted, soft butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 6 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

For Chocolate Layer:

1. Grease & flour 1 9-inch cake pans. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Mix sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add egg, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed in a stand mixer for 2 min.

3. Stir in boiling water and pour batter into pan (it’ll be thin). Bake for 30– 35 min, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10min, then remove to wire rack.

For White Layer:

1. Keep oven at 350°. Grease/flour 9-inch cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Combine the egg whites, milk and vanilla extract.

2. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add half of the milk mixture. Add the rest of both, continue to alternate beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

3. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-30 min, until cake passes toothpick test. Cool in pan for 10 min, then move to wire rack.

For Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

1. Cream shortening, butter & vanilla until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time and milk. Mix on medium speed for 8 min, scraping bowl sides & decreasing speed to slow on last two minutes.