Sichuan Fried Rice with Pineapple Squid, Pepper & Cucumber
Ok people, this is another of my Friday night specials! And that means... That as usual, there was almost nothing left in my fridge and so I had to get creative!
Fortunately, I still had a few tricks up my sleeve... Or jars in the cupboard and squid in the freezer to be more precise!
The squid are always terrific of course, but the star of the show was this wonderful Chinese bean paste... Please don't ask me the original name, I can only tell you what the translation of the shelf was and what the nice lady at the store told me... But let me tell you this much... It's a message you will enjoy because it is all about great flavor!
This was set on the shelf with the simple translation, "spicy red bean paste", which although it sounded like a good thing in itself, did not really tell me what it would taste like.
But the assistant kindly explained to me that it is a blend of broad beans, garlic, ginger, Sichuan pepper corns and sesame oil... Which suddenly made it sound a whole lot better! What made it better still was the fact that the beans were fermented and therefore packed a salty, rich, umami punch... And so, sure- supper was already a safe bet!
So, what else did I have in the fridge, ingredient-wise? Not much, as I already said! As you can see, other than my 4 frozen "pineapple squid", I had 1 red pepper, 2 spring onions, 1/2 of a cucumber and a little parsley... And in my cupboard, I had the bean paste, some sesame oil, Thai sweet chili sauce, soy sauce... And thankfully, a good cupful of rice, to turn these other ingredients into a meal!
Not really knowing exactly how to make the best use of the bean paste, I did a couple of quick searches online...
And lo and behold, right up there amongst the most frequent posts, were recipes using it in combination with cucumber! Ha! Once I saw that, of course I threw caution to the wind and just started cooking, suddenly filled with the confidence that everything would work out fine... And do you know what? It did!!!
The first thing to do is to get your rice boiling and to set your steam rack on top of it, so that you can put the squid on top and let them steam whilst the rice cooks! Boil the rice for 10 minutes with the lid on and after that time, remove the squid, set it to one side to cool and replace the lid to the saucepan. Let the rice sit and continue cooking/steaming from the residual heat in the saucepan.
And in the meantime, remove the seeds from the cucumber and the pepper and cut them, along with the spring onions, into small, bite-sized pieces.
Once the squid is cool enough to touch, cut each one into 3-4 bite-sized pieces.
Fry the squid and the pepper first, in just a little sesame oil, at a high heat, so that they begin to brown nicely, then add the spring onion and a good tablespoon of the red bean paste. Stir everything together well and take a peek into that little saucepan of rice... Is it good yet? Cool! Excellent! Let's go!
Now, last of all before adding the rice, as they require the least cooking, add the cucumber slices and season with a dash of soy sauce.
After 2-3 minutes, add your rice and a little more sesame oil and stir-fry together until everything is nicely mixed and coated by the bean paste and all of the good flavors in the pan.
I didn't have any cilantro at home, some a good sprinkle of fresh and finely chopped parsley had to do... that and just 1-2 tablespoons of sweet Thai chili sauce and a light drizzle of hoisin before serving were the last finishing touches... Before I could finally sit down and enjoy!
Very simple, with very simple flavors... But if they are simply good flavors... Then what more do you need to enjoy? Nothing!!!