I first learned how to use Asian spices from my best friend’s late mother whom I dearly called Auntie Wong.
Growing up in Malaysia, Auntie Wong was an acrobat in a circus, and later became a self-trained dentist. ‘How do you install a denture for an old lady without a single tooth,’ she laughed,’ luckily I was young and good looking then, I asked male dentists for helps and was never refused’.
Auntie Wong migrated to Australia in early 1980s with her three daughters. She ran a small take away shop in Glebe, an inner Sydney suburb, selling Malaysian fast food. To supplement the limited income from the shop, in the evenings she made spring rolls for catering companies. My friend Mei, the youngest daughter, helped with the spring rolls while she was still in primary school.
Some years later, Auntie Wong saved up enough money and bought a studio apartment. Auntie and Mei lived there for many years, sharing a bed. In their tiny but always welcoming home, Auntie Wong cooked me many heart-warming meals. The smell of delicious food filled the small space, and what a wonderful place it was. My favorite dishes were the Singapore meat and bone soup, noodles with salmon XO sauce, and fried rice with Indian spices.
While enjoying meals, auntie told me many of her life stories. I was always inspired by her amazing abilities to adopt to changes, and her keen spirit for new adventures.
Here is my version of a spiced fried rice – simple, aromatic and satisfying, with fond memory of Auntie Wong’s kindness and love.
- cook the basmati rice in a rice cooker with a few star anise, some cloves, and stir in a few teaspoons of turmeric and cumin.
- When the rice is cooked, fluffed the rice with a pair of chopsticks; then remove the star anise and cloves.
- In a frying pan, scramble some eggs with generous amount of cooking oil; add the rice, break up the rice with a spatula; splash a few dashes of dark soy sauce*, sesame oil into the rice, along with some salt, white pepper and some frozen peas; add extra spices (turmeric, cumin, white pepper, or curry powder) if desired.
- stir fry the rice until the peas are cooked through, approximately 5 minutes.
* use gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option.