Often spelt in baffling ways in numerous boards and wayward menus by the side of the road, I gotta admit, this brilliant mixture of rice, vegies, an alarming amount of MSG and other unnamed ingredients is something that I will never get tired of. Its fascinating how the taste of the dish differs from one restaurant/joint/wayside cafe to the other. From fine dining restaurants to the wayward duwanagiriya or a makeshift umbrella stall by the side of the road, almost every place serves this hybrid oddity that we refer to as the fried rice. However, my favourite fried rice of all time belongs to the one that is brought from a boutique a little more than a petti kade near my place. Its only second to the one that is made by Mother Dearest at home, the thought of which makes me go glazed-eyed with longing. Sigh………..At home, its a pleasant a mixture of fried carrots, onions, cabbage, leeks, at times some spring onion and eggs mixed together with a rice of your choice. In these humble boutiques, its a whole different story. Whatever that is leftover from the lunch service is added into this mixture, along with a generous ladling of whatever leftover gravy and voila! Your fried rice is served! And the result I must say, is mindblowing. Most of the time anyway.

However, the taste is not consistent all the time. I suppose the flavour depends upon whatever is the curry that is leftover from lunch. Oh well……..

The best fried rice is moist and flavoursome, the worst, dry and insipid. The well to do restaurants use basmati rice (which is a tad too dry for my taste) while at these charming boutiques, the rice used is the usual humble samba rice or the polished white rice. The said amazing fried rice that we get from the kade nearby is made with the humble samba rice and I often find onion peels, whole cloves of unpeeled garlic and other inedible knickknacks within the rice. But I suppose that too contributes to the taste.

A popular accompaniment to the fried rice is the chilli paste, usually loaded with MSG, chilli flakes and sometimes, even tomato ketchup. Tomato ketchup makes appearences in various forms on the fried rice. Sometimes whole dollops of it in the “chicken devil” (devilled chicken or the chicken stir-fry), in the chilli paste or on the rice, as it is.

Whatever the origins of the infamous fried rice maybe ( I suspect its of Chinese origin) it has made its way amongst the Sri Lankan fast food/street food staples. The very Sri Lankan way in which its spelt at various places, even the most remote nooks and corners of the country proves its point. I remember the times that “fried rice” was considered a treat in my household. A special occasion calls for a special fried rice as opposed to the everyday rice and curry. Now it has become a lazy rice that we whip up/purchase from the restaurants when time is a luxury in itself. How the times have changed!

Anyways, my recipe for the coveted fried rice is easy. Keep it easy, keep it simple. Sautee some minced garlic and ginger together in a oiled pan (as less oil as possible, preferably olive oil) add sliced onions and sautee it together until golden with the garlic and the ginger. Next, add to it the vegies, but if I’m adding mushrooms (a personal favourite that adds a certain earthiness to the dish!) add it in first and let sautee till the water evaporates. Next add to it the sliced leeks, cabbage, carrot & spring onion and mix together with salt and pepper to taste, along with whatever fried egg or chicken or both I’ve prepared as well as the pre-cooked rice and voila! Dinner is served!

Image credits – http://srilankanfoodrecipe.blogspot.com/2010/04/vegetarian-fried-rice.html