Saturday, July 25, 2009

Small luxuries

Conpoy fried rice

Fried rice has got to be one of the easiest comfort food made with nothing more than leftovers and whatever happens to be in the pantry and fridge. Usually that'd be stuff like ham, carrots, peas, and pineapple... not quite what I wanted. Luckily, mother left me a small (but sufficient!) supply of conpoy, or dried scallops, proving once again: mothers really do know best.

The price of conpoy has soared significantly over the past few years. Not that it was ever cheap, of course; but it's not the kind of thing you'll need heaps of in any dish, anyway.

Fried rice is usually the last pre-dessert course in a multi-course Cantonese banquet, and conpoy fried rice is probably towards the high-end of middle-of-the-field. But the problem with restaurant versions of this dish is that they skimp on the conpoy. Massively. Which is definitely not the case when it's homemade.


The massive conpoy chunks made for a great ol' load of umami goodness in the fried rice. Delicious was an understatement. The grains of rice popped, having soaked up the umami-filled conpoy soaking water, coated by a thin layer of egg white and accompanied by the chewy chunks of conpoy. A handful of finely chopped spring onion and a smidgeon of minced ginger rounded off the dish satisfactorily.

Rice-ripened persimmon

Dessert was a simple affair: a "water" ripe persimmon, served chilled. The first time I ate a full persimmon was 2 years ago, during a stay at an onsen-ryokan in Hakone. I'll never forget the taste: it was soft, sweet, and juicy, intermingled with jelly-like bits. It was mindblowing. And unbelievable.
And to this day, it is the only time I will eat persimmon. When they're overripe, bursting with watery goodness, and chilled beforehand.
It's quite hard to get this sort of persimmon on the market anywhere. In Hong Kong, the markets will occasionally have a few, wrapped up carefully in layers of fruit netting and styrofoam trays and glad wrap, to prevent any mishaps that could result in a burst--and thus non-merchantable--fruit. Here, though, I've only seen them available for sale as cheap, almost-past-use-by-date at discount prices. If that's not available, there's always the option of burying them in rice, until they resemble water balloons. Literally.

Conpoy Fried Rice (Serves 1)
1 dried scallop, soaked and steamed for 5 minutes
1 stalk of green onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons oil
2 egg whites, beaten
splash of shaoxing wine
salt, to taste
1/2 cup rice (preferably from the night before)

To prepare the compoy: in a small bowl, cover the dried scallop with boiling water and allow to soak until it has rehydrated and turns an opaque off-white. Steam the compoy for 5 minutes, or nuke in the microwave for 5 minutes, covered, with the water. Separate into strands, and remove any sinewy bits.

Heat the oil in a wok. Lightly fry off the ginger and green onion to release the fragrance. Add the rice, compoy, and a small amount of the soaking liquid. Toss until the liquid has evaporated, and the rice grains are no longer in clumps.
Beat the egg white lightly with a splash of shaoxing wine and a pinch of salt. Add the whites to the wok, tossing quickly to ensure the rice grains are covered by a thin coating of egg white. Season to taste. Serve immediately.

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