Thursday, July 15, 2010

Possibly Poutine and (kind of) a Chang recipe hack

Well isn't that title full of confidence!

I feel the need to throw all these caveats out there because a) I've never been to Ma Peche (and probably never will, as there's maybe one thing on the menu us veggies could eat) and b) I don't want any rabid Poutine purists pelting me with cheese curds. But after reading this restaurant review, I had to make an attempt at rice fries.

I don't really track superstar chefs, but I've always kept a tiny, peripheral eye on David Chang. Seems like a talented, inventive, risk-taking boy (albeit a vegetarian hater). I like that a lot of his creations seem like inside jokes, even if they're just to himself - and his "Steak frites, Má Pêche style" fit that description well. Apparently he isn't the first to throw steamed rice cake (sliced to fry-size, of course) into the deep fryer. And now I've gone and done it too!

Chinese "Poutine" with Chive and Peppercorn Rice Fries

If you're looking for a simple, starchy snack, the fries are pretty awesome by themselves. Of course, dousing them in sriracha-spiked Mayo had to happen.

Basically, I made a batch of steamed rice cake (plus szechuan peppercorn and chinese chives), sliced it into "fries", deep fried 'em, and topped the mess with a pile of Tofu and Mushrooms in Garlic Black Bean Sauce (one of those dishes I make pretty often). Texturally, it was pretty spot on - crunchy, starchy fries, warm, salty gravy, soft tofu acting curd-y. Yum.

Rice Fries

16oz rice flour (interestingly, the widely available stuff in Charlotte is Thai in origin)
1.5 tsp salt
Dash baking powder
2 tablespoons freshly minced chinese chives
1 tablespoon freshly ground Szechuan peppercorns
1-1.5 cup cold water (possibly more - see below)

Oil for deep frying

Anything that's powdered and flavorful will work here - garlic, mustard, onion, etc. Herbs are variable as well.

If you're lucky enough to have steaming equipment, break it on out, or pull a NFP and use a stockpot (use a small cup or bowl to prop up whatever it is you're steaming). The amount of uncooked rice cake above will fill a 9 inch flat-sided cake pan to almost the top, right where you want it.

Sift the rice flour into a large bowl, add the salt and baking powder, and whisk. Add your herbs and pepper, plus any powdered flavoring agents you're using, and whisk again. Using a spoon, gradually add water, working the batter, until it reaches the consistency of uncooked cake batter (pretty thin). The consistency of the batter here relates directly to the chewiness factor of the fries - the thicker the batter, the more chew. I went for thinner rather than thicker hoping to achieve a crunchy outside crust that gave way to a steamy, soft interior (much like an actual fry). Grease your cake pan and pour the batter in. Steam for about 25 minutes. Let cool.

Heat your oil to 375f.

Once your cake has cooled, it'll pop out of the baking pan, no problemo. Using a sharp knife and wiping the blade often, slice the cake into 1/2 wide strips.

Slice the strips in half width-wise - you want these fries thin, but not so thin that they fall apart while frying.

If you fry them all in one batch (which I did) make sure to stir often - rice flour is verrrry sticky, and you'll end up with a bird's nest of rice fry, if you don't. Drain these well, and either nosh them as-is, with some Sriracha Mayo (1 tsp Sriracha to 1 tbl Mayo is how I like mine) or make some "gravy" as described below.

Soft Tofu and Mushrooms in Garlic Black Bean Sauce

1 block soft or medium tofu, drained and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons Black Bean Sauce (most Asian supermarkets carry this stuff - I use Lee Kum Kee brand)
1.5 cups water
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
Dash freshly ground Szechuan pepper
Huy Fong cock sauce, optional, about 1 tablespoon

Saute your garlic and shallots in the sesame oil for about a minute, then add your mushrooms. You want to saute your 'shrooms until they release their moisture. Add black bean sauce, water, cock sauce and pepper - simmer 2 minutes. Add your cornstarch and bring the mixture to a brisk simmer, until it thickens and clears. Add your tofu and continue to simmer for a few more minutes, to ensure the flavors penetrate the curd.

To serve, plate a pile of rice fries and ladle your "gravy" over top. Garnish with minced chives or scallions and additional cock sauce, if you so desire.


  1. Those fries look really good. But I think I'll start by just experimenting with Sriracha and mayo combinations. I was about to use both Sraracha and mayo on a sandwich a second ago but I chickened out. Baby steps.

  2. You know, they weren't bad - but I didn't finish them, kept some for the next day, and they were def NOT make-ahead fries. Eat 'em fresh or not at all.

    There are few things that a dash of Sriracha doesn't improve. With mayo, it's pretty magic.

  3. My dad goes on about rice fries from the seventies u could get them in grocerie stores u wounder how close thease are to them ill have to make and see and siracha is a cure all I carry a bottle everywhere I go