Quarantine Cuisine: How Patois chef Craig Wong makes his favourite pineapple fried rice
We’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what they cook up using basic pantry supplies while they self-isolate at home
Like many of us, Patois owner Craig Wong is confined to his home. We asked the social-distancing chef to whip us up a meal with ingredients he already had on hand. His recipe: a raid-the-fridge fried rice.
Last Sunday—before all the city’s restaurants were ordered to close—Patois owner Craig Wong made the hard decision to shut up shop for a while. “We’re going to be fine, though,” says the optimistic Wong. Although Patois might not be slinging its famed jerk lobsters and kimchi pot stickers, the kitchen was fully stocked when they went on hiatus. So, rather than let good food go foul, Wong’s started getting creative with his kitchen team. The pineapples (originally intended for cocktails) have been turned into lacto-fermented scotch bonnet hot sauce, while the cauliflower (which would have become their popular O.G. Fried Cauliflower) was curried and pickled.
Although most of the kitchen’s leftovers were preserved one way or another, some of the goods ended up in the Wong household. Why brave the grocery store when you can stock the family fridge with what’s already on hand?
Wong’s fried rice is an easy-to-make, versatile dish that can be thrown together with just about anything kicking around your fridge, but Wong says the dish is a sometimes treat because his recipe calls for a lot of oil. “You can’t be shy with oil when making this, but it shouldn’t taste oily, either,” he says.
For this take, Wong used shrimp and fresh pineapple, but just about any protein can work (Wong has even used hot dogs on occasion). And the pineapple can be fresh or canned. For the rice, Wong brought home some USA #1 AAA long grain rice, which goes into Patois’s Dirty Fried Rice, but he says just about any rice—or even quinoa—can work.
½ pound of shrimp
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups of cooked, cooled rice
½ cup diced pineapple
1 cup spinach
2 cloves of garlic
2 ounces soy sauce
2 ounces of neutral oil such as canola or grapeseed
First, hire some capable sous chefs, like two-year-old Milo and six-month-old Knox.
It’s best if you cook the rice the night before. Wong spreads his rice in a baking tray and leaves it in the fridge for a good night’s sleep.
The next step: choose your pan. Wong says his carbon-steel pan from Japan is ideal, but a deep, non-stick frying pan is a good option. A well-seasoned cast-iron can also work, although it might require a bit more oil to keep the rice from sticking.
At the restaurant, Wong would just cook everything together in a single wok, but his stove at home doesn’t get hot enough for that. So, Wong prepares his fried rice “paella-style,” which means prepping each ingredient separately, then combining everything at the end.
He gets his biggest little helper to peel some shrimp.
Then Wong heats up some grapeseed oil, and puts his shrimp in the pan. As the shrimp sizzle, they bring the temperature of the oil down, which is when Wong throws a clove of crushed garlic over the crustaceans and seasons them with salt. After about a minute and a half, Wong flips the shrimp. Once they begin to curl and turn opaque he removes them from the heat. “You want them to be about 95 per cent cooked, so that when you add them to the rice at the end they don’t overcook,” he says.
Next up are the mushrooms, which get hit with some salt and garlic. “You want to season liberally, because you can’t compensate after by just seasoning the rice. If you do that, the ingredients just disappear in the mix; by doing it this way, the flavours pop,” says Wong.
Wong gets some more help from Milo, this time with cracking the eggs…
… and beating them.
The egg component is the trickiest part of this dish. As the salt-seasoned egg mixture bubbles in the oil, Wong uses his spoon to drag the cooked potion around the pan, thereby forcing the still-runny yolk into the heat. “The eggs should be cooked harder than you’d cook eggs for a scramble,” says Wong. “If the eggs are undercooked, they’ll just blend into the rice—and I love big hunks of egg in my fried rice.”
Toss the pineapple into the pan for a quick sear so it can caramelize slightly.
Finally, it’s time for the most important ingredient: the rice. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan, though! Wong says you should make your rice in batches to keep the rice from turning mushy. Add a bit more oil here—the rice should look shiny. Then, cook for another two to three minutes until the rice is heated thoroughly. Now, you can kill the heat and season the rice with soy sauce.
Then throw the rest of the ingredients, including the spinach, into pan.
After a quick stir, the fried rice is ready to be served.