China and the Fat Lebanese – Rozz a’ Djej

Rozz a Djej - Lebanese Chicken and Rice

I hate the Chinese and how clever they are. Fried rice. Bastards. For centuries, Lebanese mothers have been force-feeding their children all the rice cooked for the meal in fear of it going stale. While the Lebanese grew fat with gavage, the Chinese ate reasonably sized meals, saving the rice for the day after. Stale rice is a necessary backbone of fried rice, and when done well, it is pure joy.

There it was, a bowl of stale, plainly cooked basmati, flavoured with Iranian saffron; sitting in the fridge, waiting to be eaten with a dollop of yoghurt – might sound good to you, but in reality, it’s more boring than you imagine. Rice doesn’t survive a nuclear reheating as well as one would hope. Take a lesson from the Chinese. A bit of onion and garlic, a can of chickpeas and some beef mince, caramalised in a wok. A Lebanese teaspoon or two of each cumin and cinnamon, and a touch of chilli – toss the rice in, coat it well. Shred some poached chicken breast and scatter on top with some fried almonds; a stir-fry worthy of an emperor. Rozz a’ djej (rice with chicken), this Chinese remake of the Lebanese classic is still best eaten with a fork.

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