Sunday, December 12, 2010

East & West meet in Christmas Rice

This is my entry for the Apiring Bakers Christmas Giveaway 
hosted by Swee San of The Sweet Spot
My husband is the opposite of Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to celebrating Christmas. An important part of his tradition of celebration is setting a table for guests that is loaded with good things to eat and the central focus is the Christmas turkey and ham. The first few years after our move to Malaysia, he prepared the feast with traditional side dishes. This included his personal favorite, a rich, sage laced cornbread stuffing. He was puzzled, however, when everything he made was gobbled up with enthusiasm by us... all except the stuffing. Everyone raved about his turkey and ham preparations, and the mashed potatoes, green beans, sauteed carrots and grapes, waldorf salad, and best of all, the gravy. Nevertheless, for the first three years of his taking command in the Christmas kitchen, the stuffing was largely snubbed. So in his direct way, he asked me what was wrong. To be honest I hadn't thought about it, but a little bit of digging, and I thought I knew what it was. Sage! It is the sage that is novel to our palate, and then I gently told him that even I didn't like the slightly bitter, deeply aromatic herb. To our palate, the sage was very intrusive, primarily due to unfamiliarity. Talking about it further, my hubby noted that rice is so very much the focus of our cuisine (in Cantonese, when we call for folks to come and eat, we simply say "sek fan" which literally translates as "eat rice", whether we are stting down to a traditional meal or a pizza.) He thought that, in hindsight, perhaps a bread based carb was not the best choice for our celebration. Then he did something that amazed me. The year we had that discussion my hubby went to the kitchen and starting with a large, freshly steamed pot of rice and a wok, he began to play with various spices, herbs, and other ingredients, to arrive at a fried rice that was reflective of both eastern and western flavors, and that was rich and bountiful to reflect the celebratory nature of the holiday. The final result became what we have come to call "Christmas Rice" and it is a highlight of our food tradition during the holidays. Featuring flavors that are both sweet & spicy, and almost rustic in flavors, but very complex, the rice is a perfect accompaniment to the turkey and ham that centers our table. One year, when we expected a much larger group than normal to gather in our home for Christmas day, my hubby also made a large pot of beef bourguignon. In spite of the traditional potatoes normally consumed with that mainstay of French provencial fare, everyone still chose to have some of the rice and it has become a big crowd pleaser. While my hubby doesn't endorse this rice dish for serving with beef, he suggests that it would be great with any fowl, pork, or lamb dish. I agree and hope you will give this one a try and enjoy it as much as we do. (I got hungry writing this.)

This was featured in Asian Food Channel Official Facebook Page
on 15 December 2013

Serving: 8 - 10
3 tblsp cooking oil (I like olive oil) 
½ cup pine nuts 
1 rounded tblspn cumin seeds 
1 tspn ground anise seed 
1 tblspn cinnamon Cayenne pepper (to taste, start with 1 tspn)
1 tspn nutmeg 
1 tspn black pepper 
1 cup chopped pecans (may substitute almonds or walnuts) 
8 cups steamed or boiled rice (allowed to cool uncovered to room temperature) 
1 cup golden and black raisins 
1 cup peeled and diced apple
  ½ cup dried apricot chopped 
½ cup chopped figs
  1 ½ cup chicken stock 
1 rounded tblspn turmeric powder 
¼ cup coarsely chopped garlic 
½ cup finely chopped coriander 
¾ cup chopped onions ¾ cup chopped celery 

Toast pine nuts & pecans in a very slightly oiled frying pan on low heat, being careful not to overdo. Set aside. Reheat the frying pan and add cumin seeds and toast them, tossing and stirring frequently, until the seeds start to pop and the aroma becomes pronounced. Add cinnamon, anise, and cayenne pepper and stir until well mixed, allowing combined ingredients to heat up for less than 1 minute. Remove from heat. Put these ingredients into a food processor and blend well. In a large wok, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic, onions, & celery and stir fry until well mixed and aromas rise from the pan. Add turmeric powder and chopped fruits, stirring until well mixed with the other ingredients and the pan is fully reheated. Add the blended dry mix and the coriander and stir until well mixed and pan is fully reheated. Add large spoonfuls of cold cooked rice and small amounts of chicken stock as needed to separate the rice. Continue to add rice and stock until all has been combined with the spices. Vigorously stir fry on high heat, adding more chicken stock as needed, until all ingredients are well mixed and the rice does not clump togetether. Continue stir frying for six minutes. Add and toss pine nuts, pecans, top with some fresh coriander leafs, just before serving. Serves 8 Note: This dish seems to improve if refrigerated overnight. Seal in a casserole dish or zip-lock bag. Heat up in the oven the next day. The flavors will have married well. Suggestions: Add shredded egg, diced turkey, chicken, sausage, pork, or garbanzo beans (for vegans) to make a one-dish meal.


  1. What a wonderful way to celebrate the best of all worlds!

  2. This sounds amazing I have made a note of this to make over Christmas. Diane

  3. mmm, this sounds delicious! i´ll try it for sure! I love anything with rice or rice in any way!

  4. Sage has taken some time to get used to even with my Americanized palate! So I totally understand. I love your fusion dish. Truly the best of both worlds.

  5. Nice way write up. Amazing to know about tradition.

  6. I always enjoy the way you present your recipes..wonderful. This is going on my xmas to make list;)

  7. Belinda,
    There are pros and cons with an inter-marriage but then when it comes to food, we do have the best of both worlds.

  8. Diane,
    Please use the long grain rice for this dish. Can you get Siamese rice at your end?

  9. Matha,
    Very nice of you to drop by and leave a kind comment. I hope you enjoy this recipe. Hope to visit with you again soon.

  10. Joanne,
    Over the years, I have learned to appreciate sage and in fact love it now.. Sometimes, I go sage crazy and put it in all my roast. hehe

  11. Swathi,
    Thanks for your compliment and me too, I love to learn about other cultures and traditions.

  12. David,
    Thanks for complimenting my writing. Like I have told you before, I am not a good writer because English is not my first language. To be honest, I always fail my vocabulary test at school. Fortunately now I have my hubby to help me out when I am stuck.

  13. This fusion christmas rice is great for Xmas dinner...will KIV this :) thanks Veronica for this lovely fusion rice recipe...have a great day,

  14. Hi Quay Po,

    I like that your husband didn't just give up, but instead he changed his stuffing to focus on the preferences of his guests - a very considerate cook! His dish sounds wonderful. I really like the addition of all the fruits he used, especially the figs. Never had them in rice before, great idea!

  15. You are welcome Elin. You too have a great week.

  16. lequan,
    Thanks and I will pass your comment to my hubby and I am sure he will be very pleased.

  17. Hi Veronica, that looks really tempting. I have passed an award on to you, it is the same one you gave to me, so don't worry about doing anything with it except enjoying. You will find it on the award page. Just wanted to let you know that your blog is wonderful and you are sincerely appreciated.

  18. Hi Ashley,
    Thanks for your visit and comment. Hope to visit with you often. Wish you and your family a very Happy Holiday.

  19. Nancy & Vijay,
    Thank you for passing the award to me. You both are so kind. This is the best thing to wake up to this morning! It feel so good to know you like my blog and I am appreciated. This is indeed an early Christmas gift! HUGS!!

  20. Thanks for joining this event! Do continue to support! Wishing you and your family a great year in 2011. Happy New year!


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