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Making Fried Rice (and Writing)

By Helen Kaiao Chang

My boyfriend showed me how to make fried rice last night. It was a wonderful batch, filled with turkey Spam, eggs, onions, peas and parsley.

In the process, I gained some insights about writing, too.

I have never made good fried rice. Even though I am Chinese-American, this is not a dish my parents ever cooked. My attempts at fried rice always had the right ingredients, but never the right consistency. It always came out too soggy or mushy.

My boyfriend, however, learned from friends who actually ran Chinese restaurants. His stuff always tastes like the real thing, even if the ingredients and seasonings constantly change.

He started with two pans. One was a frying pan, for scrambling the eggs. The other was a wok, for frying the rice. (Usually, you just use one pan, but since we had the space, we had two going at once.)

When the eggs were scrambled softly, he took them out and set them aside. Then, he put the chopped garlic, onions and turkey Spam in that pan to soften. (I come from a state where Spam is the national dish; you can always use a different meat, like roasted chicken or hot dogs.) Once the Spam was browned, we sprinkled it with frozen peas.

In the wok, my boyfriend poured oil and a bit of butter. I don’t think butter is a traditional Chinese ingredient either, but he said it would add flavor. When the butter had melted, we put in the batch of old leftover rice. (That’s another secret. You have to use old rice.)

As his lovely cooking assistant, I had the task of turning the rice and separating the clumps. I had to be careful not to break the grains, while mixing until each was coated with oil.

Then we folded the scrambled eggs into the rice, being careful not to crush the eggs. Once that was mixed, we slowly stirred the other ingredients in, little by little until it was all in. Finally, the seasonings and fresh parsley went in, and it was done.

As we folded in the last ingredients, I realized that my fried rice had never come out right, because I just threw everything in at once. I didn’t cook each ingredient separately, at different temperatures, for the right amount of times, before blending them all together.

Then I had a flash of insight. I realized that’s how I needed to approach my latest writing project – a big dish of about 225 pages with many ingredients, textures, tastes and seasonings. Now, I would cook each section separately, before folding them together slowly.


Tell us how you cook your writing – or anything else if you like.

Helen Kaiao Chang is a ghostwriter, editor and journalist, specializing in business and motivational topics. She may be reached at www.ghostwriter-needed.com.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Oh seriously speaking, I have a couple of blogs, and my recipe blog is the one that is the most successful. In fact, it is getting 30 to 40 unique visits per day (and the site was started last month, so bear with me here). Here’s the recipe for the recipe site (sorry, couldn’t help myself):


    One awesome daily cook (India’s World Best Cook my mom).
    One kitchen that allows you to photograph.
    Resources to get the ingredients (counting all type of foods, that’d be a good bill per month)
    One camera (you don’t need a professional one. I have a Kodak C149 I got off a yardsale and it’s working nice for my site
    A domain name registration and hosting. I use HostGator and they usually rock.

    Make at least one recipe a day and see how it goes. Remember that clicking photographs and videos gives the authentic touch to the recipe and makes people realise that ‘hey, this guy actually prepared this stuff, I can too!. Like that.

    And remember, you need patience,patience, patience. Nothing without patience. But since you have updated content, and stuff that some people would really like to know about, you can join those groups at Orkut or MySpace and Facebook and share your recipes there. I have joined some 30-40 groups in Orkut and even networked. But since Orkut users are not the greatest online shoppers, you would need to look at some other option, like Adsense or something, to actually monetize your site.

    In the end, if any of you guys need some free, personal and first hand info about setting up a noob site with the a good and flexible theme, contact me on the email id I provided.
    Roy Daniel DSilva recently posted..Recipe Aunt Prepares- Stuffed Masala PotatoesMy Profile

  • Oh… cooking. I love cooking, and being from India, we have some great masala and curry recipes – so great that I have a site about them. It has some pretty good recipes, with videos and stuff. The recipes are quite detailed, so it’d not make sense to post them here. If you want some authentic Indian recipes, you can always whizzle off to recipeaunt.com, that’s me site.

    • Anne

      Perhaps you can tell us how you make freelance writing and cooking work together.

  • Laurie Tam

    Hey Helen.
    I just sent you an email from your site and I enjoy your article. However, I make really good fried rice and it is true that we do not traditionally use butter.
    How I make mine is to scramble 2 or 3 eggss together in the wok or frying pan and waited until it was cook all the way through and then add in the day old rice.
    And then I add in the frozen pea when I see that all of the rice gets coated by the canola oil.

    Anyway, I would love to meet some Chinese American and it’s great that we are both writers as well. However, you are more established than I am since it is about 2 years since I decided to get into freelance writing. later.

  • I like the way you cook, Lori!! Sounds like making a big pot of chicken stew, letting it simmer over time. Mmm!!
    Helen Chang recently posted..Jan 14, Freelance Ghostwriters at Your ServiceMy Profile

  • jorgekafkazar

    Helen, nice metaphor, but you’re making me hungry!

  • Wow. What a great analogy! Excellent writing advice, Helen. And I’d bet that was some excellent fried rice, too.

    My writing starts out with what I call frenzied sauteeing – the ideas roll out onto the page quickly. But I have constant control over the heat level and the amount of ingredients – I’m always editing as I write, with eyes to transitions especially. I then let it simmer a day, then I skim it and remove unwanted layers.

    What a fun way to examine our writing! I love this exercise. 🙂
    Lori recently posted..The Selfish NetworkerMy Profile

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