I have found another reason to add Ecuador to my list of must-see places. Apart from the obvious (Galapagos islands), there is also the food, like this wonderful chicken fried rice. Now many people complain that the food of Central America, and to a lesser extent South America, is bland, boring and samey. I beg to differ. Rice, with its compatriots chicken and beans, is not boring. That’s like saying potatoes are boring. Sure, if you have boiled potatoes all day, every day you might get a little tired of them but you could try baking them instead, or frying them, or having them crispy, or mashing them, or turning them into potato cakes. Same with rice, with the possible exception of mashing it.
So bland then, I hear you say? Firstly the chicken and rice dishes ubiquitous of this area are not bland; they are seasoned well and the rice is generally cooked in either coconut milk or chicken stock, thus lending it a ridiculous amount of flavour. In this dish, the treasures buried in the rice add all the flavour you need and if in doubt, add plenty of hot sauce, just make sure it’s a good quality one like Marie Sharp’s, not a poor vinegary substitute. And yes, you’ll probably have to go to Belize to buy it, but I can assure you it’s worth the trip.
As for samey, rice fried with egg, and chicken, and bacon, and spring onions and raisins with hot sauce and avocado? I’d happily eat it every day.
Chaulafan de Pollo
Adapted from Laylita’s Recipes
I cheated more than a bit with this recipe to turn it into an almost one-pot dish; I fried off the chicken and used ready-made chicken stock to cook the rice in instead. You could also use water, but the rice will taste a hundred times better cooked in stock.
200g brown rice
500ml chicken stock
1 white onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 red chilli, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 red pepper, chopped into large chunks
50g peas (if frozen, defrost in a mug of boiling water and drain first)
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoons raisins
1 egg, beaten
8 spring onions, diced
1. In a medium saucepan cook the rice in 500ml water or stock for 25 minutes, or until completely cooked. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan heat 1 teaspoon butter with a little oil. Chop the chicken in to chunks and fry over a medium-high heat until golden brown on the outside. Add the pancetta, chopped white onion, garlic, chilli, cumin, coriander, paprika and soy sauce to the saucepan and stir for a few minutes until the onion turns translucent.
3. Add the cooked rice to the saucepan, along with the chopped pepper. Add the peas, carrot, raisins and the beaten egg. Stir well and leave to cook for another 5 minutes, until the egg is just solid. Add the spring onions, stir again and serve immediately.
4. Serve with slices of avocado and hot sauce.