My mom is in town, so Greg and I went to have dinner at my Ama’s house. Inevitably the conversation turned to food, which led me to ask about my Ama’s fried rice for the 100th time. This time there were more people around, and everyone had an opinion about what went into Ama’s fried rice and how it was prepared.
Me: My fried rice still doesn’t taste like Ama’s even though I added sugar.
Aunt X: Oh yeah, of course you have to add sugar!
Aunt Y: Ama adds a little bit of sugar to everything. Didn’t you know that?
Me: *eye twitch* No, nobody tells me these things!!!
Aunt Y: Did you scramble the eggs? Ama scambles eggs and adds them in.
Aunt Z: No she adds them in raw and then they cook with the rice.
Me: She’s done both. I know. I’ve asked and tried them both. I’m okay with the egg. I need to know what else I’m doing wrong.
Pam: When we added sugar it tasted more like Ama’s rice, but the flavor faded.
Aunt Y: Oh, it’s garlic! Did you add garlic?
Me: I used garlic powder. Did Ama use fresh garlic?
Aunt Y: Yes! Ama uses fresh garlic in everything. If you use fresh garlic the flavor won’t fade.
Me: Okay, I will use fresh garlic. (see phone conversation below)
Aunt X: It will taste good if you add adobo sauce.
Me: NO! Ama’s rice is very pale. There’s no adobo sauce!
Aunt X: But it would taste good with adobo sauce!
Me: *eye twitches*
My mom: When I make fried rice…
Me: NO! I know how to make your fried rice! My fried rice IS your fried rice! I want to make AMA’s fried rice!
My mom: I know how Ama makes her fried rice. I’ve cooked with her before.
Me: Then why does your fried rice taste totally different?
My mom: Mine is the simpler version.
Me: Okay, how does she make it?
My mom and aunts combined: You cook the sausage. Set it aside. Then you can use that oil from the sausage to scramble the egg. The you chop that up and add the garlic and rice. Then salt and soy sauce and sugar, and you add the sausage back.
Me: You’re sure there’s soy sauce? Ama’s rice was very, very pale!!
Them (without my Aunt Daisy, who had left the room): Yes, yes there’s soy sauce. It’s light soy sauce.
Me: I’ve tried that – even the smallest dash turned it very, very pale brown. Ama’s rice was never brownish. *eye twitch*
Them (without my Aunt Daisy): Yes! Yes! There’s soy sauce! (see phone conversation below)
Me: That’s it, then, that’s all of the ingredients. Nothing else?!?!
Them (without my Aunt Daisy): Yes, that’s it. It’s so easy.
Me: *eye twitch*
So by then I was willing to try it again. Fresh garlic and the oil from the sausages may be the key, I thought. I was still not convinced about the soy sauce. There was no freaking way that there was soy in there – the color would be all wrong.
Later that night, I was saying goodbye to my Ama:
Me: Bye Ama.
My Aunt Daisy: Wait, you know the liquid that comes off meat when you roast it? We collect that, skim off the fat, and then freeze it. Ama puts a bit of that in.
Me: INTO THE FRIED RICE?! *eye twitches*
My Aunt Daisy: Yes. That might be the flavor you’re missing. You know, the stuff you make gravy from.
Pam (who had just walked into the room): What gravy?
Me: *eye twitch* Ama adds roasted meat drippings – you know, the stuff you make gravy from.
Pam: TO FRIED RICE?!
Me: YES! *eye twitches*
Pam: Crap, we don’t have that!
The whole time my Ama is sitting there smiling all cute and nodding her head yes.
The drippings from roasted meats. They may or may not be an essential ingredient of my Ama’s fried rice. I say may or may not because sometimes she puts it in, and sometimes she doesn’t. *eye twitch* Apparently my family does not want me to learn how to make this damned fried rice. After 5 years of being assured “yes you have all of the ingredients”, a couple of months ago I was told there was a little bit of sugar. Then from the above conversations that there is also fresh garlic. And now meat drippings!?! The problem: too many people think they know what is in the rice, and they don’t.
The entire way home, in between eye twitches, I must have been muttering “garlic”, “sugar”, “chicken juice?!” because Greg was laughing the entire drive home. Surely, this must be the end to the story, right? If you think that, you don’t know my family.
When I got home, I called my Ama’s house to ask what brand of Chinese sausage they buy (it’s Wing Wing). I’m not taking any chances this time. I have to roast a chicken to make this right – I’m not buying the wrong kind of sausage and have that be the problem!
Aunt Daisy (who had left the room when others said that my Ama used soy sauce and fresh garlic): You know, Ama never used garlic in her fried rice.
Me: Are you sure?!?! *eye twitch*
A. Daisy: Yes, the last few years that she made it, I was the one helping her make the fried rice.
Me: Okay, so no garlic at all?
A. Daisy: No garlic at all. But she did marinade the meat with garlic before she roasted it. You know the marinage recipe, right?
Me: YES! I do know the marinade recipe! She only has one, right?
A. Daisy: Yes, there’s only one marinade. Oh, and she never used soy sauce in her fried rice.
Me: YES! I knew it! Are you totally sure?
A. Daisy: Yes, there was never soy sauce.
Me: Okay, how much of the drippings? (for reference, my Ama often cooked for 10+ people daily, making enough food to have an additional leftover meal – for all 10 people!)
A. Daisy: I don’t know, a bit.
Me: *eye twitch* Okay, that’s fine. I’ll figure it out. So if I cook the sausage, use the sausage oil to scramble the eggs, chop up the eggs in the pan and then add the rice, “a bit” of the meat drippings, salt and sugar, and no soy sauce or garlic, I should get Ama’s fried rice?! *eye twitch* *eye twitch* *eye twitch*
A. Daisy: Maybe…
So today I have chicken defrosting in my fridge. I have to marinade it overnight in THE marinade. Tomorrow I will roast the chicken and collect the drippings and skim off the fat. I also have to go out and buy the sausage today (My Aunt Daisy phoned me back 30 minutes after the above phone conversation to say that they were on sale at Superstore this week for $3 something. My entire family knows all of the weekly grocery sale prices every single week, but they have no clue what goes into fried rice!!! *eye twitch*) On Tuesday Pam, Greg and I will try this again. Seriously, in the fall it’ll be 6 years. 6 years!!! *eye twitch*
The saga continues… *eye twitch* *eye twitch* *eye twitch* *eye twitch*