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The only reason I went to Double Chin, a Hong Kong-style cafe in Boston's Chinatown, was to get an Instagram-worthy picture of their signature dessert. Yet by the time I left, it was another dish—a very un-photogenic one—that captured my heart, tummy, and soul. I don't even remember what entree I actually ordered for myself. (Thank you for letting me share your lunch, Alvin!)
The dish starts off with a layer of chicken fried rice, which is then topped with a mild coconut curry sauce and finished with a sprinkling of shredded cheese. Then everything goes under the broiler until it gets all bubbly and gooey.
I know it's kind of strange to have cheese on an otherwise Asian dish, but there's actually a pretty strong tradition of Western ingredients being assimilated into Eastern cuisine, long before the more recent spate of fusion restaurants began trending in the United States. Think of the ubiquitousness of mayonnaise in Japanese dishes, cheese on Korean ramyun and ddukbokki, sweetened condensed milk on Hong Kong-style French toast, or Spam in Hawaiian musubi.
I thought it was interesting that when I was looking for recipes for this dish online, a lot of them just listed "shredded cheese" as the ingredient, without any reference to what kind of cheese. So I ended up referring to Lady and Pups' recipe, because 1) I love everything else she does, and 2) it seemed the most similar to what I had at Double Chin. I used chicken instead of fish and marinated it beforehand. I used chicken breast because I prefer white meat, but feel free to use chicken thigh meat if you prefer dark meat. I also made a couple of other modifications to her recipe based on what I had on hand (fewer scallions, water instead of milk) and taste preferences (half the amount of shallots, provolone instead of Gruyere).
Please note that this makes quite a bit of food. Mandy's original recipe said that it serves 2, but it would probably be more like 6 Joy-sized servings. And if you're wondering why it's called Portuguese chicken rice, I think it has to do with the fact that Macau was a Portuguese colony up until the end of the last century.
Note: For a lazier version of this recipe, just use your local Chinese take-out fried rice and skip adding the chopped up chicken to the curry sauce. Because I totally understand if you just want to get this into your mouth as soon as possible.
For the chicken and rice
- 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2-3 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups day-old cooked rice, refrigerated
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
- Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
For the curry sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 13.5 ounces can of full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups mix of shredded mozzarella and provolone, divided
Got Macau—or cheesy fried rice—memories? Tell us about them in the comments.