I ate a version of this rice as an accompaniment to a few deep-fried paddles of Australian crab, sitting at the kitchen counter of Paul Carmichael’s excellent Momofuku Seiobo in Sydney. It tasted of a world far away, of Mr. Carmichael’s childhood in Barbados, in the Lesser Antilles, where influences of Africa, India, China and Britain combine in the food: the grains fried in butter scented with murky yellow curry powder, warm and fragrant, and flavored with fiery minced habanero and a salty punch of soy and oyster sauces. I sighed when I finished and asked for a recipe. I’ve been messing with it ever since. Please note: You’ll end up with more curry paste than you’ll need to season the rice, even if you season aggressively. Refrigerate the extra to make the dish a second time (it keeps well), or to enliven ground meat for a Caribbean-ish version of sloppy joes, even just to improve a bowl of instant ramen.
- Serves: 2 persons
- 1 ½teaspoons ground black pepper
- ½teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3tablespoons curry powder
- 2teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
- 5fresh curry leaves
- 6tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2shallots, peeled and diced
- 2garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2tablespoons soy sauce, plus additional as needed
- 1 ½tablespoons oyster sauce, plus additional as needed
- 1tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1to 2 habanero chiles, seeded and minced
- 3cups cooked white rice, cooled
- 2limes, 1 juiced and 1 quartered
Step 1Place a large skillet over medium heat, and add to it the black pepper and white pepper. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the curry powder, shake again and toast for 1 minute more. Scrape the toasted-curry-powder blend into a small bowl using a rubber spatula, and set aside.
Step 2Add the oil to the skillet, and swirl it around. When it shimmers, add the curry leaves, and fry, 1 minute. Stir in 4 tablespoons butter. When it melts, add the shallots and garlic. Lower the heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.
Step 3Raise the heat to medium. Stir in the toasted-curry-powder blend, followed by 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce and the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add habanero to taste, then adjust the levels of soy sauce and oyster sauce if you want to go a little saltier or sweeter. Scrape the curry paste into the small bowl.
Step 4To finish the dish, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet, and heat over medium-high. When the butter melts and foams, flake the rice into it, and allow it to crisp slightly, then stir a few heaping tablespoons of curry paste into the rice to season to taste. Finish with lime juice to taste, and serve with lime wedges alongside fried fish, stewed chicken, goat or lamb, or just on its own. Transfer remaining curry paste to a lidded container. Let cool, cover and refrigerate up to 1 month.