Ho Jiak chef-restaurateur Junda Khoo says when he was growing up, his mum cooked a lot of Western dishes for him and his family, mainly lamb chops, pork chops and chicken chops.
“My mum used to make butter rice with lamb chops. [It] was basically butter added to rice with those lamb herbs you got from a jar, with dried rosemary, thyme and stuff like that. It was pretty strong, and went really well with lamb,” says Khoo.
When Khoo – who is behind some of Sydney's best Malaysian eateries – had his own kids he fed them the same dish but they weren’t fans of the herby butter rice. So he mixed it up, replacing them with spring onion and a light drizzle of soy sauce, and served it as a side dish or snack.
Some of the inspiration for Khoo’s version also comes from Korean-American chef David Chang, owner of the Momofuku restaurants, Lucky Peach magazine co-founder and host on Netflix's Ugly Delicious.
“He puts MSG (monosodium glutamate) in his popcorn, right, he’s not shy about it. Most of us chefs, we know what MSG is, and people eat MSG but they’re, like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa’ about it,” Khoo says, referring to the stigma behind the ingredient, predominantly used in Asian food.
“David Chang puts [MSG] in popcorn. But instead of MSG and melting butter into popcorn, I do it with rice,” he says.
Khoo recently made it for a collaboration meal with a crew of other Malaysian-Australian chefs, including Mr Wong head chef Hun Loong. His pairing of choice? Truffle.
Junda Khoo’s “Popcorn Rice”
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
Flavourless oil (such as canola or vegetable)
½ tsp chicken stock powder or MSG
1 tbsp soy sauce
Optional: Italian herbs
Cook jasmine rice as normal. (“If you don’t have a rice cooker, buy one,” Khoo says.)
While the rice is cooking, heat oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the egg and fry until the bottom starts to crisp, then remove from the pan.
When the rice is done cooking, add butter on top then close the lid again, allowing the butter to ooze through the rice. Once fully melted, open your rice cooker or saucepan and add the salt, chicken stock powder or MSG, spring onion and optional herbs (one or two shakes from the jar).
Mix aggressively. Once everything is thoroughly mixed, slowly stream in the soy sauce while continuously mixing. (A tip from Khoo: “You don’t want to do this too quickly as you want to colour the rice evenly. Adding the soy sauce too quickly results in patches of dark coloured rice and the soy being unevenly distributed.”)
Serve with the egg on top and eat as is, or with chicken, lamb or pork.
Looking for more cooking inspiration? See Broadsheet's recipe hub).