Sister took the family to Ton Kiang in San Francisco during the holidays. Pretty decent food - but one special thing.
Now I've had fried rice my whole life. From the cheap brown soy-doused stuff of the neighborhood joint, to the higher class, I-am-told-more-authentic white, no-soy stuff of various hoity-toity Chinese restaurants. All were kind of greasy and sickly satisfying, and nothing memorable. I stopped eating fried rice completely about 5 years ago - I knew it was probably good-able somewhere, but I lost interest.
There, at Ton Kiang, my mother - from whom I think I inherited all my fervor for food - suddenly perks up and takes a deep inhale. "That fried rice. We have to order some fried rice."
This surprises the crud out of me. My mother, newly made health freak, has always been a force against fried rice, against fried anything. She says, "That smells right. That smells just like in Saigon."
We order it. The stuff comes. It is *intense*. No clumps, no sogginess. Each speck of rice is individual and firm and ever-so-slightly toasty. The frying has just intensified the flavor of the rice. There is some other stuff along with the rice, but it's unimportant.
My mother says, "This smells exactly like how the Chinese in the Chinese sector of Saigon made it. I haven't smelled it for years. No Chinese place in America I've ever been to has made it right."
I scarfed the rest down.
1. Where can I find a fried rice experience like this in L.A.? Is this something that's all over L.A., and I've been missing out? Or is it, as I suspect, a rarity - sort of like the perfect burger in a sea of mediocre burgers.
2. Is this how all fried rice is? Or is it regional? This place was Hakka, and so pretty close to Vietnam. Maybe this is a specialty of southeast China that leaked into Vietnam?
3. To make this at home, I need a good wok - or some substitute. Good wok sourcein L.A.? I'm willing to wander San Gabriel.