I dig braised meats, deep-fat frying, and charred chops as much as (who am I kidding, grossly-more-than) the next eater, but I've definitely hit a brown-food wall. I'm a 'lil fatigued of things that taste like they're meant to prepare you for hibernation.
Which makes me cuckoopants-nostalgic for local Hawaiian food.
Which makes me dig through the pantry...and realize that I'm a couple of staples short of a faithful reproduction of chicken long rice.
(Perhaps in the next life, I'll learn to keep a non-sprouting hand of ginger around.)
What is chicken long rice, you ask? It's basically broth-bathed, ginger-scented bits of vermicelli noodles suspending tender chunks of chicken, usually spooned over rice. It's a pretty Hawaii-specific thing, amorphous by nature--neither Chinese nor Japanese, too thickened to be soup-noodles, but too thin to be stew.
No matter! I'm recklessly tweaking the beloved, monotone classic of chicken long rice to suit the contents of my fridge and my selfish mid-winter needs.
At home, they usually make long rice with round onion and finish it with green onion; I didn't have either, but I did have some pert leeks. Using both the white and the green parts of the leeks made a fine (if blaringly inauthentic) substitute.
I was also missing the aforementioned ginger, which is tougher to duplicate. But my eye landed on a jar of Thai green curry paste crouching in the fridge door. Why not? It's got galangal in it--not quite ersatz ginger, but closer than anything else I had on-hand--plus, the heat from chilis and citrus notes from the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves would be an eye-opening off-beat to a generally one-note dish.
And hell, since we were taking it to curry paste, why not season with Vietnamese fish sauce rather than salt? Let's flip in some star anise, too, as a shout-out to the Chinese.
The result? Not a chicken long rice you'd find at a luau or plate lunch place, but a bright, soothing bowl that I'd be happy to serve to NYers and kamaaina alike.