The highly anticipated debut cookbook “The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes From the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau” (Ten Speed Press, $35) finally drops Oct. 25. Authors, award-winning chefs and co-owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo reveal recipes from their corner of Chicago’s Logan Square with co-author and opening sous-chef Hugh Amano.
Fat Rice is more than just a restaurant — literally, with a new Macanese bakery and a Macanese-inspired cocktail lounge. It’s essentially a cultural center, “for the study, exploration, and sharing of global Portuguese cuisine.” Wait, Portuguese? “Macau was the last established territory in the Portuguese empire; therefore, its cuisine had influences from all of the places Portuguese travelled along the way,” the authors write.
But this will never be a dusty history book. The front sports a comics-style illustration that shows an “Attack of the Chilli Clam!” Inside, similar drawings clearly yet gently translate the technique for “Butchering the Surf Clam,” which are followed with funny-pages panels walking us through the recipe, step by step. They’re the work of illustrator Sarah Becan, whose colorful posters paper the restaurant’s storefront windows.
But there are photographs too — exquisite images of not only the food, but also a documentary snapshot of the deep, emotional research done by Conlon and Lo, captured by adventurer and author in his own right Dan Goldberg.
With such a carefully crafted and inspiring guide in hand, you will truly believe that you too can make the namesake dish, arroz gordo (fat rice) at home. For a platter that serves six to eight of your best friends and family no less.
At the restaurant, the big bowl serves possibly two and is currently priced at $48, so that’s temptation enough. Seduced by stories woven with personal and global history, you want to believe.
You may well achieve the glory of arroz gordo. But understand that this one recipe includes ingredients that are 10 whole other recipes. What’s even more surprising is that it could have been 12 recipes within the recipe. Because at Fat Rice, they make their own salted preserved duck legs and Portuguese linguica sausage. But, playing along at home, we can just buy them.
So maybe save that one for the weekend. A long weekend.
Meanwhile there are other daily doable dishes, most important the minchi — perhaps the most beloved and typical home-cooked dish in Macau. “It’s a really delicious comfort food of minced ground pork and beef flavored with three soy sauces, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf,” said Conlon.
He and Lo are not ready to rest on their well-deserved critical acclaim. “This year will be a new direction for the restaurant as far as our exploration of what Macanese food is and how it was built and what influences Macanese food and kind of tracing its roots back,” said Conlon. “We’re going back to Portugal and seeking out small Portuguese producers to bring back into the restaurant.”
“And you never know, we might start on another book.”
Prep: 60 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
This recipe for minchi (Macanese minced meat hash) comes from “The Adventures of Fat Rice” by Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo and Hugh Amano. The restaurant serves minchi over rice, but in the book, they also suggest serving it over noodles, in a bun or stuffed into croquettes. You should be able to find almost all of the ingredients at your regular grocery store, but a few may require a visit to an Asian food market. For the preserved mustard greens (suimi ya cai), they recommend the Sichuan Famous brand. We could only find the Wei-Chuan brand pickled mustard greens at a local H-Mart, which was fine as a substitute. Though it is sold whole, you can simply slice the stems roughly into ribbons. Also, the minchi serving size says for four, but we found that the 2 pounds of meat over rice with accompaniments could easily serve six, if not eight. And the potato croutons recipe makes much more than you’ll need as a garnish for this dish, but it’s one of Conlon’s favorites, so I suspect the extra is eaten as a chef’s secret kitchen treat.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (Pagoda brand recommended)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons preserved mustard greens
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed red chilies
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Asian shallot, finely chopped (or 1 common shallot)
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon tapioca starch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
White jasmine rice
Green onions, fisheye-cut (in rings)
1 egg, sunny-side up
Steamed green vegetables (we used pan-fried baby bok choy)
Potato croutons, see recipe
Pickled chilies, sliced
1. To make the marinade, combine the ingredients, then mix with the pork and beef. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but no longer than 12 hours.
2. Prepare accompaniments and any garnishes, then set aside.
3. To make the minichi, heat the olive oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bay leaves and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onion, and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, a couple of minutes or so.
4. Add the marinated meat to the pan and stir constantly, breaking the meat up until fine and uniform. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tapioca starch slurry and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the potato croutons, green onions and any other accompaniments. Serve over rice.
Nutrition information per serving: 588 calories, 36 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 148 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 45 g protein, 1,898 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
Makes: 2 to 3 cups
2 pounds (about 3) potatoes, preferably Kennebec, peeled
Peanut oil, for deep-frying
1. Cut the rounded sides from the potatoes until they are as square as possible — you’re going for a block of potato. Proceed to cut into medium dice (about the size of a fat green pea). Put into a container and run under cold water until water runs clear. Drain thoroughly.
2. Heat 2 inches of oil in a wok or large pot to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and add the potatoes. Fry for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, and season liberally with salt.