My dad, in many ways, was ahead of the times. In the 80s, he was a stay-at-home father to his three children and a devoted husband to his career-oriented Filipina wife. Perhaps, more importantly for this blog, though, he foresaw a wave of exotic food before many. In the early 90s, he discovered Thai restaurants at a time when most people in Long Beach still thought Chinese and Japanese food was exotic. Unfortunately–perhaps, fortunately?–it was too expensive for him to go to Thai restaurants as much as he would like particularly with children whose ravenous appetites already burned a hole in his pocket when they ate at home.
One day, he saw an ad for a Thai cooking class taught by a Yupa Holzner. If I recall, she was originally from Thailand and had somehow immigrated to the U.S. where she married a German-American whose habitual love of German chocolate cake had consequently added more pounds to her waist than she liked to think about. She taught a three- or four-day class that included, among other things, Tom Yum and Tom Kha soup, Paht Thai, Kao Paht, Sate, Yum Nam Tok Easan (spicy beef salad), spring rolls, and culminated with a Thai Roasted Turkey. Yupa Holzner taught my father how to fish, so to speak.
The following recipe is my take on Yupa Holzner’s Kao Paht (Thai Fried Rice). It’s probably one of my family and friends’ favorite dishes that I prepare, especially the shrimp variety. It goes well with a sweet curry such as massaman curry or simply on its own. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. It doesn’t take very long to prepare. Like many stir fry dishes, this recipe is mostly preparation, ie chopping. Once you start the stir frying, everything happens really quickly. I’ve gotten it down to a science and can make this in 30 minutes.
3 cups of steamed rice (preferably a day old but even two or three days old is better)
3 cloves of garlic diced
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (preferably peanut oil or another oil with a high boiling point)
1 lb of meat chopped (shrimp deveined and shelled, chicken breast, beef, pork, or tofu)
3 Tbsp of ketchup
1 Tbsp of chili paste with bean oil
1 Tbsp of shrimp paste with bean oil
1 Tbsp of fish sauce (nam pla)
pepper to taste
2 green onion stalks chopped
1 cup of cilantro coarsely chopped
1 cup of plum/cherry tomatoes
First, chop all the vegetables and the meat.
Then, make a paste with the ketchup, chili paste with bean oil, shrimp paste with bean oil, fish sauce, and pepper. Mix the paste thoroughly. Take out your rice. It will probably be one big solid block. Using your hands, break up the rice until there are no more clumps. Although a little messy, this will make your life a lot easier when you start stir frying.
With the preparation done, add a tablespoon of the oil to a large wok. Gently break the two eggs and beat them only slightly.
Allow the egg to cook completely then remove the eggs and set aside.
Before you get down to the main business, you should note that they call stir frying “stir” frying for a reason. You constantly need to be stirring. Have you ever wondered why Asian grandmothers are so strong and can push you out of the way for the best seat on the bus or subway? If your arm doesn’t get tired while you do this, you’re probably not stirring enough. This is particularly true once you have added the rice. Keep stirring! Switch arms if you have to. But keep stirring until you’re done. It’ll only last a few minutes.
Okay, now add the remaining oil to the pan along with the garlic. If you plan on frying a particularly fatty meat such as bacon, you will probably want to add less oil since a lot of oil will fry off. Fry the garlic using a large wooden spoon on medium-high heat until fragrant, about one minute.
Add the meat (or tofu as here) and stir fry until it’s done, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the rice and bring the flame to high heat. Keep stirring! Mix it thoroughly until all sides have touched the oil, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the paste. Keep stirring!
Mix until the paste has been evenly distributed throughout. Using the bottom of your wooden spoon, press firmly on the rice to break up any remaining clumps as you stir. You should hear the rice sizzle when you do this. This step should last about 1-2 minutes.
Add the green onions, cilantro, and egg. Stir to incorporate, about 1 minute. You’re almost there!
Turn off the flame and add the plum/cherry tomatoes. Stir to incorporate. Serve immediately.
You’ve just made Thai friend rice! What do you think? Does anyone have any other favorite fried rice recipes?