I love Thai style fried rice, Thai food in general. People would assume it's because my mother is Thai but that's not it. I grew up in Virginia, I ate a lot of fried chicken, pork chops and hamburger gravy (sounds gross but it's so good!) My mom would make the foods she thought we should eat since we were in the U.S. When she ate though, she liked to make the foods she grew up eating.
I remember watching my mother prepare Thai food. She would sit in the middle of the kitchen floor with a wooden mortar and pestle she brought over from Thailand. It was worn down in some spots from her pounding and mashing Thai chilies, garlic and any number of ingredients in it. Years of use had seasoned it so that when she brought it out you could smell the delicious aromas pouring from its smooth center. It smelled great and that seasoning would be infused anything crushed in it.
My mother's food was hot. Very hot. When I was very young, I tried to eat some of a meat salad she made (Yum Nua) because it looked delicious. As soon as I put it in my mouth it started to burn and I became very cautious about eating the food she made for herself. That didn't mean I wouldn't eat any Thai food, fried rice and the whole fish she made was something I enjoyed a lot. If I could see chopped or whole Thai chilies though...I was wary. It was years later, when my palate matured, I could properly appreciate Thai food. We eat it frequently now.
Being familiar with what I grew up with and eating out at countless Thai restaurants I came up with my own recipe for Thai Basil Fried Rice, known as Khao Pad Kraprow. If you search for it you'll see it is spelled many different ways. I've seen simpler recipes and I've seen more complex ones, this is how I like it. Give it a shot at home, start by reading the pointers I listed.
A few tips before you get started:
Cook the rice the day before. Day old rice is better suited for fried rice. It's less sticky so it sholdn't attach itself to the wok. Fresh, moist rice tends to fall apart a bit too while its being tossed and scraped in the wok.
Do not salt! Fish sauce is very salty, if you're familar with it you know this already.
I prefer pork when I make this, I think it picks up the flavors the best but anything can be used (chicken, beef, tofu,
Most people cook with vegetable oil, I like sesame seed oil. It has a nice nutty flavor but it's a little more expensive
Whisk the sauces and sugar together before you start. This will give the sugar a chance to disolve a little and you'll be using it as you go along.
You can make this a vegetarian dish easily by substituting the meat for a viable options. If you're vegan the fish and oyster sauce can be substituted with a vegatarian "fish sauce" found at most Asian markets.
I've also included a photo walk-through at the bottom of the page. Click through each step for tips on how to cook this!
- 1 pound of protein of your choice (I prefer pork)
- 4-6 Garlic cloves, crushed or minced finely
- 2-4 Red chilies, Thai, crushed/ground
- 1-2 teaspoons White Sugar (to taste)
- 1/2 to 1 large bunch Thai Basil, whole, chopped, julienne, however you want it, more is better!
- Several dashes of Golden Mountain sauce
- Several dashes of Fish sauce (maybe one or two extra)
- Several dashes of Oyster sauce
- Pepper to taste
- 2 cups jasmine rice (measured uncooked)
- 1 Red onion, chopped
- 1/2 large Green bell pepper
- 1/2 large Red bell pepper (mainly for color, but they're a little sweeter than the green too)
- 2 handfuls - Green beans, trimmed
- 4 Green/Spring onion, chopped
Prep the vegetables and meat, this cooks fast, so you won't have time to chop up stuff once you start cooking. Cut it all to whatever size you like, personally I like the vegetables to be a little chunky and the meat sliced thin. I use a wok and I usually cook out back on my grill's side burner to reduce smoke in the house. One time I made this at a relatives house and when I started cooking the chili in the pan it was like a low level crowd control gas canister started leaking. I started hearing coughing in the next room.
- Heat the wok up, once it's hot pour some of the oil in. I like to make sure the bottom is coated. When the oil starts to smoke, toss in the half of the garlic and red chili you prepped, remove from heat and swish it around the wok. You'll coat the sides of the wok when doing this.
- When you can smell the garlic and pepper put it back on the heat and throw in the meat. (If the pepper hits your nose and it makes your eyes water, that's a good thing)
Note: I just wanted to mention if you leave the garlic and chilies on the burner/heat after you can smell it, chances are good that you're going to burn it.
- Add some of the seasoning mixture you prepped earlier, about 1/3. I also season it with some pepper and let it brown a little before tossing it, brown the other side.
- Add about 1/3 of the basil.
- Keep in wok until all of it is cooked. Obviously, the pork needs to be cooked all the way through. If you use shrimp or beef, the cooking time is a lot less.
- A lot of recipes don't do this, but I like to remove the meat from the wok and place it aside. You'll add it back in again (juices and all) after you get the vegetables and rice cooked.
- Add some more oil to the wok, then work the garlic and chili again, same drill as before.
- Toss in the all the vegetables except the green onion, that tends to gets soggy pretty fast. I like a little char on some of the vegetables before I toss them but they should be firm and not over-cooked.
- While the veggies are cooking, toss in 1/3 of the basil, sugar. Pepper and add sauce mixture.
- Keep vegetables in the wok, add the rice and the rest of the ingredients that are left. Add the green onion at this time too.
- When you start to mix the rice add the meat and drippings in. Add the remainder of the sauce mixture; salt and pepper to taste and let it brown.
- Optional - You can squeeze a little lime on it once you're done cooking it if you have any sitting around.
Seems a little involved, but it's really easy when you get the hang of it.
If you don't have a wok or Golden Mountain Sauce, go to the local Asian market. A good wok is about $12-20. You'll want to clean off all that funky stuff that's coated all over it from shipping. Scrub it real good, wash it, and then season it with some oil, burn it into it. I don't scrub my wok after I start seasoning it, it has a nice carbonized, black coating on it now. Nothing sticks to it.
As for the spices and ingredients, you can add or remove as much as you like. A lot of the time I'll use whatever I have in the fridge, it's great when I have a little bit of everything in the crisper. I don't use soy sauce in this dish. Thai basil and fish sauce are needed to make this the right way. Thai basil is in any Asian or international market you might have in your area (well, probably not the Russian one.) If you've never bought Thai basil, the leaves are smaller and the stalks are purple. It has a slight licorice flavor too, you'll be able to smell it through the packaging.
Good luck and send me feedback with your own experiences making this. I have my Mom's seal of approval with this stuff so it's gotta be alright.