Thai Fried Rice

Kao Paht

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For most Thai people, making fried rice is like making a sandwich in the West: there’s not much to it. Fried rice is a formula for quick and easy meals that a) take very little time and effort; b) make good use of leftovers; and c) taste like you worked harder than you did. Get in the habit of cooking more rice than you need for a particular meal, as fried rice begins with room—temperature rice; cold, hard rice from the refrigerator is even better. You can add cooked meat rather than uncooked, decreasing cooking time since it only needs reheating. I love kao paht topped with an over-easy fried egg, making it kao paht pi-seht: special fried rice. I also like to add frozen peas or edamame beans as soon as the meat is cooked, and serve it with chunks of ripe tomato and a simple salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked rice, preferably chilled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ pound boneless pork or chicken, thinly sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • A handful of fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Accompaniments (Optional)

  • Cucumber slices
  • 1 lime, quartered lengthwise
  • Fish sauce seasoned with chopped fresh hot chilies or ground dried red chilies

Method

Prepare the rice by crumbling it with your fingers, breaking up the bigger lumps, and set aside in a bowl.

Heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over high heat. Add the oil, and when a bit of garlic sizzles at once, add the garlic and onion and toss well until shiny and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pork and cook, tossing often, until the onion begins to wilt and the meat is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add the beaten egg, and toss well to scramble it once it begins to set.

Add the rice, fish sauce, sugar, and green onions and cook, tossing often, until the rice is tender and heated through. Mound the rice on a serving platter and garnish with the cilantro, and if desired, the cucumber slices and wedges of lime to squeeze over each serving. Accompany with small bowls of fish sauce with chopped chilies, and serve hot or warm.