Getting back to the Asian recipes, I am going to show how I make my fried rice. There are at least a dozen times as many varieties of fried rice as there are countries that make it. And they all taste very differently from one another and yet there some techniques to cooking that are common to all of them. The dish I am going to share today is Pork Fried Rice cooked the way it might be in Thailand. I say might because there are so many ways this dish can be prepared even with that title. As Chinese Pork Fried Rice is the pork fried rice dish most people are familiar with, it is the one most people use as a reference and indeed will compare this one to. There will be differences between Chinese pork fried rice and Thai – one big one being the pork is often dyed red and sliced differently in China. The other being that very fragrant and flavorful Thai basil is present in the Thai version.
The preparation actually starts a day in advance. I will cook 2 dry measure cups of Jasmine rice in my rice cooker and then allow it to cool, covered. After that, put it in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, I will take the rice out, wet my hands and break up the clumps into individual grains of rice. I choose Jasmine because Japanese rice is a poor choice as it sticks together readily even the next day. If you go to a Japanese restaurant and you sit at the Hibachi grill, next time you are there look at the rice they give people when they ask for steamed. It’s probably Nishiki or Calrose medium grain (both low cost Japanese style rices). But when the chef starts to fry the rice on the grill after he does his egg trick, you will note he has long grain rice he dumps out on the heated surface. In most of these restaurant they use previously parboiled rice because it separates very easily and they don’t have to mess with the rice as much by hand. That’s right. Your favorite Japanese Hibachi joint makes your fried rice with Minute Rice!
Above I have my ingredients, minus the oil, Chinese white pepper and the eggs. Starting from the rice and working clockwise in a spiral we have precooked, chilled Jasmine rice, my fried rice sauce (recipe below), shrimp powder, chopped red spanish onion, minced garlic, mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, lima beans, corn and green beans), diced pork (butterfly pork chops cut into bite sized pieces), Thai basil and snow pea pods in the center.
Like most dishes I start by firing up my burner and heating up my wok. I put the burner at about 60% as ultra high heat is not needed here and may even burn the rice. So for those of you that don’t have wok burners – you can make this dish taste just as good on an indoor stove. For this recipe I use my 18″ Cantonese wok as this makes a lot of food. When the oil starts to shimmer with heat, we put in the beaten eggs.
Scramble the eggs just until they are no longer runny and add the pork.
We want to cook the pork until it is white all over.
Add the garlic and onions and stir fry until fragrant. Even on lower heat, the wok gets very hot as low heat on this burner is still 50,000 BTU. Lots of steam.
After the pork is cooked, add all the vegetables except the snow pea pods and Thai basil and stir.
I add the snow peas and stir these in. You want them coated lightly with oil. The trick here is to flash cook everything. That is – the outside of the vegetable pieces cook and the inside are still a little raw and full of vitamins. You want that crispness and fresh flavor.
Now for the most savory ingredient in this dish and one that will clearly distinguish this as being Thai – the Thai basil. You want to cook this until the basil is wilted before adding the rice.
Add the rice and mix well. Now the rice frying begins in earnest. You want to stir well but don’t overdo it or you will break too many of the grains. You want the rice to mix with what little oil may be left. At this point I add a teaspoon of dried shrimp powder and 1/2 teaspoon of ground Chinese white pepper sprinkled over the top.
After the rice has cooked maybe 5-6 minutes I like to add my fried rice sauce. I will pour in a spiral and use maybe 3/4 cup to 1 cup. You do not want ANY loose liquid pooling. Everything you pour in should be absorbed by the rice with a quick stir.
Now it looks like a fried rice, doesn’t it? The sauce gives the rice its tan color which is really a trademark of fried rice in any Asian country. At this point it’s done and ready to be served. I like to take it out of the wok and put in a large bowl to serve from.
For most people this meal would be ready to eat. And for the rest of my family, it was and their the plates looked like the above. But for me – it needs three more things to be truly Thai.
A fried egg on top is a signature Thai move. You want to fry at high heat so the whites get a little crispy around the edges and the yolk inside still crawls over the rice when the skin is broken.
Lastly I sprinkle some cilantro over the top and then spoon some Prik Nam Pla over the meal to season it as desired. I like a lot of hot pepper but adding the things that make me happy occur after it is done is fine and does not lessen the enjoyment of the other diners of this dish. One thing that differs greatly between countries own fried rice dishes will be the composition of the fried rice sauce. So you can make this, the recipe is below.
Thai Pork Fried Rice (serves 4-6 as a main dish):
- 4-5 Tbs peanut oil
- Day old cooked rice made from 2 cups of uncooked Jasmine rice.
- 3/4 lb butterfly pork chops cut into bite sized chunks.
- Two eggs beaten.
- 1 cup Thai basil
- 1 1/2 cups mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, beans)
- 1 cup snow pea pods
- One medium onion chopped (you can substitute 4 scallions chopped if desired)
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried shrimp powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground white Chinese pepper
- 2 Tbs sweet soy sauce
- 1 Tbs Golden Mountain sauce
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 3 Tbs Fish sauce
- 4 Tbs oyster sauce
- 2 Tbs white or rice vinegar
- 1 Tbs corn starch
- 2 Tbs water
- Heat oil in a wok or large flat bottom pan until the oil is hot.
- Add the beaten eggs and scramble.
- Add the pork and stir fry until the pieces are opaque.
- Stir in the onion and garlic.
- Add the mixed vegetables and stir well.
- Stir in the Thai basil and sweat the leaves until they wilt and shrink up.
- Stir in the snow pea pods to coat with oil.
- Add the rice and mix well. You will want to fry this for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. You want the rice to cook in the oil some.
- In a spiralling motion twirling in, pour some of the fried rice sauce over the rice and stir. Add more if all the rice kernels don’t get that beige color.
- Sprinkle the shrimp powder (if using) and the Chinese pepper over the rice and give one more stir.
- Remove from heat and put into a large serving bowl.
- Garnish plates with cilantro, sliced cucumber and tomato wedges.
- Add an over easy-medium fried egg on top of each dish if desired.
- Serve with Nam Pla Prik.
This is one of those dishes that got its start with people wondering what to do with leftover rice. The cult just grew from there. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I.