About two weeks ago I blabbed poetic about my nascent love affair with nam prik pao, also called “Thai roasted chili paste” or “Thai chili jam”. As I am not a learned eater of Thai foods, this revelation was intense. The following day I ate a grilled cheese sandwich smeared with nam prik pao, and then a few days after that I made this fried rice. Since then I’ve applied the chili jam to just about everything I can think of, including my sore wrist. And guess what? My wrist was delicious.
Since the fried rice was the more successful of the dishes, I will show it to you.
The jam is a little reluctant to incorporate into the rice, and in hindsight I wish I’d mixed it together with the fish sauce to encourage a more even application, but it didn’t really matter in the end. Instead, I’d spooned big globs into an area on the griddle free of rice and let it warm through for a few seconds before mixing it into the rice, repeating the technique until there was enough flavor to melt my toenail polish off my toes.
It was magnificent. It may be my new favorite fried rice, and I love me some fried rice I tell you what. A little too late in the cooking process I thought of adding pineapple, and when I said so Mike the Viking frowned and shot me in the hip with a crossbow, which is how he says “No thank you.” Odd, too, considering that he likes pineapple on pizza. If it were just me, I would have added pineapple.
A fried egg on top and some terrible photography ends this lesson; when you’re starving and the food smells amazing, you may want to try and take a step back, reset your white balance and maybe break the egg open so that the golden, runny yolk dribbles alluringly into your rice, then take a photo. Or! Just eat your dinner and then tell everyone about how beautiful it was later. THE END.
Chili Jam Fried Rice
if you don’t eat beef, any other protein would be tasty, though I’d lean towards shrimp, personally. if using shrimp, do not add them until near the end of the cooking time for the fried rice to avoid overcooking. better yet, fry them first until just barely cooked through, set them aside to continue cooking rice as instructed, and then add the shrimp just when done to warm through again. i’m a tremendous fan of using cooked and then cooled rice to make fried rice, though using warm rice is acceptable in a pinch – just be aware that it will be wetter and will break down a little more than usual during frying. many stores now sell frozen, cooked rice that is perfect for last-minute fried rice cravings – don’t even thaw it, just dump the frozen rice into the pan and have at it.
1 cup jasmine rice, cooked and cooled (making approx. 3 cups cooked rice)
1 Tbsp. mild oil, such as peanut
8oz. thinly sliced beef
1/2 onion, sliced into narrow strips
3 Tbsp. nam prik pao
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, drained (optional)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup chopped basil (Thai holy basil if you can get it)
1 – 2 green onions, sliced thin
- Using a big electric skillet or a really big nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat, add the oil, let it warm through for 1 minute, and then add the beef and onions. They should really pop and sizzle. Let them cook for 1 -2 minutes, or until the onions just start to get transparent and/or get a tiny bit of color on them. Add the rice and using a sturdy spatula, make chopping motions through the rice to break it up a little and stir the beef and onions through it.
- While the rice, beef and onions are sizzling, in a small bowl mix together the nam prik pao, fish sauce and soy sauce. Drizzle this mixture over the rice and again, use a chopping motion to incorporate the liquid throughout the rice. Sprinkle the sugar over the rice and add the pineapple tidbits. Stir again.
- Allow the rice to sit undisturbed for about 30 seconds and then start using a flipping motion to stir the rice, like you’d flip hash browns. The goal is to get lovely browned, caramelized bits of rice away from the heat while rotating unbrowned rice down to the pan surface. If the rice isn’t browning, increase the wait time to 60 seconds. If it is browning too quickly, lower the heat.
- Take a moment to taste the rice for saltiness and sweetness. If it is not salty enough, add a little more soy sauce or fish sauce. If it has no detectable sweetness, add 1 more Tbsp. of sugar. If it seems just entirely underseasoned to you, add 1 more Tbsp of nam prik pao.
- Continue cooking the rice in this manner until the rice is no longer very wet and sticky, and until there are small patches of lovely browned rice visible when everything is stirred together. In my experience, this takes about 5 minutes of cooking time, though it really does change depending on all kinds of factors – it’s taken me as long as 10 minutes to fry my rice properly.
- When done, turn off the heat and add the lime juice, basil and green onions – stir through to distribute.
- In a separate nonstick frying pan, quickly fry an egg over easy for each serving. Take a poorly composed photo of your creation and then eat it.