Kao pad gai – fried rice with chicken
Everyone loves a kao pad, a fried rice. It’s got to be one of my favourite everyday meals and it’s obviously easy as easy can be to make, right?
Well, you’d have thought so. I definitely did as having watched my friend cook hundreds of the things in the restaurant in Thailand it looked simple enough, and when she showed me step-by-step how to make it, this is all I wrote down (if you can call this scrawl writing) as it seemed so obvious!
And then when I got back to the UK and went to make it, I just couldn’t get it to work. It was … fine … but it wasn’t right.
I’ve practiced a bit since then and it really is easy to make – but there are a few more things to be aware of to get it right than I had scribbled on my note.
I think the main things are firstly the importance of using cooled rice rather than freshly cooked as the steam and heat of the fresh rice is too wet to stir fry and, secondly, not being scared of cooking relatively quickly with quite a high heat. You just can’t make this over a low heat, it won’t work.
I’m making my kao pad today in the traditional way, keeping it quite plain with onion, spring onion and garlic the only veg. I’m also using chicken but you can use whatever you want – pork, seafood, even sausage pieces, or any vegetables of your choosing. I think mushroom fried rice works really well. Lots of versions of kao pad add a few pieces of chopped tomato too.
There are no exact measurements here, but do get everything you need prepared and to hand before you start cooking.
For one, you’ll need
cooked rice – this is best when it’s a day old and slightly dry and the grains are nice and separated. Cook and when cool keep in the fridge until you need it, or just cook the rice in the morning and leave out, covered, to use later
about a quarter of a white onion, or a few slices, chopped
one garlic clove, flattened and chopped
a smallish piece of chicken, perhaps a third of one breast, sliced and chopped into small pieces (it needs to cook quickly)
about a third of a chicken stock cube
a pinch of sugar
a couple of spring onions, sliced
coriander or chopped chives to garnish
cucumber slices and lime wedges to serve
fish sauce and red chilli for the nam pla prik
Heat your pan over a medium heat, add some oil and when hot sauté the onion and garlic for a minute until translucent.
Turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken. Keep turning it as it cooks so that it quickly all goes white. If juice is coming out of the chicken you may not have your pan or oil hot enough – it needs to seal quickly. Cook for a few minutes.
Then add the rice, again turning it quickly in the pan to separate the grains and get them all hot through. Add a few dashes of soy sauce and one of fish sauce, crumble in the piece of stock cube and sprinkle over the sugar. Keep turning the rice mixture the whole time and cook for a couple of minutes.
Push the rice mixture to one side and add a bit more oil. After a few seconds to allow it to heat up crack the egg into this space and let it cook a little (I count to 15), then mix in to combine the scrambling egg with the rice. Keep turning, then add the sliced spring onions and cook for another 30 seconds.
Turn it out into a bowl, or pack the rice into a small plastic dish, put a plate over the top, and turn over to get the lovely traditional rice serving shape. Scatter with chopped chives or coriander leaves if using and serve with cucumber slices and lime wedges for squeezing over.
Best served also with some nam pla prik – just a little fish sauce in a bowl with sliced chillies.
Many people like to eat this with a fried egg on top – fry your egg in more and hotter oil than you would for an English breakfast egg so that the edges go crispy.
I had this a couple of days ago for lunch – a mushroom fried rice cooked without egg but with a teaspoon of nam prik pao (so no need of extra chillies that day) and a topped with a fried egg.
However you make it, it’s bound to be delicious … let me know what you put in yours.