Thai fried rice or khao pad is just about the best thing you can do with rice. Toasty rice flavour. Egg. Chicken. Or shrimp. Or pork. Fast food. Really great fast food.
Thai fried rice eats like a meal. Big tastes. Satisfying. I don’t know why. But it works. A culinary mystery I guess.
Khao pad is street food. So there aren’t a lot of ingredients. And it cooks in no time at all. But there are subtleties here. This isn’t throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and toss it in an oven. There’s a few things you need to consider.
You need to get the rice right
Makes sense. This is a rice dish. So the rice matters. This is a jasmine rice dish. Pretty much always jasmine rice for Thai.
You can get it at Asian groceries. Or you can pay more and just pick it up at a regular grocery store. Up to you. It’s nice when it’s easy like that.
The rice needs to be pre-cooked and cold. Warm rice is a sure fire way to make bad khao pad.
Best to cook it the day before. It dries out a bit. So you don’t get soggy, clumpy Thai fried rice. At a minimum you should have time to let it cool completely. But day old works better.
Rice cookers make life better
I can cook jasmine rice. Turns out OK. 1 cup of rice. 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Cover. Cook somewhere around 11-14 minutes depending on the rice.
Let it sit 5 minutes. Gently fluff the rice. Works pretty well. Most of the time.
Or you can get a rice cooker. I resisted for a long time. It’s an expensive one-trick appliance. Takes up space. I am generally opposed to things like that. I’m anti-kitchen gadget. Don’t have a slow cooker. Or an air fryer.
But I caved. I bought one. And I am so happy that I did. Perfect rice. Every. Single. Time.
And I’m not ashamed I did it either. I did it after I read Andy Ricker saying he uses one. Recommends it even. If it’s good enough for one of the best Thai restaurant in North America…
Use a wok – it’s just easier
You could try to make Thai fried rice in a big frying pan. But that would just be making things difficult. Woks are cheap. And they are useful. If you don’t have one think about getting one.
It’s not just about having rice all over your stove either. That’s messy. But not the end of the world. Not that hard to clean up.
What matters is toasty rice flavour. You need to push the rice against the hot sides of the wok as you stir fry. And the best way to get that is to keep as much rice in contact with as much hot wok surface as possible.
Temperature matters for Thai fried rice
Blazing hot heat makes for better fried rice. Stir frying in general is about high heat. And this is not different. But you need to be a little bit careful. Timing matters here.
Fry the chicken over relatively high heat. You want it to brown a bit. Some of that Maillard magic for flavour. Always good.
Then you want to tone things down a bit. You don’t want the garlic to burn. But once the rice goes in it’s time to crank the heat. High.
Once you get things toasty slow it down again. To cook the eggs. It’s almost impossible to cook the eggs and keep the rice moving. So it’s going to brown a bit. Getting a bit of crust on the rice isn’t a terrible thing though. Think paella. Or bibimbap. I like it.
A gas burner makes this all a lot easier. But I’ve cooked on electric as well. The trick it to lift the pan off the burner. Or have two burners going at once. One on high. One on medium low. Move the pan. That works.
Prik nam pla – the classic Thai fried rice condiment
Prik nam pla is fish sauce and red chilies. That’s it. The simplest hot sauce ever invented. But it’s what adds a bit of zing to Thai fried rice.
I like to add lime juice to mine. Lime juice dilutes the fish sauce a bit. Fish sauce is really salty. Diluting a bit makes it easier to control.
Nam prik pao is the other secret ingredient. It adds a ton of flavour. And complexity. Worth it if you want to go the distance.
If you don’t then you can use sriracha or sambal oelek. Not the same but still good.
Thai fried rice. If you like rice. And you like Thai. Then you should think about making it. It’s hands down my favourite fried rice. Maybe it will become yours…
thai fried rice
thai fried rice
- 3 cups cooked jasmine rice cooled at least or day old (better)
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp nam prik pao recipe link below
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 chicken thighs boneless, skinless and cut up into bite size pieces
- 2 eggs beaten
- a few leaves of asian greens such as pak choy
- cilantro to garnish
Prik Nam Pla
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/2 lime juiced
- 4 red chilies - the little thai ones
Make the Prik Nam Pla
- Slice the red chilies thinly into rings.
- Combine the fish sauce, lime juice and chilies. It's that easy.
Make the Khao Pad
- Be ready. This goes fast. Minutes. Literally
- Beat your eggs. Set aside.
- Use a wok if you have one. Or a really big skillet. For this dish non-stick is easier. I like carbon steel or aluminum for this. You want a pan that heats and cools quickly.
- You are going to want to really play with your heat. This is easiest on a gas stove but it works on electric as well. Just slide the pan off the heat when you need it to cool down a bit.
- Heat the oil over medium heat high. Add the chicken and stir fry until it starts to brown. It should be done by then but sneak a peak to make sure. Cut a piece in half and look. No harm in that.
- Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the garlic and the nam prik pao (the Thai chili paste - not the fish sauce and chilies). Stir fry briefly. Watch it. A bit brown is OK. Burned is not.
- Add the rice and crank the heat. Full blast at this point. You want the rice to get a toasty flavour. Toss it around. Push it up the sides. Keep it moving. Cook it this way for about 90 seconds. Maybe longer if you are waiting for your electric element to heat up.
- Add the pak choy if using during the last 30 seconds or so. It cooks quickly.
- Turn the heat down to medium. Push the rice to the sides and pour the eggs into the pan. Scramble them until just done.
- The rice that is at the bottom of the pan will crisp up a bit. Like a soffrito in a paella. I like this. If you don't keep the rice moving as best you can while you scramble the eggs. It's near impossible but if you want to try go for it. Can't hurt.
- Add the fish sauce and toss to combine. Garnish with cilantro and fresh lime wedges. Serve with the prik nam pla on the side.