Delicious, quick, and simple
In the morning, most of us barely have enough time to put on an outfit that makes us look put together. At lunch, many of us only have time to stop at La Prima in Wean Hall for their soup du jour. We drink it as we try to catch up on the reading for our next classes and checking our e-mail. None of us really has time to cook anymore.
Fast food becomes the staple food because of our lifestyle. Food that takes longer than a few minutes to make is no longer realistic. While McDonald’s restaurants cook burgers and sandwiches in every corner of the world, in Thailand, at least, local vendors rule busy street sides and thousands of school cafeterias. Students place their orders and within minutes they have a freshly cooked meal. Those vendors feed locals with made-to-order food, the Asian version of fast food. They do not use frozen meat or pre-prepared vegetables because it is more economical for vendors to buy them fresh in bulk and prepare those ingredients themselves. There, the made-to-order dishes are healthy, not to mention cheaper than a McDonald’s McFish sandwich.
One staple single-plate dish is fried rice. A more precise translation from Thai is stir-fried rice, as saying fried rice alone implies that the rice is deep-fried. To make stir-fried rice, any meat and vegetable can star as the main ingredient. It takes less than 30 minutes to make, and is therefore quick enough to make for even the busiest students.
1–2 cups of chilled cooked rice (can be prepared the night before or even leftover from your Chinese takeout). This can be either white or brown rice, depending on personal preferences.
Fish sauce, hoisin or oyster sauce, and/or soy sauce — start with a teaspoon each, then adjust the flavor as you wish.
½ teaspoon sugar
1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
Meat (shrimp, chicken, pork) or a vegetarian substitute, like extra vegetables or tofu
Vegetables — The quantity and types used largely depend on individual tastes, but usually onions, bok choy, and broccoli are good choices.
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
To start, crank up your stovetop to high. Then, in a pan add one or two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic. When the onion becomes translucent, add the meat or other protein. For pork or chicken, cook until it starts to brown, and for shrimp, until they start to turn pink. Then, add the rice. Stir until all of the ingredients start to mix together. Once the rice separates, add in a teaspoon each of fish sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and half a teaspoon or so of sugar. If you are a vegetarian and are leaving out fish sauce and hoisin sauce, it might leave your dish a little bland. Try putting in half a tablespoon or so of sesame oil to give a more dynamic flavor to the dish.
Once the ingredients are mixed well, make a hole in the middle of the pan and crack the egg in the middle — be careful not to get any of the eggshells into your rice — break the yolk, and let the yolks and the whites mix a little bit. Once the egg starts to cook, stir the rest of the pan’s contents in with the egg. Tasting your food from time to time ensures the best result.
To add an extra kick for this stir-fried rice or any Thai dish, slice up a chili pepper or two, perpendicular to the length (like how you would slice celery), and thinly slice up a couple cloves of garlic (in any direction). Garlic and chilies together should add up to a tablespoon. Then, put your prepared garlic and chilies with enough fish sauce to just cover your chilies and garlic. If you have lime or lemon in your fridge, slice them up and squeeze a couple drops into the sauce. Combine this side sauce along with four or five slices of cool cucumber and your hot stir-fried rice, and enjoy a delicious dinner.