Celebrating Simple Meals: Thai Fried Rice

February 15, 2016

Tamar E Adler is the author of the excellent book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.
You can pick this book up at the Spokane Public Library or at any online bookseller for a reasonably low cost. This book is fascinating because Tamar peppers recipes loosely connected by ingredients and her thoughts on the traditions and preparation techniques used for particular foods. For example, on her website there is an excerpt titled "How to Boil Water." It reads:

“There is a prevailing theory that we need to know much more than we do in order to feed ourselves well. It isn’t true. Most of us already have water, a pot to put it in, and a way to light a fire. This gives us boiling water, in which we can do more good cooking than we seem to realize.

Our culture frowns on cooking in water. A pot and water are both simple and homely. It is hard to improve on the technology of the pot, or of the boil, leaving, when it comes to this particular technique, nothing for the cookbook and cookware industries to sell.

The pot was invented 10,000 years ago, and a simmering one has been a symbol of a well-tended hearth every since. I don’t mean to suggest that now that you have been reminded of the age and goodness of a pot of water, you start boiling everything in your kitchen, but that instead of trying to figure out what to do about dinner, you put a big pot of water on the stove, light the burner under it, and then, as soon as it’s on its way to getting hot, start looking for things to put in it. Once you do, you will have dropped yourself, in a single gesture, directly into the middle of cooking a meal, jostled by your faith and will a few steps closer to dinner…”

I love the spontaneity and simplicity of thinking about cooking in this way. A little planning never hurt anyone (I'd like to have my vegetables and seasonings ready to go) but she lays bare the fact that preparing food does not have to be complicated. Grab a pot and boil water, find some things to add and you're closer to dinner.

However, it's not all musing on the ancient art of heating water over fire. She does offer some specific recipe instructions. From the chapter "How to Make Peace" (which is all about peace through rice) she offers a version of Thai Fried Rice that will warm up any home.

Thai Fried Rice

1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil

2 Shallots sliced into thin rounds

1 Chili, sliced into thin rounds

2 cloves garlic smashed once or twice

1 cup yesterdays cooked rice


1/2 cup chopped cucumber, green tomato or radish

2 Cups chopped cilantro or a combination of cliantro, basil and mint

a big squeeze of lime plus wedges for serving

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce

optional: 1 fried egg per person

Heat the oil in as wide a pan or wok as possible. You need enough hot surface area for every grain to fry. Once the oil has begun to smoke at the shallots, chili and garlic then immediately add the rice. Spread it out over the whole surface area of the pan. Salt it lightly. When it seems like every grain has had time alone with the hot pan, scoop the rice into the middle of the pan, add the rest of the ingredients and toss it well. Serve with a lime wedge per bowl. This is most delicious with a fried egg put atop each bowl. (From page 123 of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.)

Enjoy good food cooked well and simply with your friends and family as often as you can. Happy Valentines Day!