When you look up ‘Thai curry fried rice’ online, the only method you’ll find follows this basic outline: cook the curry paste in the wok with the veg and meat, add cooked rice and toss it all up. Basically a regular fried rice but with Thai curry paste stirred into it. Not that there’s anything wrong with this method—I mean it’s delicious and aromatic and all of that—but I obviously had to squeeze my way in and turn it on its head. Random whims aside, there is actually a specific reason I changed my method here. When I think Thai curry, the first thing that comes to mind is the fragrant curry paste. But also, and just as importantly, coconut milk. It’s the combination of the two that really makes it. When you make Thai curry fried rice the traditional way there’s no coconut milk in the equation. Adding some in there after the rice is cooked would just make the dish soggy. Here’s how I address this.
I cook the rice with the curry paste and coconut milk. This achieves a few things. (1) The rice absorbs the paste and the coconut milk as it cooks. This flavours the grains from within, as opposed to coating it in the paste after the rice has been cooked. (2) Although flavourful, curry pastes tend to be acrid in their semi-cooked state. I find that it sometimes ends up tasting too raw for my liking despite cooking the paste beforehand. It’s kind of touch and go. And however deft or dexterous you are with stirring the paste evenly through the rice, it’s hard to avoid mouthfuls of concentrated clumps sneaking in. Cooking it this way with the rice mellows the flavour, distributes it evenly, and also takes away the rawness. (3) Cooking curry pastes in a wok requires a lot of oil. You want to cook it over a low flame until the oils rise to the surface. Even if I were okay with the amount of oil, this takes time and patience neither of which we’ve established is my strong suit.
I like to stir in chopped tomatoes and lots of fresh coriander in the end for freshness. (Slightly unorthodox, but the coriander accentuates the Thai flavours here.) This recipe is easily adaptable to use up any veg you might have knocking about in your fridge (I’ve included a few options in the notes below). If you’re inclined to add chicken, beef, or prawns, do! I make large batches of curry paste whenever I can find some fresh lemongrass and it goes without saying that homemade always trumps store-bought. If you’re feeling up to it, here’s my recipe.
COCONUT THAI CURRY FRIED RICE
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice (uncooked)
- 75 grams Thai curry paste (see notes)
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- 1 onion, cut into slivers
- 1 red pepper, cut into slivers
- 200 grams mushrooms, quartered
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 ½ tbsp oil
- Coriander leaves and stems, finely chopped
- Lemon juice, to taste
- Fish sauce, to taste (optional)
- Fried egg to serve (optional but recommended)
- Wash and rinse the rice until the water runs clear. You can cook the rice in a rice cooker, pressure cooker, or a regular pot. Add the rice to your cooking untensil of choice along with the Thai curry paste. Pour in the coconut milk and 2 ¼ cups of water. Stir gently making sure the curry paste has dissolved.
- Cook the rice and set aside to cool completely. Ideally you want to cook the rice a few hours in advance. If this is not possible, leave to cool in the fridge once cooked.
- Add oil to a large wok/pot and sauté onions and peppers until the onions are lightly browned. Add mushrooms and sauté for a minute. (If using, add your meat into the wok at this stage. Make sure it's completely cooked through before you add the rice.)
- Add the cooled rice to the wok, breaking up any clumps with your hands in the process. Season with lemon juice and fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander and tomatoes. Serve as is or with a fried egg on top. (note: this rice is quite mild in flavour. I find that it needs some sautéed veg/meat or other side dish on the side to make it a complete meal)
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