Thai fried rice (3-4 servings)

For me, this summer has been all about trying new things and taking risks. So far, I've volunteered at the Orange County Literacy Council, started a new tutoring gig, revamped my blog, taken a digital photography class (and inadvertently discovered a crime scene -- long story), sent a Facebook message to a chef I'd never met before to ask if I could interview him (And he agreed!), met two new friends, and started a new fitness program. During the school year, I have so little time for myself because teaching takes over my life, so I vowed back in the spring to take full advantage of the time I'd have this summer. My life is so out of balance from late August to mid-June, and I don't always take care of myself as well as I should or give myself opportunities to explore the things I'm interested in. I'm turning 30 in October (I think that's the first time I've actually typed that out!), and I want to enter that decade feeling more balanced,  self-assured, open-minded, and healthy.

I've discovered that a risk doesn't have to be dangerous or unprecedented to be important and have an impact on your life. The very act of doing something even a little out of your comfort zone is liberating and encouraging. Each small success gives you courage and confidence to try something bigger.

So when I was looking for ways to use up leftover rice earlier in the week and found a recipe for Thai fried rice, I thought, "What the hell?" I'd never made Thai food before, but what was the worst that could happen? If it didn't turn out well, we could always get pizza from across the street. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Admittedly, it was a fairly simple and un-intimidating initial foray into Thai cooking. The measurements seemed pretty flexible, and the ingredients were accessible, plus it didn't require any specialty equipment (although I'm sure it would have turned out even better in a wok). I halved the original recipe and made a couple changes to the ingredients, but overall, I followed the recipe pretty closely to end up with flavorful, hearty, healthy results. This dish contains a lovely combination of fruity sweetness, tail-end heat, and savory salinity.

You will need: 

  • 1-2 cups cooked, cooled rice
  • 1-3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on your heat preference
  • 1 egg (skip it if you're vegan) 
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • a handful of sliced carrots
  • a little less than a cup of pineapple chunks, either canned or fresh (I recommend fresh)  
  • 1/8 cup dried currants or raisins (I used currants from Whole Foods' bulk bins) 
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted cashews (I had to use sliced almonds after remembering I'd used up my cashews earlier in the week)   
  • a handful of bean sprouts (opt.) 

Steps: 

  1. Place the rice in a bowl and drizzle 1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp oil over it, mixing it in with your fingers to break up any chunks of rice. (This will keep the rice from burning later on.) Set aside.
  2. Pour the soy sauce and curry powder into a small jar with a lid; put the lid on and shake the dickens out of it. Set aside. 
  3. Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium-high and add in the remaining oil. Add in the shallots, garlic, and red pepper and stir-fry the ingredients for about a minute, or until they're fragrant. (They'll continue to cook, so you don't have to spend much time on them now. The recipe says that if things start to stick to the pan, you can add a tablespoon or two of water or broth, but I didn't need to do that.)
  4. If you're using the egg, crack it into the pan and stir quickly for a minute or two until it's almost set. 
  5. Add the carrots and peas and stir-fry another 2 minutes (adding more water/stock if needed).
  6. Finally, add in the oiled rice, pineapple, currants, and cashews to the skillet. Drizzle the soy/curry mixture into the pan and continue gently stirring the ingredients for another 5-8 minutes, or until the rice begins to make popping sounds. If you're using the bean sprouts, throw them in right at the end of cooking. (The recipe notes to stop adding any more liquid at this point, because the rice will get soggy.)
  7. Serve with extra soy sauce and garnish with cilantro. (I know it's parsley in the picture! Shut up! Move along!)

Cooking a new type of cuisine made me feel proud -- and full!