Thai Foods Ep.2


Crab Fried Rice

by Thomas M. Tillman
Yes, this is arguably the most popular type of fried rice in Thailand - so much so that there are restaurants in Thailand specializing only in this one dish. It's certainly my favourite fried rice, especially as a kid growing up in Thailand. Simple, unfussy, delicious, no vegetables to contend with; what else could a child ask for?

Choosing the Right Crab

Use good quality crab. Do not use cheap canned crab meat that resembles an uninspiring briney mush. Get nice chunks of crab meat from a good seafood counter because this is such a simple dish that the flavour of the crab, or lack thereof, will show. Even though fried rice may seem like a humble, inexpensive dish, this is not the time to cheap out on the star of the show. In Thailand we use blue crab, which has such sweet and succulent meat. So if you can get lump blue crab meat, you're winning. Here in the Canadian West Coast I can only get Dungeness crab, which isn't as sweet, but it works fine as long as it's fresh.

Tips for Non-Mushy Rice

MYTH: You need old, cold rice from the fridge in order to make good, non-mushy fried rice. Completely wrong. In all my years working in restaurants I have never seen them use anything but hot rice straight from the rice cooker. What's their secret? Well cooked rice in an uncrowded pan. That's it. Many people cook their rice too wet to begin with, then combine that with trying to cook all 5 portions for your family in one pan, and you can easily end up with risotto.
Rice spread out on a plate, with bowls of fish sauce and soy sauce beside it.
If your rice is hot, spread it out on a plate to let it dry off while you prep.
If I'm cooking fresh rice for fried rice, I add a little less water than I normally do. For Thai jasmine rice, my rice to water ratio is usually 1:1¼, so for fried rice I do 1:1. If you have hot rice cooked with the regular amount of water, you can quickly spread it out onto a plate and let it air dry a bit while you do other prep. Cook in batches. If you do not have a high BTU (i.e. very hot) stove, and you do not have a large wok, try to do no more than 2-3 servings in one batch. If your pan is crowded, too much steam will get trapped and that's another mushy fried rice waiting to happen.

How to Amp Up the Flavour

When most people make fried rice, they toss in everything until it's well mixed, and call it done. But this is a big missed flavour opportunity! To get a more complex flavour, you have to let the rice TOAST. This means letting it sit in the pan without stirring for a bit (10 seconds or so depending on how hot the stove is) until the rice browns slightly, developing a deeper flavour. Think a sandwich made with untoasted vs toasted bread. That's the difference. You don't need to toast ALL grains of rice. I usually let the rice toast 2-3 times, tossing in between each time, and it's good to go. You should also hear the rice start to pop if you do it right.
A wok with fried rice in it.
The key to developing a deeper flavour is letting the rice toast without stirring.

Description

Crab fried rice is arguably the most popular kind of fried rice in Thailand. It's easy, quick, and SO satisfying. You can also use any other kinds of protein instead of crab (just cook it first!), as it's a great way to use up any leftover meats you have.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 375g (2 ½ cups) cooked rice (see note)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce, preferably Thai
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 130g crab meat
  • 2 green onions and/or a few sprigs of cilantro
  • Cucumber slices for serving
  • Lime wedges for serving

PRIK NAM PLA (OPTIONAL CONDIMENT)

  • 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove minced garlic (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp (approx.) fish sauce
  • 1 tsp (approx.) lime juice
*Measurements for these do not have to be exact. You just need enough fish sauce to cover the chilies and garlic, and you can make it with more or less lime juice to taste.  

Instructions

MAKE PRIK NAM PLA:

  1. Place sliced chilies and garlic in a small dipping sauce bowl and add enough fish sauce to completely submerge the chilies and garlic. You can add more fish sauce to make the sauce less spicy.
  2. Add lime juice and let sit until ready to use. This will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

FOR THE FRIED RICE:

  1. Heat oil and garlic in a wok over medium heat and stir until the smallest pieces of garlic start to turn golden.
  2. Add eggs, scramble slightly, then let them set about halfway before stirring to break up the pieces.
  3. Turn heat up to high then add rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and pepper and toss to distribute the sauce evenly. Once mixed, add most of the crabmeat (save a bit for garnish), and continue tossing for about 2 minutes, occasionally letting the rice sit without stirring so that it can toast and develop flavour. Be gentle when tossing so you don’t break up the crab pieces too much.
  4. Once the rice is dry and some of the grains are toasted, turn off the heat and toss in most of the green onions and/or cilantro (save some for garnish).
  5. Plate and top with the remainder of the crab meat and green onions/cilantro.
  6. Serve with cucumber slices, a lime wedge, and prik nam pla. Enjoy!

Notes

If measuring rice by measuring cups, pack it in gently just so there are no big holes but don't push it in tightly. You do not need to have old, cold rice to make good fried rice! You can cook it straight from the rice cooker but your rice has to be dry. So if cooking fresh rice, wash the rice well and add a little less water than you normally use. For Thai jasmine rice, I use a 1:1 rice to water ratio for fried rice, but this may vary depending on your particular rice.