Last week, in the course of interviewing my friend M, who devised this fried rice recipe, I came to realize that, based on the way he was answering my questions, I probably wouldn’t be able to get anything bloggable out of this. But it was too late. The blog post had already been planned, the dish had already been made and photographed, the conversation had already started, and I had imposed upon myself the obligation to see it through and make the most of what I got. After all, a famous American philosopher from the 1990s once said, “Anything less than the best is a felony.”
In order for you to understand the interview the translated transcript of which will appear below, I need to tell you something that happened many years ago.
In an attempt to get rid of my flab, I started going to the gym with M for several weeks just so I could observe what exactly he did to achieve the kind of physique he had (and still does). I’d noticed that M always began with upper-body weight machines. Then he moved on to either a cardio then lower-body workout or vice versa. It was the same sequence every single time.
Finally, I asked him to enlighten me on his workout method.
Prone to over-analyzing things, I just assumed that there were physiological reasons for this which I didn’t understand, e.g. the depletion and repletion of glycogen. Instead, I was told that the only reason he did the upper-body workout first was because, “My armpits sweat a lot and if I do cardio first, chicks can see the armpit sweat circles on my shirt when I do the lat pull-down.”
Leela: So, M, this is your signature dish – something we all expect you to make every time we get together. Why do you think people like it so much? What’s special about it? [Preferred answer: Oh, you know, Leela, this is a dish that’s easy and quick to make and it uses the stuff that most Thai people have in their pantry already.]
M: It’s delicious.
Leela: Okay, so, um, yeah. Why Nam Prik Pao in fried rice? [Preferred answer: Nam Prik Pao, also known as Thai chili jam, is a versatile ingredient that gives you all the flavors that you love about Thai food. It helps streamline the cooking in that with only one ingredient, you get all the flavors you need. Notice that other than a bit of fish sauce, I don’t use other seasonings.]
M: It was there. And I just got sick of spreading it on bread. There was some rice in the fridge, so …
Leela: That makes sense, M. What about the use of fresh pineapple in this? How did you think of using pineapple in a Nam Prik Pao fried rice? [Preferred answer: The tart pineapple together with Nam Prik Pao create the juxtaposition of fresh and smoky that works very well.]
M: It was there.
Leela: (Brain cells are now dying in droves.) So you like pineapple?
Leela: And you, uh, also like Nam Prik Pao?
Leela: Like — a lot?
M: (5-second pause) Yes.
Leela: The last time you made this fried rice for me, you used brown jasmine rice instead of regular white jasmine rice. Is that a new variation that you’ve come to like? [Preferred answer: Ah, you noticed! Well, it’s for health reason. We need more fiber and nutrients in our diet, you know? Plus, I’ve found that the nuttiness of brown rice actually makes the dish more delicious.]
M: Not really.
Leela: So why did you use brown rice?
M: My wife made me.
M: (Yelling to his 3-year-old in the background.) I said, DON’T PEE ON THE DOG!
M: Huh? Oh, sorry. (Continued yelling.) Fine! Go do it outside!
Leela: Um, M. What about shrimp? You’ve been using nothing but shrimp. Never pork. Never beef. Never chicken. Never squid. Is it also because it’s there?
So there you have it, folks — the background information on this fried rice, straight from the horse’s mouth. I hope this has been enlightening and helpful.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ medium yellow or red onion (90g), peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 lb large (16-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 heaping tablespoons of Nam Prik Pao (store-bought or homemade)
- ½ large red bell pepper, deveined and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup (150g) ½-inch cubes of fresh pineapple
- 4 cups (650g) cold cooked long-grain rice (or brown rice)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion dice; stir until soft and almost translucent.
- Add the shrimp, Nam Prik Pao, and red bell pepper dice to the pan; stir until the shrimp is almost cooked through.
- Add the rice and pineapple to the pan, followed by the fish sauce; stir to heat everything through and get the seasoning to coat the rice. Remove from heat. Serve with a bowl of lime-heavy (especially if you use commercial Nam Prik Pao as it can make the fried rice a bit too sweet Nam-Pla Prik (and fried eggs, if desired).