October 17, 2009

Stumbling through stop number two and heading for home comforts

Our first stop east of Bangkok was Pattaya, but unfortunately due to the unfavourable amount of Gary Glitter types wandering the streets, karaoke restaurants and lack of culture we stayed less than 12 hours, hit a Subway and the minibar, and headed straight to Koh Samet - a beautiful tucked away island which avoids most of the bad weather that falls during the current rainy season.

We stayed at a great backpackers called ‘Naga Bungalows’ (meaning 'snake'), which, for a fiver a night offered everything from free pool to a beautiful beach and a nice bowl of cornflakes if you were so inclined. Run by an English lady called Sue, she didn’t miss a trick with some added home comforts to the menu – if you have the pleasure don't miss out on the home-made bread and chocolate croissants either!

However, the kitchens’ two Thai chefs also produced some excellent local cuisine that I would highly recommend. Two of my favourite meals were Sukuyaki soup with chicken - a clear soup with vegetables, chicken and noodles - and all manners of fried rice (avoid 'tom yum' if you're not keen on the spice!).

I’ve always found it hard to cook restaurant style rice at home, and have tried different things on many occasions. The most important thing I’ve learnt is to pre-cook the rice at least a couple of hours before (if time, the day before), leave to dry slightly and then cool in the fridge. This way, it’s dry when it’s added to the wok, takes to the hot oil and cooks a lot better than a wet mass of just-drained rice.

However, I needed a few more tips than this, and luckily managed to gain entry into the Naga kitchen.

Fried Rice with Vegetables

Serves 2

1/2 onion chopped into lengthways slices
1 carrot chopped long and fine
Large handful of chopped cabbage
Large handful of green beans, sliced lengthways
Large handful of pak choi
1 Tomato chopped into chunks
2-3 florets of cauliflower, chopped
2 eggs
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp oyster sauce
3 tpsn palm/caster sugar
Pre-cooked rice – cooled – enough for 2 people

To serve:

Lime wedges – one for each person
Sprig of coriander

Pre-heat a wok. One hot, add roughly 6 tblsp of oil (a decent couple of glugs at least) and wait until the oil is sizzling hot. Add both eggs, and stir quickly, breaking them up as you go.

After 30 seconds add all the veg and pre-cooked rice and keep moving ingredients around the pan until coated with oil and hot. Add the soy, oyster sauce and caster sugar and keep stirring.

Serve hot with a lime wedge and a couple of sprigs of coriander on top for presentation.

NB For those who prefer to add chicken to their dish, cut 1-2 breasts into small strips and add with the vegetables and rice.

If you prefer to use prawns, only add these at the end of the dish so they are heated through rather than re-cooked (assuming you are buying pink, pre-cooked prawns) as otherwise they will end up hard and rubbery.

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