Cooking is fun. Most of the time. My wife is better than I am, but I have mastered a few things. Mostly tofu-based things.
I don’t really have recipes for the food I make. I have a process, which is both methodical and flexible, and everything else is to taste/liking/availability. If that doesn’t work for you, you’re in the wrong place. Also, if you don’t like words like “fuck” you’re also in the wrong place. This isn’t “Cooking with Mary Poppins,” though I really do like Mary Poppins. And Mr. Rogers. Fight me.
Some people asked for my vegetable Thai fried rice recipe, which yields a nice mouth party, so I thought I would write it down. Following is my process (not recipe). Try it and you might like it as much as we do.
First, a note about the rice. Cook it the day before. Please. Do not try to make fried rice with fresh rice. It will turn into mush and you will curse at the ceiling and wonder where you went wrong with your life. I learned this the hard way and now I’m saving you from the same suffering. Just shut up and trust me. Make it, refrigerate it, and remove it the next day (or even a few days later), at which time it will be dry enough to fry.
Gather the ingredients
- Vegetables. You’ll want garlic, sweet or red onion, bell pepper, carrot, broccoli, and green onion. The vegetables can vary, but my recommended collection is the best. If you do decide to defy me, do not make this without onions and bell peppers. Ever. Even if you don’t like them. Doing so would be a culinary faux pas.
- Tofu. As firm as you can find. Grocery store firm is okay, but learn where Asian restaurants shop for food and buy it there.
- Cashews. Whole are good, but pieces will suffice in a pinch.
- Soy sauce. Any kind will do.
- Bragg liquid aminos. Looks like soy sauce but it’s not. It serves a difference purpose and tastes different. Buy it and use it in this recipe and in lots of other things, too. It will change your life.
- Avocado oil. This is an oil for high heat, and you’ll be cooking on high. It’s your base oil. Or “bass” oil, if you really like Bootsy Collins. Man, I’m funny.
- Chili oil. Buy some or you can make some, I don’t care. My wife makes it super delicious style, so maybe you should make some like she does. Your mouth will thank you for it.
- Toasted sesame oil. Don’t argue with me; this is key. You need it.
- Umami seasoning. Not common but findable. You need it for this dish. Don’t be one of those people who says “I can just skip that weird ingredient and it will taste the same.” It fucking won’t. If you’re making Thai fried rice, get umami seasoning.
- Turmeric. This adds flavor and color. It’s versatile and you can use it in all kinds of dishes.
- Salt. You probably already have some. If not, you are failing at cooking. Get some and be better at cooking.
- Sugar. If you don’t eat a lot of sugar, relax. You only need a little. But it’s important to round out the flavors. I know this because when I began using it, my Thai fried rice leveled up in ways I hadn’t imagined. Some YouTuber told me to and I listened. And now look at me, I’m writing a fucking article about how to make Thai fried rice and you’re reading it. So go get your sugar. If you really don’t have any, support your local coffee shop by purchasing a large-ass cup of coffee, asking for like three packets of sugar, then put them in your pocket to bring home for this recipe. Everyone wins. Jesus, look how long this paragraph about sugar is. Maybe sugar is bad because it’s making me write run-on sentences. Nah, you need a pinch for this dish.
Prep the ingredients
- Wash all of the vegetables. You’re not a rabbit or a goat.
- Dice the garlic. Unless you have some minced in a jar, which is okay. Not ideal, but sufficient.
- Cut off the hairy tips of the green onions and slice them into little circles. Put them aside on their own.
- Slice the rest of the veggies into big chunks. None of this dicing shit. When you go to a Thai restaurant and order fried rice do you see dainty veggies? Neither do I. Make them big.
- Cube the tofu. Or make them rectangles. I don’t care. Just make them medium sized. If they’re too big they won’t cook well enough or capture enough flavor. If they’re too small they get lost in the dish. Also, if it’s not extra firm, press it to remove excess water. Don’t try to fry cubes of sloppy tofu or you’ll be really sad and you’ll cry and people will think that I hurt you, which sometimes happens because of my beard and tattoos. Just use firm tofu that’s pretty dry and everyone will be happy and I won’t go to jail.
Fry the tofu
- Fry the tofu in a little oil (avocado and toasted sesame) on medium-high heat, stirring (or pan-flipping if you’re badass) until it begins to darken around the edges.
- Add a little chili oil and Bragg liquid aminos (or soy sauce if you don’t have Bragg, but get some fucking Bragg because you need it in your life), then stir frequently. Add some more Bragg and stir again. Do this a few times until the tofu looks browned and tastes yum without being too salty. Mind yourself or you’ll have tofu that imposes too much of itself on the rice, and no one likes an arrogant batch of flavor-imposing tofu.
- Set the tofu aside in a big bowl. Or a medium bowl. Any bowl that holds all of the tofu is fine — I don’t really care.
Fry the rice and all the other shit
A quick note about the frying part. Heat and speed are important factors in this dish. When you’re done cooking, your veggies should still crunch a bit. Thai fried rice with mushy vegetables is horrible because there’s no texture or contrast. Tofu and rice are soft, and your veggies should provide sufficient contrast to that. Also, they taste delicious this way. If they’re too soft they soak up too much seasoning, losing their identity. So cook quickly on high heat.
- Fry some fresh garlic in a little oil (avocado, toasted sesame, and chili) in a big frying pan on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Don’t burn the garlic, just get it warmed up and ready to go. Also, when I say “big pan,” I mean it this time. Don’t be like “last time you said I could use any size bowl for the tofu.” Yeah, I know what I said. This time size is important. You need lots of extra space to mix everything effectively.
- Add the cashews, stir everything together, add a smidge of soy sauce. Yes, a smidge. Don’t open the flood gates or you’ll destroy everything you’ve worked for and you’ll send an email to me crying about how much this food sucks. It doesn’t; you simply poured in heaps of soy sauce when I said a smidge.
- Add in the onions, bell peppers, and carrots and crank up the heat to high. Now this is when things get real, so be prepared. Don’t fuck around once you reach this point or you’ll overcook everything. Cook these veggies only for a few minutes. Just enough to barely soften them.
- Add in the broccoli. Stir to mix everything up.
- Immediately add lots of umami, some turmeric, and a little salt. You’re gonna add soy sauce later, so don’t treat these like french fries. Just sprinkle a little salt to bring out the flavor of these slightly-cooked vegetables. Maybe a smidge, since we’re getting cozy with that unit of measurement here (a process, not a recipe, remember?). And don’t overdo it on the turmeric. That stuff is powerful. Just sprinkle a little around the surface and call it a day.
- Cook only for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add in the rice and stir everything thoroughly. There should be enough rice to keep the veggies floating but without dominating.
- Sprinkle in some more umami, drizzle in a nice amount of chili oil, a little more toasted sesame oil, and stir thoroughly. Like, really thoroughly. You don’t want some bites with no spice and others that taste like a circus. And be quick about it. Don’t stir these things in and spend an hour doing a fucking crossword puzzle. Pay attention to your food.
- After a few minutes, pour in some soy sauce. Okay, maybe “pour” sounds excessive. It should be less than you think you need because you’re gonna do this a few times. Maybe “drizzle” is a better word. Just pour some in. Then stir it thoroughly and let it cook, stirring frequently. Do this every few minutes a few more times until the rice looks darker and everything tastes super yummy. Note: use a separate fork for tasting. Don’t be gross by continuing to taste your food with the cooking utensil you’re using. Or do? I guess I don’t care. Maybe that’s how you do things in your family. Or maybe you’re cooking only for yourself. Fuck, do what you want. Maybe using a separate fork creates more dishes for you to wash and you don’t want any part of that. Okay, repeat these steps until it tastes yummy to you, using whatever utensil you want for the tasting.
- Add a little sugar. Just a little. It’s not candy, it’s Thai fried rice. Stir it thoroughly.
- Remember that tofu in the bowl that you’ve probably been snacking on this whole time? Add it into the pan and cook everything for a few minutes to blend up the ingredients and warm up the tofu. However, if you listened to me and cooked quickly on high heat and had your vegetables aptly prepared, the tofu will still be mostly warm at this point. Eh? See? I know things.
- Turn off the heat, scoop up heaps of the food into a bowl, and sprinkle some fresh green onions over the top of it.
Okay, if you did everything correctly you should be acting like Meg Ryan in that restaurant in “When Harry Met Sally,” because this shit is good. If not, try it again until you do. Also, sorry this is the longest process/recipe ever in the history of the earth. I hope you like the food. Bye.