Aren’t low expectations grand? It always makes me nervous to step into a restaurant laden with five-star reviews (I know, I can’t help help peeking). Even a little disappointment is still disappointment. I’d rather go in expecting mediocrity and be pleasantly surprised.
Where am I going with this? Not into a restaurant at all. The other night, I warned Laurie that I would be making that thing she doesn’t like very much. She’s not a huge fan of ground meat other than in burger form, and that thing–moo pad bai grapao–is nothing more than a pile of stir-fried ground pork on a bed of rice, with a fried egg.
It’s a Thai dish, incredibly simple and made with ingredients you probably have lying around. If you don’t have holy basil, use regular basil. If you don’t have pork, use beef. Thai chiles? Serrano chiles. Fish sauce? Well, tough luck. In the end, every grain of rice becomes slick with egg yolk and saucy pork.
Here’s how you make it, courtesy of David Thompson’s Thai Street Food, the best book of 2010. His version calls for beef, not a bad idea at all, but I’m much more likely to have leftover pork.
Laurie was pleasantly surprised.
STIR-FRIED MINCED PORK WITH CHILES AND HOLY BASIL
Adapted from Thai Street Food
The way this would be done in Thailand is to fry the eggs in the wok, either before or after cooking the rest of the dish. Whenever I fry an egg in a wok, however, I always break the yolk.
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 to 10 Thai chiles, sliced
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
6 ounces ground pork
about 2 tablespoons fish sauce
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
2 large handfuls holy basil leaves
cooked jasmine rice
2 fried eggs
Stir together the garlic, chiles, and salt. Heat a wok or skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, and add the garlic, chiles, and salt. Stir-fry for a few seconds until fragrant, then add the pork. Continue to cook until the pork is cooked and starting to brown. Season to taste with fish sauce and sugar. Add the basil and stock or water and stir just until the basil is wilted. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, fry the eggs in the other tablespoon oil in a skillet. The proper fried egg for this dish has a runny yolk but a browned and leathery underside. If you’re a white-bottom fried egg purist, too bad.
Top each bowl of rice with a scoop of pork and broth and a fried egg. Serve immediately. I like to squeeze a lime wedge over the top if I have one on hand. Oh, and please eat it with a spoon.