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Favorite One-dish Meals in Thailand

Michael Babcock, July 15th, 2014

One of the best things about Thailand is the ready availability of delicious one-dish meals, both as street food and in restaurants. This blog looks at 5 of my very favorite non-noodle dishes. I’ll reserve noodles for another time. You can also look at my blog Thai Noodles – An Amazing Variety.

Of course, almost any dish can be a “one-dish meal.” Green Curry over Rice, for instance provides a protein from meat or seafood, vegetables (usually Thai eggplants and pea eggplants) over a starch (rice). Four of the dishes here, though, are often thought of as stand-alone dishes and eaten most often by themselves as a quick breakfast, lunch or (even) dinner.

Several of these dishes are Chinese-influenced; these are the one-dish meals I order the most in Thailand. I’ll save the more “Thai” one-dish meals for another blog.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Basil Pork with Fried Egg over Rice – Moo Pad Kaprao Khai Dao

Pork Dish

Stir-fried Pork dish

I’ll start with one of the most popular dishes in Thailand (and an authentically Thai dish) – Basil Pork with Fried Egg served over Rice.

The picture shows the dish – Moo Pad Kaprao Khai Dao Rad Khao – as it was served in a no-name restaurant in Bo Klua in eastern Nan province in northern Thailand. It comes with a typical Thai-style fried egg – ไข่ดาว (Khai Dao) – literally a “star egg” – with its crisp-fried edges. The dish here is made with larger pieces of pork; I see it more often with ground pork.

Kasma teaches a Spicy Basil Chicken recipe in the 3rd class of her Beginning Evening Series and in the 2nd class of her Beginning/Intermediate Weeklong Cooking Class. You can easily adapt the recipe for pork and add a crispy-fried egg at the end.

Pork Leg Rice – Khao Ka Moo

Pork Leg Rice

Pork Leg Rice

This just might be the one-dish meal that I order the most in Thailand: it’s Stewed Spiced Pork Leg Rice with Pickled Mustard Greens, Blanched Asian Broccoli and Hot-Sour Sauce – Khao Ka Moo. The picture to the left is from the food court at Imperial World Shopping Center in Samut Prakan.

Although it’s a Chinese-influenced dish, you find it all over Thailand, though not so much in the Southern provinces that have a larger Muslim population. It is predominantly a street food or found at food courts (which are, basically, street food brought inside). In restaurants you’ll see stewed pork leg (or fried stewed pork leg) mainly as a dish to be served over rice, family style (as in the picture below right).

This dish has an incredibly rich mouth feel – the pork leg is stewed with the skin on, which means it includes the fat in-between the skin and meat as well. You don’t really need to eat very much of this: the rich fat will fill you up. The richness is balanced by the pickled mustard greens and by the hot-sour sauce that you put on top. When you order, you have the option of getting it with a hard-boiled duck egg or without; I always get it with the egg, which typically has been cooked first and then stewed a while with the rest of the ingredients. Yum!

Stewing Pork Leg

Stewing Pork Leg

Stewed Pork Leg

Stewed Pork Leg

The picture above left shows the stew pot in one of Kasma’s classes just after the pickled mustard has been added. The right-side picture shows how she serves it in class – more as it would be served in a restaurant. It does need to be eaten with rice though: it’s such a rich dish.

Kasma teaches this dish during the 2nd session of her evening Advanced Set E Class and on the 2nd day of her Advanced Weeklong Set 2C class.

Poached Chicken Rice – Khao Man Gai

Chicken Rice Shop

Chicken Rice Shop

Another Chinese-inspired dish, perhaps more famous in its Singapore version, is Poached Chicken Rice with Melon Soup and Hot Fermented Soybean and Ginger Sauce (Khao Man Gai). It is often found as a street food and probably just as often at shops which specialize in the dish. It’s pretty easy to find a place that serves it: just look for the plump, hanging chickens such as in the picture to the left, taken at the Imperial World Food court in Samut Prakan.

What makes this dish special is the rice, which is cooked with chicken broth and also chicken fat, a bit like making a risotto; the rice by itself is rich and tasty. The stewed chicken is succulent and juicy. This dish is invariably served with a spicy fermented soybean-chilli sauce and accompanied by a light, chicken-broth based melon soup.

Poached Chicken Rice

Poached Chicken Rice

Poached Chicken Rice

Poached Chicken Rice

Here are two versions of the dish. To the upper left is the dish as Kasma had it last year at the food court at the Imperial World Shopping Center near her Samut Prakan townhouse. The rightmost version is from one of Kasma’s Advanced Cooking Classes.

Kasma teaches this dish during the 3rd session of her evening Advanced Set D Class and on the 3rd day of her Advanced Weeklong Set 2B class.

Black Olive Rice – (Kao Pad Nam Liap)

Salted Black Olive Fried Rice (Kao Pad Nam Liap or Kao Ohb Nam Liap) is another Chinese-influenced dish. It’s not a dish that you see very often in Thailand. The main ingredient is a Chinese salted black olive, which is mixed with shrimp, dried shrimp, green mango, Thai chillies and ground pork. It’s a marvelous dish, full of several different types of flavors and anchored by the black olive.

Black Olive Rice

Black Olive Rice

Black Olive Rice

Black Olive Rice

Here are two versions of the dish. Kasma’s version, above left, presents it more like a composed salad; before eating, all the ingredients are mixed together. The above right version is from My Choice Restaurant in Bangkok. It’s a rare trip to Thailand when I don’t make it by My Choice at least once or twice to get this dish for lunch.

Kasma teaches this dish during the 4th session of her evening Advanced Set D Class and on the 2nd day of her Advanced Weeklong Set 2B class.

Bitter Melon Stir-fried with Egg – Mara Pad Kai

Bitter Melon & Egg

Bitter Melon & Egg

This is a recipe that is very easy to cook and very healthy. Bitter melon is a vegetable that is said to help regulate the blood sugar and here it is served with eggs, still one of the healthiest foods you can eat. This is a dish that I cook often at home, particularly when I’m on my own. Start to finish, including prep time, is about 10 minutes or less. Serve it over rice and you’ve got a satisfying, healthy meal.

Try it yourself using Kasma’s Bitter Melon & Egg Recipe. Or try my variation – Bitter Melon, Chorizo and Egg – for some extra pizzaz. (You also can substitute Thai sour sausage for the Chorizo.)

Kasma teaches this dish in her Beginning/Intermediate Weeklong Class as an add-on on the 5th day.


Check out Kasma’s Menus for Evening Advanced Classes and her Weeklong Class Menus to see the full range of what she offers in her cooking classes.


Written by Michael Babcock, July 2014

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2 Responses to “Favorite One-dish Meals in Thailand”

  1. […] Favorite One-dish Meals in Thailand « Thai Food and Travel … http://thaifoodandtravel.com/blog/Stir-fried Pork dish. I'll start with one of the most popular dishes in Thailand (and an authentically Thai dish) – Basil Pork with Fried Egg served over Rice. The picture shows the dish – Moo Pad Kaprao Khai Dao Rad Khao – as … […]

  2. Kat says:

    I would kill for Ga Pow Moo Kai Dao :D Love it. Been here for 3 years now and don’t regret it at all while food still being one of my favorites in Thailand :)

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