Before I have to go on another trip next week, let me give you a recipe that was waiting in my queue for quite some time. This is another simple and easy recipe; it’s called Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai in Thai and it means “fried with garlic and pepper.”
You can find it in ANY Thai restaurant menu. It’s the most basic, delicious and popular dish both for the lunch crowd (buying from the vendors or restaurants) and the home cookers. Todd (ทอด) in Thai means fry or deep fry not stir-fry. Pad (ผัด) is stir-fry. So, you should expect to see some oil, or a lot of oil, here.
The difference between Todd and Pad or fry and stir-fry is frying cooks the food with the heat from the hot oil. Stir-frying cooks the food with the heat from the wok or pan, and oil is merely used to prevent the food from sticking to the pan surface. Which is why it is safe to assume that frying would use the higher heat and much more oil than stir-frying.
Kratiem, Kratiam, Gratiem or Gratiam all mean garlic.
Phrik-Thai is ground pepper. Mostly it would be white pepper in Asian cooking, unless it is specified as “black pepper”.
Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai is very popular at the “cook to order” food vendors or restaurants in Thailand. If you ever visited the country, you probably know this dish. There is no “cook to order” place that doesn’t serve this—it’s the basic of the basic. This is probably second in popularity only to Pad KaProw, about which I already posted.
Thai people are used to eating hot meals, even though our country is darn hot already. We are not at all comfortable with the idea of a cold meal or eating food that is not burning hot from the stove. The tropical climate taught a valuable lesson from generation to generation, which is to survive in a bacteria-filled environment year round requires eating freshly cooked food while it’s hot so the bacteria has no chance to grow and hurt our digestive system. Does that make sense?
We have our own “Fast Food” system that would provide hot food to the hungry souls any time of the day. The first shift is beginning from extremely early morning breakfast, (Sooo early you have just finished your party night at the club) 4am – 6am. The early morning breakfast, which is about the same time as the monks walking out to accept food from people, 6am – 8am. The late morning snack, 8am-11am. The lunch, 11am – 2 pm. The afternoon snack, 2pm-5pm. The early dinner, 5pm – 8pm. The late dinner, 8pm – midnight. And the late night supper which sometimes casually blends into the extremely early morning breakfast from midnight – 4am.
These are provided mostly by the street vendors, who sell only a few things (and often only one) from their stalls. I don’t really count the restaurants which are mostly open all day long. This is where our culture is different than others. Restaurants in Thailand won’t close from 2:30pm – 5pm like most other countries where the labor is much more expensive. They continue operating from the minute they’re open until they close at night, and same applies in major metropolitan areas.
We basically eat like the hobbits. 4-6 meals in a day is pretty common, even though the Thai won’t count the late morning snack, the afternoon snack or the late night supper as a real “meal”, but it actually is. This is not a handful of nuts or a few stalk of carrots or celery. I actually laugh at the idea of the “snack” in most diet programs. It sounds more like pet food than human food.
Seriously, we snack on something much more enjoyable with much fewer calories, like cut up green mangoes or other sour fruits dipped in a little spicy sugar and salt, or ice cream sandwiches, or grilled sour pork sausage with a lot of vegetables, or meatballs on skewers. Not a handful of some tasteless nuts or vegetables that won’t satisfy you.
Enough about the snack or in-between meal. Let’s focus on the main meal in the category of “fast food”. All fast food is essentially a hot meal that is partially pre-cooked or cooked fast after you order, isn’t it? The Thai had fast food long before the first McDonald opened its doors.
The most popular fast food Thai-style is called “Khao Kaeng”. Khao = rice, Kaeng = curry soup. Khao Kaeng basically is a plate of white rice topped with Thai curry. There will be many different pre-cooked foods in pots or trays on display, almost like Panda Express. The food would be several different kinds of curries, stir-fried meat and vegetables, yum or salad, soup, fried meat, steamed curry mousse, fried curry cakes, etc.
As you show up, the vendor would put white rice on a plate. This is standard, then you start pointing at the food items you want to eat. They will pile the foods on top of the rice. You can have one kind or many, up to you. Price is determined by the items you choose. That’s it, you just take your plate, utensils and find a place to sit down, normally in the front of their stalls or carts, and you just eat right there. They also sell them “to go” by putting the food in a plastic bag or box for you to carry them back home. With to-go you have to tell them if want rice or not, because you will likely have a pot at home.
We eat Khao Kaeng for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We don’t really eat it for a snack or supper. They are too heavy. They are the staple meal not for snacking. It’s just the norm there. I myself don’t eat at the Khao Kaeng places very often. As you might be able to guess if you’ve followed my blog for a while, it’s because most of the items they sell at the Khao Kaeng places, especially curries, salads or even the stir-fries are spicy and have Thai chili as a part of the ingredients, and I can’t eat that.
I usually opt for the second choice, Guay Tiew, or noodles with or without soup, which usually will be selling at some stall or cart nearby. This is something that is also “cooked to order,” so I can tell them not to put chili in my bowl. There are many different kinds of Guay Tiew, and I am posting the recipes in a series, Thai Noodles. It is up to Episode III now.
Guay Tiew is an all day thing–breakfast, lunch, dinner, and also the late night supper, too.
If I don’t want to eat noodles but want to eat rice, I have another choice. This is the real “Cooked to Order,” the third favorite kind of fast food for the Thai. For people who haven’t been to Thailand, you probably wonder what the deal is with these cooked to order restaurants. It is a place where you order simple dishes, mostly steamed rice with stir-fried or fried stuff, that can all be cooked in one wok, because that’s the vendor’s entire cookware, a propane stove and a wok. Maybe if they have a large menu item, they might have another pot, but not elaborate at all. They will cook that dish that you just ordered for you right there while you wait.
What’s served normally is Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai–fried meat with garlic and pepper, Pad Ka Prow–stir fried meat with holy basil, Pad Phrik–stir-fried meat with chili and onion, Khai Jiaow– deep fried omelette Thai style, Khai Dao–deep fried egg, and many more items, and sometimes other stir fried noodles, Pad Kee Mao–spicy stir fried meat and rice noodles with basil, Pad See Ew–stir fried rice noodles with soy sauce meat and broccoli, Rad Na–rice noodles with meat and broccoli in gravy. All would be done in that one wok or a pot, no other complicated cookware.
There are many stalls and restaurants like these all over the country. So, if you are there in Thailand, you should forget about Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s and try our real fast food.
The key with “cooked to order” is the fast cooking time. The faster you cook, the more you can serve, right? Most of the meat and vegetables will be already prepped, cleaned, cut to bite size, and marinated. The ingredients would also be prepped as well. The garlic would already be chopped up, and onion, green onion, cilantro and cucumber would already be sliced to the desired sizes. And all the condiments are close at hand.
This is how we’re going to prepare our Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai. I’m going to give you two different ways of cooking it. The first one is the “Cooked to Order” way, and the second one would be the original way Thai people cook the meat for Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai, which is the way it would still done at home and at the “Khao Kaeng” style vendors.
What’s the difference?
With the original Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai we would fry the meat in bigger pieces, which takes a longer time to cook, but the benefit is you get the meat to brown nicely on the outside while still tender on the inside. The browning agent is sugar, which is caramelized and glazed over the meat. The garlic also gets cooked to the crispy stage. If you know your stove and know how big you should cut the pieces of meat to cook them through at the same time it takes to perfectly crisp the garlic, you can open a restaurant (I don’t know how yet myself!) This original one is served with the meat sliced to bite size after it is cooked, rather than before.
As I mentioned before, “cooked to order” is a business that depends on how fast they can cook. So they slice the meat into small pieces, hence a shorter cooking time. How do they get it brown? Dark soy sauce. How do they imitate the caramelized sugar glaze? Sweet, dark soy sauce, which contains molasses. That is how two methods differ.
Meat of your choice (I used pork) cut to bite size 300-320g (10-12oz.)
I would recommend picking the meat with some fat content in it, or the end product could be tough.
Garlic 1 whole bulb
Grounded white pepper 1 teaspoon
Fish sauce 2 tablespoon (If you like it salty 3 tablespoon)
Oyster sauce 1 teaspoon
Sugar 1-2 teaspoons
Cilantro sprig for garnish
Sweet dark soy sauce 1 tablespoon (You can substitute with 2 teaspoons of dark soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of molasses)
Oil about 2-4 tablespoons
THERE IS NO FLOUR OR STARCH IN THIS DISH, and I’ve never seen anyone use SALT! So if you want authentic fried meat with garlic and pepper Thai-style, keep your starch and salt locked up somewhere and bring out the fish sauce (The neighbors will get used to this someday, believe me. They will stop asking what is that “smell” from your kitchen eventually.)
1) Marinate the meat by putting ALL of the condiments and pepper together, minus the garlic. This is the time when you can taste-test it. Do it and adjust the taste to your preference before you put the meat in.
2) Now you have to actually put the meat into the sauce!
3) Now we will deal with garlic. First you take the hard shell off the garlic bulb. I recommend using California organic garlic from Gilroy. As you might know, most of the garlic sold in the US comes either from China or from California. I think it’s reasonable to avoid the Chinese grown garlic since it could be the imitation garlic. You never know!
Ok, we’ve made sure that we have the REAL garlic. Now we’re going to smash it.
I hope you have a cleaver. If you don’t, then a big, heavy knife should do the job. If you still don’t have that…mannnn…are you really cooking with a Swiss army knife or what? Alright, if you can’t even get a big and heavy knife, then use a bottle, a pestle, or a rolling pin wrapped up in plastic wrap. You don’t want your pies to smell like garlic, I reckon. But if you somehow have a mortar and pestle but don’t have a big, heavy knife, I so want to kick your ass for the wrong priorities in your kitchen life, unless you are wearing your underwear outside your jeans too. In that case, fly to my house, I will be cook Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai for you 😉
Smash the garlic with the flat part of the cleaver,
or whatever pathetic tools you can find that suit the job. Smash them together skin and all, pick the tough skin out if you wish, but leave the thin ones in. You might want to roughly chop it a little, too. Did I mention a cleaver is the perfect tool for this job?
4) Scoop up about one tablespoon of roughly chopped garlic and put it in with the marinated meat, and save the rest.
5) Let the mixture sit for a while; 30 minutes should be minimum. The whole night if you want. You should steam your rice while you’re waiting, because the rest of this only takes less than 5 minutes.
WE WILL BE COOKING THIS ONE PLATE AT A TIME, SO DIVIDE THE MEAT IN PORTIONS BEFORE YOU START. Also, read all of the next steps through before start cooking.
6) Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Remember I told you what the difference is between Todd and Pad. (If you missed this part, go back to the 3rd paragraph. You probably didn’t do well in school, I can tell.) DON’T BE STINGY WITH YOUR OIL! We are not making a stir-fry here. This is truly a fried dish, so get used to the idea of oil. There will be leftover oil from this batch that you can use with the next batch, too.
7) Blast the heat to the highest and wait until the oil gets hot, then first put HALF of the rest of the smashed garlic in the hot oil. Flip them around. This is called “Jiaow” or frying something in oil while tossing it around.
8) This is a very critical step—you have to watch it carefully. Once the garlic gets slightly golden, you have to drop the meat in right away. It should take only half a minute at the most before the garlic is ready, and only take another 10 seconds for it to be ruined like this:
No, you are not going to grab your camera to take pictures, or even let your eyes get anywhere else but watching the wok, or your Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai would look like this at the end. This is not good. The garlic will be bitter!
9) Toss the meat around the pan very quickly,
making sure that it’s all cooked with no pink left on the outside. By the time the meat is cooked, the garlic should be crispy but not burned (at least you would hope for that).
10) Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat up from the oil and place it over steamed rice. Garnish with the cilantro.
11) You are now ready to make another batch. Add another tablespoon of oil before you start the new batch. After you’re done with the final batch, discard all the oil.
If you want to make a fried omelette to eat with this, the omelette will be the first thing you fry (recipe is here), even before the garlic, and if you want to make two servings, made the omelette first for both.
Do not forget to add more oil for the omelette. If you want to fry an egg or an omelette made from one egg, you would need about 2-3 tablespoons of oil (and will have some left in the wok, of course.)
I taught this method to a Chinese friend. He burnt the garlic again and again until he came up with a new method. He fried the garlic first until it was golden, then scooped it up and saved it in a cup, then he fried the pork and added the fried garlic back to the pork later. You can try that if you want, but believe me, after a few tries, you can master this.
That’s Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai, the “cooked to order” version.
I will give you another version that I like better because I’m used to this version more. This is how my nanny and the cook at my house would make it for me. What’s the difference? This version fries the pork in bigger chunks and doesn’t use the dark soy to give it color. As I mentioned, the brownish color is from the sugar that got caramelized in the process. Can you imagine the flavor?
With this version it is even more critical to pick meat with some fat just to keep the meat tender and juicy. I would suggest the shoulder or country rib for pork, and ribeye, skirt steak or flank steak for the beef (the prime grade would be better, also).
And if you insist on making this with chicken, dark meat would be my choice, but you can use the breast meat too. It will be drier, but you should be used to the dryness anyway if you prefer breast meat.
Meat of your choice (I still used pork) 300-325g (10-12oz.)
Garlic 1 whole bulb
Grounded white pepper 1 teaspoon
Fish sauce 3 tablespoons
Oyster sauce 1 tablespoon
Sugar 1 tablespoon
Oil for frying 4 tablespoons
1) Cut the meat to about 2”x3”x.5” size and marinate them.
2) Peel and smash the garlic (read the #3 of the above method) scoop up about 2 tablespoons and put it in the marinade.
3) Leave the meat to marinate at least 1 hour to overnight.
4) Put oil in the wok and set it over medium high heat, wait until the oil is hot and then put all of the meat in.
5) Drop the heat down to medium and watch until the edges get slightly brown, then flip the meat.
6) Fry until the meat cooks through the inside. You can flip it over a few more times. Increase the heat toward the end to brown it slightly more.
7) Use a slotted spoon to get the meat out of the hot oil; set aside.
8) Add the rest of the smashed garlic to the hot oil, fry until it’s golden, scoop it up and put it over the fried meat. You can slice the meat before serving and garnish with cilantro. And then it’s time for everyone to eat!