Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gap khao

Gap khao is literally translated as 'with rice,' and refers to, well, whatever you'd put on rice, but generally something with at least a little more substance than plain sauce. Meat or seafood or veggies, in whatever quantity, are generally added to sauces, herbs, chilis, and garlic in some combination. There are hundreds of dishes, but really, it can be anything. It means sort of what we mean when we say "eat an actual meal" - not a snack.
I worked the overnight at work last night and I'm craving something simple thrown on top of rice, something easily eaten, lazily, in front of Parks & Rec episodes on Netflix. Grapao muu saab - ground pork fried with holy basil - fits the bill perfectly, but I have no holy basil available right now, and also  I keep thinking about how delicious that stir-fried cabbage was. So this was the result - a fry-up of some of the cheapest vegetables and meats available, with a few aromatics, over rice. Hot, filling, and nutritionally a step up from buttered noodles...which, let's be honest, I probably would've had for dinner if this hadn't materialized.

Ground Pork with Cabbage and Green Beans

So I know this probably doesn't sound like the most exciting thing ever, and it wins absolutely no beauty contests, but it's surprisingly flavorful and extremely delicious, and very very economical. It's not authentically Thai, exactly, but then again, I don't live in Bangkok anymore, so this is what I have on hand...the very essence of a busy-night gap khao. I also fried up some ginger and garlic in oil to dribble over the finished product, which is tasty, but not necessary. 

1 lb ground pork
5 c cabbage, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 c Green beans or long beans, cut into managable lengths
3 cloves garlic, minced - it'd be awesome with more, but garlic tends to make me feel sick, so I go with a small amount.
2 inches ginger root, peeled and minced
1 tbsp Fish sauce
3 tbsp Black soy sauce - this is thick and sweet. If you don't have it, use regular soy sauce and a bit of brown sugar or molassas.
1/4 tsp Sesame oil
2 tsp vinager - I had apple cider vinager on hand
Lemon juice
Chilis, fresh or powder
Eggs, optional
Rice, prepared as you prefer. Thai style demands a high ratio of rice to topping, but use however much you like.

Start your rice. Then, in a heavy pan or skillet, fry ground pork with ginger and garlic over high heat until it's broken up and started to brown, but still has some pink. Add fish sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, and any chili you'd like to add.  Cook until completely browned, and taste. Add more of any of the seasonings to your taste, remembering that this is going to be distributed over quite a bit more after the vegetables are added.  When you're done adjusting seasoning, scrape into a large separate bowl and set aside. Add a splash of oil to your pan, and a handful of cabbage - I did mine in two batches, but I have a huge cast iron wok that distributes heat to the sides as well, so you might want to go in smaller batches. Add to pork, and fry the remaining cabbage in batches. Fry the green beans and onions together until seared and soft-ish.  Add pork and cabbage back to pan and toss over medium high heat until re-warmed and thoroughly combined.

A fried egg is a fairly common addition to dishes like this in Thailand, and it's tasty and an easy way to add more protein. To make a Thai style fried egg, heat a generous layer of oil in a pan. When it's hot, crack an egg into it. Fry until the white is set (and crispy) but the yolk is still runny...or, if you must, break the yolk and let it set. Flip this on to your bowl full of rice and gap khao. 

Optional nontraditional fancypants addition:

1/2 c vegetable oil
1 clove minced garlic
1" section of ginger root, minced
3 drops sesame oil

Put oil, garlic, and ginger in your smallest pan and turn the heat to low. Let it sizzle away until the edges of the  garlic and ginger are looking toasty. Turn off the heat, add sesame oil, and stir. Let it all cool down together. Drizzle over plain rice, or anything with rice, or soup, or dip bread... this goes with everything. 1 tsp of chopped fresh Thai chilies or a pinch of dried chilis would be delicious too, added with the sesame oil.

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