A long, long time ago there was this really fabulous restaurant not far from where I work. Several of the people I’ve worked with over the last 8 years loved this place. I include myself in that list of people. In fact, it is one of the establishments in the Austin area that I cut my adventurous chops on!
Yes, that’s correct. I have not always been such a culinary daredevil. Before 2000, I think the most exploratory I would get is mole on my enchiladas. Every once in a while, I might’ve been excited by jalapenos in the queso, but my most outrageous experiences tended to my tex-mex heritage. That’s not to say that I wasn’t schooled in spice a few times during my tenure in New Orleans. In fact, there were probably a few times at a few festivals in good ol’ Looozyana when the crawfish boil brought tears to my eyes. But the people that I met in Austin taught me just a thing or two of the esculent arts. And of worldly cuisine. Turns out we Texans, while perhaps a little more culinarily brazen than your average Rhode-Islander, are still pretty humdrum when put against Thai or Afrikan or Morrocan fare. I have been to plenty of establishments where I never could have conceived of going before…
But this one place… Oh, I remember it fondly. Most of my coworkers at the time were only too happy (or too ambivalent) to agree to going there. Especially on Wednesdays. Massamun curry day! It was deee-vine. Back then, we were a two-income household, and Hays — well, he didn’t drink 4 gallons of milk a week and so I had a little more disposable income. And I was all too happy to go to lunch with the crowd. And we went to places I’d never been before.
Well, that is except for Thai Spice. We went there all the time. This one guy didn’t really believe there were any other restaurants than this. And it was close. But mostly I loved it on Wednesday for the reason stated earlier. I had never really gotten into curries before — especially Thai curries. And being a good Texan who grew up on carrots and potatoes, well Damn! This was some good stuff. And throw in peanuts to boot!
But then, one day, we went and it wasn’t Wednesday. And I was stumped. I’d already had the Pad Thai and a few other curries and I just wasn’t all that impressed. But another good friend of mine… he introduced me to a whole new level of yum. He’s gone now — not dead, but moved to a different plane of existence. New Zealand. And a different life. Same family, but all mellow and free-spirited. I admire that “up-and-gone” idea but I’m too much the coward. Anyway, back to his fave dish at Thai Spice….
It had a very simple name. It was Basil Fried Rice. And it was all of about $6. Me, I’m a bumpkin, so I don’t really know much about Thai food, but, hell, I knew this was good. So did Meredith. Mainly because every time I would have it, she could tell. We’d go to bed at night, and after lying there for about 2.8 seconds, she’d announce (not query, but ANNOUNCE) “You went to Thai Spice and had Basil Fried Rice today.”
She was never wrong.
You see, BFR is loaded with garlic. And basil. And cilantro. All are very pungent. And apparently, I exude them from my pores when I have consumed even less than two or three grams. Of course, I always consumed more than two or three grams, which made it quite obvious. But still… it was amazing. It was all basilly and garlicky and chili-ey. That’s Thai chilis. An insidious and delicious culprit if ever there was.
But it has all changed.
It is true that Thai Spice is still there. And BFR is still on the menu. But it’s not the same. It’s damn near $11 now. And the serving size is about half what it was. And there’s nowhere near the broccoli or chicken. Not to mention that the place has gone all “mod” and stuff.
I’m baffled why I never thought to find out more about BFR, but within the last couple years, I’ve started exploring in the kitchen…. I could always whip up a good stir-fry or dash together some yummy casserole, but I’ve been looking for more diverse fare lately. And somehow I stumbled across the fact that BFR wasn’t just a one-time-thing. Plenty of Thai places had it on the menu.
It’s true. But still, somehow I managed to always skip over this recipe when contemplating dinner preparations.
This afternoon, I found an interesting video (with an incredible wok/burner combo!) that demonstrated the simplicity of the BFR recipe. And I took it to heart. I improvised a little, as I’m wont to do — I replaced the bell pepper with a bit of celery. And maybe used less chili (so everyone else would like it). And (at present) there’s no way I could generate that kind of heat on my stove, so I had to batch things up a bit to get it all done. And I made quite a mess of the kitchen. But the results…
Let’s put it this way: I made what I thought was enough for me to have some extra for lunch on Monday. Well, that’s just not going to happen. The recipe was a hit. And the real kicker is that I can’t really believe how simple it was. No really. I’ll show you: