With Sue in India doing teacher training and me in Nang Rong, I have to think about finding food more often than I would otherwise. I have already written about one Isaan basic food group, Som Tam. Today I walked down to Nong Biea for lunch. It is named after the owner’s young son and located by a red teardrop on our map.
It is run by a good friend, shown here with his wife who works alongside him. Previously it was a one minute walk from my house but he closed that to help care for his son who was in a bad accident more than a year ago. He has since reopened in a new location. It now takes five minutes. In the above picture it appears dark back in there. It’s not dark, it’s just out of the sun. The front is open to the outside, just like nearly every other restaurant and store in Nang Rong. He cooks out front, to the right in the picture.
I had the old stand by, kao pat gai, or chicken fried rice. I have him put in onions too. I can get something like it in the states and I’ve had it at different places in Bangkok, but I like it better here. If a new farang knows the Thai name of only one dish, this is probably it.
“Pat” means stir fried. Except for steamed rice, most hot things served in a restaurant, the meat and the veggies, have just been stir fried. The first time I see a microwave oven in a restaurant in Nang Rong, I’ll let you know.
Many of the restaurants in Nang Rong offer fried rice, but Nong Biea’s looks and tastes lighter. When Nong Biea was closed, I got kao pat gai at other restaurants. What made me stop eating it was getting a take out bag and putting it in the refrigerator for the next day. I took it out and looked through the transparent bag and thought “I’ve been eating this?” and hoped I had not been forgetting my cholesterol pills. It was easy to see the solidified white grease here and there. I heated it up in the microwave just to try it. It did not taste as good as the day before. I only ate the first bite.
After having sworn off, I tried it again a few weeks ago when working at the foundation office. We all ordered kao pat gai from Nong Biea to be brought in for lunch. It looked and tasted a bit lighter than I remembered, so a few days ago I did the “test” again. I got both a take out and an eat in order of kao pat gai. It was very good at the restaurant, and when I took it out of the refrigerator the next day it still looked good, without any more clumping up than already cooked rice is going to do. After microwaving it tasted pretty much the same as the day before.
Kao pat gai is normally not spicy at all. You can add the red peppers shown in the small dish if you wish. I usually do. At Nong Biea I also like gapow gai, a spicier dish with chicken and steamed rice in the rightmost picture. Pak boong, the green vegetable shown with it, is a very common vegetable and is maybe the Thai substitute for spinach.
Thailand is just starting to think about heart health. Many of the city hospitals are opening up heart centers and doctors here know more about heart disease than a few years ago. I suppose in a few years they will start thinking more about what they are eating (they still consume tons of MSG also). In the meantime, I would have already recommended Nong Biea for those of its selections I had previously tried, but now I can also say that they use vegetable oil for their stir frying, not the left over hog fat.