First, hush, you people who know how to be smooth enough in real life to build relationships face to face. Second, this is the story of me meeting someone from the internet on another continent and the dinner they cooked for me. Third, it’s not really story because I will tell you in two sentences what happened (and it isn’t exciting. At all).
A few years ago I visited Singapore to meet some internet friends, one of whom was Thai (well, he still is) and for dinner he made khao tom. That was the first time I tried this Thai savoury rice porridge, and it left enough of an impression for me to continue cooking it for myself at home.
Two sentences. The end.
Khao tom is made with leftover rice, but that description makes this porridge-y soup sound like a second-rate meal. Like it’s merely a way to use up scraps you would otherwise toss in the bin. Erase that characterisation immediately, because this isn’t a dish you throw together to avoid guilt in throwing food away; it’s a warming bowl for which you will make extra rice the night before in order to have some left by the time breakfast comes around. Try khao tom once and crave it forever.
Like many Thai single-plate dishes, this one begs for condiments and toppings. In my experience preserved turnip and Chinese celery are almost mandatory. Other fresh herbs such as spring onion, coriander (especially if it’s Thai parsley) are recommended.
I consider the fried garlic as also indispensable because of both the caramelised pungent flavour it adds as well as the richness the oil adds to the texture of the soup. Further, I will always add a generous drizzle of chilli vinegar with plenty of chilli slices included, and maybe a sprinkling of white sugar for balance.
Kitchen Sink Khao Tom
Khao tom is a simple, warming, salty and rich breakfast soup made with leftover rice. As with any dish, the quality will improve with better stock, but don’t sweat it if all you’ve got is a cube. Just watch the sodium content of any instant stock powder or cube, or else the dish will be too salty by the time you add the soy sauces.
- 500 millilitres low sodium vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons shredded preserved turnip
- 1 tablespoon Thai white/thin soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Thai seasoning sauce
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- Approximately 1 cup cooked leftover jasmine rice
- ¼ – ½ cup cubed tofu
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped Chinese celery
- 1 tablespoon sliced spring onion
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh coriander
- 1 tablespoon fried crispy garlic in oil
- Chilli vinegar
- White sugar
- Additional white pepper
- Vegan fish sauce mixed with sliced bird’s eye chillies
- Bring the stock to the boil and add the salted radish, soy sauce, seasoning sauce, white pepper, and jasmine rice. Simmer for five minutes before adding the Chinese celery and tofu.
- Cook for another 2-3 minutes and ladle into a large bowl. Top with fresh coriander, spring onion, and crispy garlic. Serve with chilli vinegar, sugar, extra white pepper, and vegan fish sauce with fresh chillies to season for your personal tastes.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves 1-2
- Cuisine: Thai