A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

Khao phat Amerikan

Posted date:  March 16, 2011


No, the above certainly doesn’t look like Thai food, so let me begin with a bit of background info. from the current edition of Lonely Planet’s Thailand guide:

(Con)fusion Cuisine
A popular dish at restaurants across Thailand is khao phat Amerikan, ‘American fried rice’. Taking the form of rice fried with ketchup, raisins and peas, sides of ham and deep-fried hot dogs, and topped with a fried egg, the dish is, well, every bit as revolting as it sounds. But at least there’s an interesting history behind it: American fried rice dates back to the Vietnam War era, when thousands of US troops were based in northeastern Thailand. A local cook allegedly decided to take the ubiquitous ‘American Breakfast’ (also known as ABF: fried eggs with ham and/or hot dogs, and white bread, typically eaten with ketchup) and make it ‘Thai’ by frying the various elements with rice.

This culinary cross-pollination is only a recent example of the tendency of Thai cooks to pick and choose from the variety of cuisines at their disposal. Other (significantly more palatable) examples include kaeng matsaman, ‘Muslim curry’, a now classic blend of Thai and Middle Eastern cooking styles, and the famous phat Thai, essentially a blend of Chinese cooking methods and ingredients (frying, rice noodles, tofu) with Thai flavours (fish sauce, chilli, tamarind).

Despite having committed these rather derogatory opinions to print, I have to admit that I quite enjoyed the khao phat American (illustrated above) as served at New Light Coffee House, a vintage diner in central Bangkok. Yes, the rice had been fried in ketchup and was indeed served with a side of raisins (hidden under the egg), but the entire package wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and unusually, also came served with a generous piece of roasted chicken (also partially concealed). I liked the sunny-side-up egg but didn’t touch the ham, and in an effort to keep it as Thai as possible given the circumstances, opted to season it with Maggi, not ketchup.

New Light Coffee House
426/1-4 Siam Sq, Bangkok
02 251 9592
11am-2pm & 6-10pm

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6 Comments for Khao phat Amerikan

Thanks for this post, Austin.

I certainly missed the nostalgic New Light Restaurant. Our family regularly visited this place (way back in the 70’s) and one of my favorite dish was “khao phat american”. I still cook it at home in the States.

the Thais do the same thing with Vietnamese food, which can be very frustrating. A nunmber of Thai friend know I like vietnamese food and I will travel a fair distance to find the usual Thai fare.
Pho I learned a very long time ago ends up being quaiteow

you (con)fusion is brilliant



[…] spam bokkeumbap, I just wanted to share another fried rice variation I learned about recently from Austin Bush’s blog. Khao phat Amerikan is a Thai American fried rice and I wonder if it is available outside Thailand. […]

Thanks for the post and explanation of the origins. My son likes American Fried rice, though he does pick out the raisins. A restaurant we like in Phuket Town called Dairy Hut does a good one with rice, fried egg, fried chicken, ham and a couple of little sausages.

New Light is an interesting place; I love how it feels like it hasn’t really changed since the 50’s.

I think the American GIs were simply bringing another horrid standby of American cuisine with them called… Spanish Rice. It was what passed for exotic food in the US during the 1960s often served up in school cafeterias and 24 hour diners (a type of cafe). The basics are that horrid pre cooked fortified rice calle Uncle Bens and some tomato sauce. Onions or green peppers or hot dogs can add to the authenticity. The closer one got to the border of Mexico the more adventurous Spanish Rice might get, including garlic or powdered chili pepper.

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