(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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