Heirloom Recipes

The $1 Meal I Make Time & Time (& Time) Again

June  7, 2018

As Food52 gets older (and wiser), and our archive of recipes grows, we’re making the effort to revisit some gold recipes. Today, we're featuring edamame2003's rich, creamy porridge that will keep you and your wallet full.

Photo by Ty Mecham

My first memory of khao tom was when I lived with my grandmother in Thailand as a child. Khao tom, translated, means "rice, boiled." I initially thought it was bland and too mushy, but later, when my mom made it with fried egg, Chinese sausage, and pickled mustard greens, I fell in love.

I savored the combination of bland rice with salty sweet sausage and crispy egg and sour greens—so many textures and flavors. Plus there are so many variations: plain white rice cooked to a thick paste, eaten with pickled vegetables, or crushed grains of rice cooked to a stew-like consistency. This is my family's favorite version, made with ground turkey or pork.

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As a business student at New York University in the mid-1990s, I allowed myself a budget of $1 a day for food (which was, admittedly, very tough, but I made it work). Sometimes, that dollar would go to the hot dog vendor in front of school (that a hot dog was $1 tells you how long ago I lived in NY!), other days; a pack of egg noodles, butter, salt and pepper would get me through three days. But there was one dish that still costs under $1 a serving today—rice porridge.

Another low-cost bite

The plain version with just white rice is so good piping hot, but it's taken to new levels with Chinese sausage, a Thai omelet (onions plus fish sauce), pickled mustard greens, and fermented bean curd. Or, instead, with sweet, savory, spicy Thai chili paste—nam prik pao—and preserved salted duck eggs with stir-fried green beans and fermented black beans. A version with ground meat tastes best with fried crispy shallot, poached egg, fresh cilantro, grated ginger, green onion, and white pepper. It’s the perfect canvas.

I still make it all the time. My son likes it soupy, so I don’t cook it to the point that the rice soaks up all the liquid. I also like to grind up garlic, a little salt, coriander, and ginger into a paste and cook it with the meat.

In my opinion, more Thai people eat and make khao tom than pad Thai. On a recent trip back to Bangkok, I took my son to a 24-hour khao tom stand where there’s almost a 2-hour wait every night. I think the reason khao tom is so popular is its variety. The restaurant had 8 pages of options!

Do you have a recipe that's been passed down in your family? Or one you want to make sure your future generations make? Let us know in the comments and it might be featured as one of our heirloom recipes!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I work in the entertainment business, and in my free time, I really enjoy growing my own vegetables, trolling my local farmers markets and trying to re-create yummy dishes I eat at my favorite restaurants. My son is a big influence on how and what I cook. He's my guinea pig and promises to try anything I make once. Luckily the recipes on food52 are bountiful and delicious.

1 Comment

Catherine September 8, 2018
It's definitely a comfort food! I've never had it with the chinese sausage though so I will have to try that. Where is the khao tom stall in Bangkok?