Wanderlust- a strong desire to wander, to travel and to explore the world.
I've got the bug. Always planning a trip in my mind...sailing down the Yangtze River in China or taking the kids across multiple ecological zones hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. It could happen...
Early on, I felt a strong yearning to learn, and explore. I had a need to be a part of something bigger than myself. I met this desire--this call--by traveling every summer, to some far away place with other like-minded teenagers. We saw ourselves as the few who would lay down our summer flirtations and pool-side tans to take on a mission. Maybe this gave us a false sense of grandeur, but it gave us a lot more than that.
Those summer adventures gave us the ability to see and feel the needs of others...and to help meet those needs in a small way. To restore dignity, in some cases. I learned that life wasn't about my momentary whims; that my worth wasn't wrapped up in my appearance or wardrobe, my GPA, or even the hope of a future job-description or title. Real personal worth is summed up in a person's character. And of course, the best gauge for true character is how we treat others. How far are we willing to go to better someone's life? Do we see those around us as an inconvenience? How do we treat our family on a really tough day?
What a valuable life lesson to learn as an adolescent! Although I still have to regularly remind myself of these profound truths--I think those summer excursions made my transition from youth to adulthood much easier than some! Thanks mom and dad for letting your baby go to seemingly scary places in order to grow up!
One of my favorite trips was to Thailand. I was fifteen years old, and spent that sweaty summer meeting new people and exploring cultural differences in a land of extreme contrast. A dirty, smog-filled urban jungle surrounded by lush, miles of rain forests and wildlife.
I vividly remember the small hotel we lived in most of the summer. Down a bustling side-street in Bangkok, this little inn had all the charms (and roaches) a developing nation can offer! The breakfast they served us most mornings...Thai Fried Rice...is forever etched in my mind. They varied the ingredients often, but mostly it involved chicken, peas, onion and sometimes pineapple. There was an underlying essence of coconut and something else I couldn't put my finger on at the time. They served it to us in a perfectly-shaped dense mound that was created by packing it into a bowl and flipping it onto the dish with cucumbers, tomatoes and lime wedges on the side. Although others found this tiresome, I was always delighted to eat fried rice for breakfast!
I have spent a substantial amount of time trying to recreate the dish from memory. That unknown flavor I couldn't distinguish as a teen was curry powder! Just a touch of curry separates Thai fried rice from other Asian varieties. This is a very quick and easy dish to prepare--once you chop and prep all the ingredients--it just takes minutes!
Although I never make this for breakfast, I always secretly hope there will be leftovers in the morning!
Thai Fried Rice
4 cups cooked jasmine rice (about 1 ½ cups dry)
1 coconut sweetened coconut milk
1 lb. chicken (could use shrimp or pork)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 bunch green onion, chopped and separated into greens and whites/light greens
1 ½ Tb. fresh minced ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup fresh chopped pineapple (or canned pineapple tidbits)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro or basil
½ lime, juiced
1-3 Tb. soy sauce
*Tomato wedges, sliced cucumber and lime wedges for garnish
If your ginger has a thick bumpy skin, peel it with a veggie peeler or spoon. If the skin is soft and smooth--don't bother!
Precook the jasmine rice according to package instructions—substituting 1 can of coconut milk as part of the water. (I pour the coconut milk into the measuring pitcher, then fill it to 3 cups, for 1 ½ cups dried rice.) Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add 2 Tb. of oil to a large skillet or wok. Heat the skillet to high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the chicken and curry powder and cook 2 minutes—moving it around the pan.
Add the white onions into the pan and cook another minute. Add the ginger and garlic along with a couple pinches of salt —and cook 1 more minute.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan if needed, followed by the cooked rice. Stir well.
Add the peas, pineapple, green onions and cilantro and stir again. Squeeze the lime juice over the rice and add the soy sauce to taste. Stir and cook another minute or two, until the peas have warmed through.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and add the eggs. Swirl them around the skillet, gently pushing them toward the middle. We want the eggs to cook through, but to stay in a large circle—about 3-5 minutes. Slide them out of the pan onto a cutting board.
Roll the egg into a long cylinder and cut ¼ inch slices.
To plate: Use a small bowl (1 cup) and fill it with fried rice. Place a plate up-side-down over the bowl and carefully flip it over. Remove the bowl to create a perfectly-shaped mound. Top the mound with several egg spirals and place tomatoes, cucumbers and a lime wedge around the mound. Serve warm.