0318 global comfort food kai jiew y6ot7c

A food that makes me feel comforted and loved are Thai omelets (ไข่เจียว). When I and my sisters return home to Chicago, my mom has two dozen eggs waiting in the fridge, knowing we’ll all demand kai jiew. When I got married, my sister’s wedding speech even included a kai jiew reference. Translated roughly from Thai, she said: "Love is like kai jiew ... you can eat it every day, and never be bored."

Kai jiew is ubiquitous in Thai culture—sold as street food as well as at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Bangkok (they stuff it with crab). It’s nothing like a hulking, cheese-stuffed American omelet. The eggs are beaten right before you pour them into the hot oil, where it is deep-fried—so it has crispy edges but stays fluffy. Instead of salt, we use fish sauce and soy sauce for flavor. Some people add minced pork, Thai basil, or tomatoes before cooking. But I like it plain, with rice with a little nam prik (Thai chile sauce) and crispy garlic on top.

Every time a new Thai restaurant or cart opens in PDX I look for kai jiew. But few places make them—maybe they think it’s too simple to interest people? And I haven’t found any Thai omelet as good as my mom’s yet. I did have a pretty good one at a breakfast pop-up at Nong’s Khao Man Gai last November. Hers had a slight edge over my mom in that she scrambled her kai jiew in chicken fat, even if it didn’t have my mom’s crispy egg edges. But until Nong adds it to her regular menu, I’ll be frying my own omelets ... or booking another trip home to mom.

Kai Jiew

Serves 2

In a wok or frying pan, heat ½ cup vegetable oil on high heat (the oil should be ¼ to ½ inch deep). Meanwhile, beat 4 eggs well with ¾ tsp of fish sauce and ¾ tsp of soy sauce until runny and bubbly. Test the heat of the oil by dripping a little egg into it. The oil should sizzle and froth. (If it’s not hot enough, the eggs will absorb too much oil.) Beat the egg mixture a few more times and then pour it into the pan—the eggs should immediately puff up. Lower the heat to medium so it doesn’t burn and deep-fry the omelet for about 30 seconds until golden. Use two spatulas to carefully flip the entire omelet over and cook for another 30 seconds or so. It should have a spongy texture and be cooked all the way through. To make it crispier, raise the heat to high and cook 30–45 seconds more. Transfer the omelet to a plate covered with paper towels, shaking off any extra oil before setting it down. Top with nam prik (Thai chile sauce) and crispy garlic, and eat with jasmine rice.

Pechluck Lasky is a local blogger behind Pechluck's Food Adventures.
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