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Meat, Vegetables, and Rice: A Traveler’s Meal

Rice is easily available and cheap throughout the world. I must struggle to think of a place in the world that I’ve traveled to where dry rice is sold for over a dollar a pound. It is also a highly nutritious grain that can serve as a base for just about any meal. For the traveler, rice [...]

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Rice is easily available and cheap throughout the world. I must struggle to think of a place in the world that I’ve traveled to where dry rice is sold for over a dollar a pound. It is also a highly nutritious grain that can serve as a base for just about any meal. For the traveler, rice takes on a whole other meaning, as you literally live off the stuff as you move from place to place around the world. It is also easy to make, and can be done up in hundreds of different ways to fit the parameters of many meals. Thus being, the basic dish of rice with meat and vegetables is at the heart of the vagabond cookbook.

It almost feels like a parody to write instructions for cooking the simple meals of the Vagabond Cookbook, and many of these recipes are added to provide a list of ideas for those who wish to cook for themselves as they travel through the world. I hope everyone who reads this already knows how to cook rice — I will just add some pointers on how to cook it with limited facilities along with how to spice it up into a good, balanced, and delicious meal.

While it is often cheap to buy rice dishes at restaurants when traveling, it is usually far cheaper to cook them yourself at the hostel, in your hotel room, or in camp. Asking around about local preparation methods for rice dishes (what spices they use, cooking strategies, etc…) can add many dimensions to your culinary repertoire. My own cooking style is a mix of USA, Mexican, Southeast Asian, and Chinese influence prepared with back country American sensibility. In point, my rice dishes are straight forward, heavily spiced, very filling, and nutritious.

What follows are ways of making simple rice based meals on the road for under $1 per person.

Rice, vegetables, and meat: a traveler's meal

How to make boiled rice with vegetables

  1. Figure around a half cup of dry rice per adult. Pour into a bowl.
  2. Add two times the amount of water per the amount of rice (2 cups water for 1 cup of rice). Pour the water into a pot.
  3. Put the pot on a stove and boil the water.
  4. Once the water boils, add in the dry rice. Cover the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for around 20 minutes.
  5. When the rice is almost cooked, throw some vegetables into the pot. The idea here is more to “steam” the veggies than boil them. If you have multiple pots and burners at your disposal, you may want to cook the veggies separately, but it’s OK to cook them with the rice if you’re doing some single pot cooking.
  6. The rice should be cooked once it has absorbed all the water.
  7. Flavor to taste, combine with meat (or another protein source), and serve. I usually add hot sauce, soy sauce, pepper, salt, or other spices to the mix depending on local availability.

How to make friend rice


  • Previously cooked  rice (2 to 3 days old is best)
  • Onions (if wanted)
  • 2 eggs (if wanted)
  • Oil
  • Soy sauce, salt, or other seasonings


  • Fire up a frying pan with oil.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  • Add onions to pan and saute, then add eggs, scramble them, then fry until cooked but not dried out.
  • Remove eggs from the pan, then add more oil and the previously cooked rice.
  • Stir fry in vegetables with the rice.
  • Cook for around five minutes.
  • Return the eggs to the pan, add in sauces and/ or spices, and stir.
  • If adding in meat (beef, chicken, pork, mutton etc…), remove the rice, veggies, and eggs, from the pan, add more oil, then cook the meat.
  • Combine all together and serve.

Multi-meal rice cooking strategy

It is a good strategy to plan for preparing multiple meals from one set of food supplies. Like with traveler pasta, rice dishes can be spread out to make different meals for a few days in a row. When making rice on day 1, make way more than what you could ever eat. On day 2 you can add some of the extra rice to a soup. On day 3 you can make fried rice as is directed above.

Cooking meat to go with rice

Unlike some noodle dishes, rice/ meat/ veggies mixes is a little difficult to do with only one pot. If I only have one pot and one stove/ burner, I will cook the rice and veggies first, then the meat afterwards. I currently travel with two pots, so even if I only have one burner I can make the rice/ veggies in one, then cover and set it aside while I cook the meat in the other. Though I must admit that this meal is better suited for the hostel kitchen, where you generally have simultaneous access to multiple burners, than the camp, where you only have a simple stove.

Travelers and rice conclusion

I have seen travelers make magnificent rice dishes that contained multiple vegetables, meat, and an array of spices. I have also seen them just boil up a cup of rice and then add ketchup as the only amenity. The range of dishes that can be made from this grain is almost endless, its distribution and use is almost worldwide: rice is truly the traveler’s base food.

For more recipes and to find out what to add to your rice, visit the Vagabond Cookbook.


Filed under: Budget Travel, Cheap Food, Food

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

11 comments… add one

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  • Caitlin January 12, 2012, 8:10 pm

    I’d like some friend rice, please.

    Also, I think it’s best to use brown rice in as many meals as possible instead of white rice as it is much more nutritious. Once I finally learned how to cook brown rice properly I don’t think I cooked white rice again.

    Two of my favourites:

    1) Vaguely Indian rice.
    -cook rice separately. (Sorry)
    -fry up onion and garlic.
    -add cut up chicken, sauteed till lightly browned.
    -add veggies. (I like peas and red peppers for this recipe)
    -add as many Indian-type spices you have on hand.
    -When everything is done, add a bit of plain yogurt. Keep on the stove just enough to heat, but not long or hot enough to curdle the yoghurt.
    -mix all together. Tada!

    2) Vaguely Mexican rice.
    – cook rice
    – in a separate pot, fry onions and garlic. (optional: red peppers or mushrooms)
    -add chopped tomatoes, cook for a few minutes.
    -add chili powder and salt.
    -add beans (like canned or already cooked)
    -cook until chili-ish
    -pour over rice. If possible, add sliced avocado and cheese.
    -Mash together until everything looks totally nasty.

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    • Wade Shepard January 13, 2012, 5:14 pm

      Excellent recipes! We are going to totally take the Indian-ish one. If you make either of these soon, please send over photos!

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      • Caitlin January 14, 2012, 10:23 am

        Awesome! This is going to sound totally idiotic but I finally found out I could buy fresh peas here… only they come in a pod that I have to open up!
        It’s sad that I grew up imagining that peas come out of a frozen bag.

        Link Reply
        • Gar January 14, 2012, 11:08 am

          If you ever get the chance, pick a pea pod fresh from the vine and eat the peas raw. The sweetness and the good taste is just unbelievable.

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          • Wade Shepard January 14, 2012, 12:12 pm

            Right on. The edible pod ones are the best!

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        • Wade Shepard January 14, 2012, 12:11 pm

          Right on, pea season is so good. I grew up in an area where peas were grown all over the place, so I could just run out into the fields when I was a kid and pillage bag fulls hehe.

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  • Gar January 12, 2012, 10:13 pm

    Rice – love it. I’m definitely a fan of brown rice too. When I have access to a refrigerator, I always cook up as much as the biggest pot I have will hold, eat what I want then refrigerate the rest. Simplifies cooking for days.

    Thanks for a great article Wade.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard January 13, 2012, 5:16 pm

      Right on, the make as most rice at one time as possible” tip saves tons of time as you can just scoop, reheat, and eat for days on end haha.

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  • Kalilileth March 9, 2012, 1:13 am

    You need to be extremely careful with rice as it contains a toxin called Bacillus cereus which is not destroyed by cooking. It can give you an extremely bad dose of food poisoning. If you are not in a position to keep cooked rice in a fridge – which as a traveller is impossible,I would suggest that if you cook a double quantity of rice, you would eat the second portion for your breakfast. Cool it quickly by spreading out to cool and dry and it will make perfect fried rice for breakfast.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard March 14, 2012, 2:24 pm

      Thanks for this tip, but day old (or longer), unrefrigerated rice is eaten all over the world. I’ve never had any problem. Good advice on the day old fried rice dish.

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  • Kalilileth March 14, 2012, 2:56 pm

    I think it is probably like many things. When you are used to eating a particular sort of food, it probably has less effect than if you are used to the sedentary sanitary conditions most people live in. And if you are just travelling for a couple of weeks a year, it would be more likely to have a bad effect on you. I know that it has been an issue with food poisoning from take-aways in various cities here and in the UK. Food poisoning at any time is not pleasant, and it is even more so if you are on the road alone travelling. You don’t want to spend a couple of days of your holiday sick. At the end of the day people will make their own decisions. I just think it is good that they have the information to make an informed decision.

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