Chili Con Carne, Expat Style

I’ve always been a big fan of making basic chili con carne with beans, starting with canned chili beans, then add meat and other stuff to make it actually good!

Being an expat makes that skill a pretty good thing. While there are some decent farang (Thai racial slur for white person) restaurants here that serve up chili, it’s expensive and usually not up to my standards.

Now, doing this is near to impossible out in the rural countryside. There just aren’t these things in any store—not even the ground beef. You can get beef, but you would have to hand chop it, like making steak tartare. Of course, you could make Texas chili and have cubed beef—just braise it long time. In Bangkok or a few other metro areas, a cinch. Otherwise, you can order everything but the ground beef online (I use Lazada).

Rawai Beach, southern Phuket, makes everything available, generally. While I would prefer to start with either Dennison’s or Stagg, all they have is Bush’s. I loathe their baked beans—which should be called candied beans—but we’ll see.


  • 2 cans chili beans
  • 500 grams (1.1 lb) lean ground beef (no high % fat needed, it ruins the texture; low fat = higher protein)
  • 1 small cup chopped onion
  • 1 small chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 standard can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can beef stock or consommé (if salted, caution, see below)
  • 1 package any brand of taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt IF beef stock is UNSALTED, otherwise to taste when done
  • Use chili powder and/or cayenne pepper to taste
  • Use up to 1 tsp of sugar to taste as well

The last two steps easily let you refine it to your palate or your basic idea of what a good chili bean and beef bowl is like. One thing the Thais tend to do is make something overly hot-spicy, but then a little sugar tones it down. Standar Pad Thai is a perfect example. It takes practice to get it perfect.

The process is simple. Plop the onion, bell pepper, and ground beef in your pot, medium heat, and brown the meat first. If using fatty ground beef, best to drain fat. If lean, your choice, no big ether way. Add the taco seasoning packed and mix in well. Then, add everything else except the “to taste” stuff. Bring to a boil, check consistency. If soup, reduce until thick, but not paste. Then cover on low, simmer for 15 minutes.

Your choice: garnish with grated cheddar cheese and/or fresh chopped onion. For a low or no added fat protein boost, garnish with no-or-low-fat cottage cheese.

Yea, sometimes I don’t go to great lengths to perfectly set up a food photo, make sure there’s no shadow, crop it down to remove distraction and zero in on The Thing. It’s a bowl of chili from cans, mostly, enjoyed with a glass of lowfat milk and two slices of plain white bread on a paper napkin. Getting over myself.

…I did make it really effin’ hot, though. Added a heaping tsp of chili powder and a level tsp of cayenne. Took two glasses of milk—hands down the best way to quell the fire in that situation.

I’m asked a lot why I drink low-fat or sometimes, even skim milk. Admittedly, it’s not as luxuriously silky as whole. First, us brothers grew up principally drinking 2%. Don’t know why that was mom’s call, but it was, and it tastes just fine and delicious to me. I don’t feel as though I’m missing out (I do with skim, though—but I still like it) and so whole milk is more like an indulgence, or treat.

But there are dietary reasons. First, the fat portion, or cream, has no protein and little to no nutrients. Fat alone is nutrient poor, empty calories. Like refined sugar. It also pushes out protein in volume, but with over twice the energy density. Let’s compare ONE CUP of whole milk, alongside a cup of skim.

  • Whole Milk: 146 calories, with 7.86 grams of protein. Cholesterol 8%; potassium 7%; vitamin A 8%; and calcium 21%
  • Skim Milk: 83 calories, with 8.3 grams of protein. Cholesterol 2%; potassium 11%; vitamin A 10%; and calcium 23%

So, same volume, exactly, yet the whole milk has 63 more calories, 76% more!!! But that’s not all. Look at the principle nutrients. Every single one is higher in the skim milk, because fat is essentially refined sugar. Only it’s worse. Not much nutrient value, twice the energy by weight as sugar.

Dr. Ted Naiman has a great little thing called the P:E ratio, or, protein to energy. He asserts that getting protein up to where grams multiplied by 10 are equal to or greater than total calories guarantees fat loss and leanness. It’s a quick and easy way to get protein to 40% + of caloric intake. For example, 8.3 X 10 = 83. Exactly 40% of calories. For whole, 7.86 X 10 = 78.6, far from 146, not even close. 21.5% of calories, so about half by ratio than skim.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any fat in whole food. I’m just illustrating. If you are intemperate with milk consumption, as I am, not unusual to drink a half gallon in a day, then at least low fat and better yet, skim, is called for or you’ll likely pay.

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