Friday, June 11, 2010

Pad Thai

My hubby has been begging me to stop baking sweets and start cooking more. I've been craving Asian foods (I think walking through Chinatown daily on my way to work & home has influenced what I want for dinner every night). At about 2AM one Saturday morning while on call, I found a website with wonderful instructions to make pad thai. I knew I had to try it.

I stopped by the local Chinese Market on my way home the next morning. It's always an adventure - you never know what you're going to see. Fresh veggies & fruit are cheap (and they have lots of unique fruits, too). AND, you can get live fish to cook. While I haven't gone that far yet, I do go there for lobsters - $4.99/lb for fresh live lobsters cannot be beat! If you ever venture into a Chinese market - be prepared to be ran over. The little old ladies are NOT to be messed with!

Anyways, 30 minutes later, I walked out with 2 bags of groceries for less than $15. This was enough to make 2 large meals for the 2 of us, plus having extra to make about 3 more batches of sauce for the pad thai. Incredibly cheap!

This was delicious, and actually pretty easy to make. My hubby is not a big fan of Pad Thai, but said this was by far the best he's ever had & can't wait for me to make it again. I didn't quite soak the noodles long enough, but that's the only improvement I think I need to work on. We'll definitely be having this again this week! (Have to use up the rest of the tofu!)

I'll summarize the instructions, and give rough estimates for what I used. Visit the original author's blog for very detailed directions. (I highly recommend reading it a few times before attempting the dish).

PAD THAI (Adapted from Chez Pim)

Ingredients you'll need:

Fish sauce
Tamarind Pulp/Concentrate
Palm Sugar (or brown sugar)
Spices (Paprika, Thai chili powder, Thai curry paste, Sriracha, etc)
Rice Noodles (package may say Rice Sticks)
Firm tofu
Shrimp (or Chicken - we used shrimp)
Garlic (minced)
Bean Sprouts
Garlic Chives

First, make the sauce (which can be stored in the fridge for future use as you won't use it all if you're only feeding one or 2)

1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup Tamarind pulp or concentrate

Mix the first 3 ingredients in a pan on the stove & gradually heat to a simmer. While it is heating, season to desired flavor/spiciness (and add more sugar if you want it sweeter). I used about 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon Thai red curry powder, and a few table spoons Sriracha sauce.

NOTE: I've used fish sauce in the past, but it was stuff I bought from a regular grocer. This time, I bought "Golden Boy Fish Sauce" - supposedly, it's one of the preferred brands to use. However, this stuff smells AWFUL! I gagged from the smell. My hubby was out buying some groceries, and when he came into the house as I had just started the sauce, he thought our dog must have had an accident in the kitchen!

Open the windows & use the fan on the stove. Trust me, it will taste much better than it initially smells! I've never eaten something so good that at one point smelled sooooo bad.

The tamarind concentrate may be difficult to find if you don't have access to an Asian market. I'm not sure what you could substitute for it, sorry! However, the original author notes you can use brown sugar in place of the palm sugar - just use less. Palm sugar is sold in solid form - either in pieces or in a jar with wax on top - it's less sweet than brown sugar, but has a bit more of a molasses flavor (just a hint).

Prepare the other ingredients -

1) Start soaking your rice noodles in warm water. I soaked for about 10-15 minutes - I think they probably needed another 5-10 minutes. They should be al dente when you add them to the wok. I used about 1/2 of a 14oz package for the 2 of us, and it was a generous sized portion

2) Cut up the tofu into small bits

3) Prepare your shrimp (devein if needed, etc)

4) Cut up the garlic chives

5) Chop up some peanuts

Now, it's time to prepare the final dish. Only make 1-2 servings at a time - the wok gets full & it's hard to mix things up & keep the noodles from sticking together, even if only making 2 servings. There may be a lot of steps, but it's actually quite easy & fast to prepare

1) Heat 4ish tablespoons oil in a large wok over high heat until very hot.

2) If you are making chicken Pad Thai, add the chicken first, cook, stirring vigorously, until it's half way done, about 1-2 minutes, then add the tofu and a teaspoon or two of garlic if you're using it.

If you are making tofu or shrimp and tofu Pad Thai, then only add the tofu (and garlic) for now. Cook for another few minutes until the tofu is crisp and light brown at the edges.

3) Add the noodles and then a ladle (about 1/4 - 1/2 cup) of warm sauce. Stir keeping everything moving in the wok, and cook the noodles until soft (try to keep them from sticking together). If the sauce evaporates too quickly and your noodles aren't quite ready, sprinkle a bit of water and keep stirring. Add a bit of oil if the noodles still stubbornly stick together.

4) When the noodles are ready, push it up to one side of the wok and crack an egg into the middle. Let it set for 15-25 seconds (until mostly cooked) and toss everything all together.

5) Add the shrimp, ground peanuts & beansprouts (I used 1/2 of a 12oz package of sprouts for the 2 of us). Keep things moving. Add more sauce if it looks a little pale/dry.

6) When the shrimp are done, shouldn't take more than a minute or two, add a handful of Garlic Chives. Turn the heat off, and quickly give the wok a good stirring to mix everything together.

7) Plate & serve immediately. I garnished with a little bit more of the crushed peanuts.


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