Saturday, May 9, 2009
When I say "Thai Food", what do you think of? I'll bet 8.5 out of 10 of you thought of Pad Thai (the other 1.5 percent being tied between green curry and crab delite). I admit, I'm one of those Pad Thai junkies. I love lots of other things, but my heart always longs for those famous noodles when it is Thai time.
We used to be wholly devoted to Chantanee in Bellevue for our Thai. But then we discovered Hanuman on Central in Kirkland. Normally we just get the takeout, but the dining room is really cute...a fun place for a date.
My cooking bag of tricks doesn't include a large amount of Asian dishes, but I've always wanted to get better. A few years back my friend Julia (think "Julie & Julia", only we're the unfamous pair of friends) sent me this great Asian cookbook called Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia I think she bought it just for the pictures, which are great.
But the food has been fun to cook as well. It was to this cookbook that I turned for my first Pad Thai recipe. The list of ingredients was slightly intimidating ringing in at 23 different items! Most of the things I'm familiar with, although I started to get a tiny bit nervous about the tamarind pulp, dried shrimp, and the salted radish.
So off I trekked to Uwajimaya, boy and baby in tow. My boy is of the standing on the end of the cart age, swinging it mightily and often forgetting that I've said not to. The baby is now old enough to throw fits at the grocery store. So maybe taking these two to a store that, although I love it, I am slightly unfamiliar with was a bad idea.
And I'll admit that I felt a little shy about asking for help to find these items. I didn't even know which aisle to look on! I know where the coconut vinegar for adobo is...and the Mochi ice cream balls...and of course the live fish and clams. But would tamarind pulp be on the soy sauce aisle? I don't know. And then I saw "Pad Thai Sauce".
I wanted to be authentic, making everything myself...but things were getting a bit desperate in my cart, so I picked up the jar of sauce. Hey, it's made in Thailand, it must be alright. And it contained dried shrimp in the sauce!
So, on Friday the older two kiddos went with their Grandma to have dinner at their house. The perfect night to make a new Asian dish.
First, get everything ready.
Assemble the condiments.
Chili Vinegar Sauce: combine 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 TB sugar, and 1/2 mild chile (such as banana chile), sliced into rings.
Cayenne Pepper and/or Sriracha Sauce
1/2 to 1 cucumber, deseeded and sliced thinly
1 small head of leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and separated (optional)
1 lime, cut into small wedges
Now for the rest of the ingredients:
2 oz boneless pork, thinly sliced, and cut into narrow strips about 1 1/2 inches long (chicken or beef work too)
1 tsp sugar
1 heaping tsp tamarind pulp, dissolved in 2 or 3 TB warm water and pressed through a sieve...OR...1 TB rice vinegar plus 1 TB water
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB Thai fish sauce (available at most grocery stores)
3 large eggs
Pinch of salt
3 TB peanut or veg oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cube (2-3 oz) pressed tofu, cut into narrow 1 1/2 inch strips
1/2 pound narrow dried rice noodles, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
1/2 pound bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
3 scallions, trimmed, smashed flat and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
1 TB dried shrimp
1 TB salted radish (optional)
1 c dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2-4 TB cilantro leaves
Place the meat in a small bowl with the sugar and toss to mix.
In a medium bowl, mix the tamarind water (or rice vinegar and water), soy sauce, and fish sauce. OR...skip all these and just use the Pad Thai sauce from the jar!
In a small bowl, lightly beat the 3 eggs with the salt.
Place a large wok (or cast iron skillet) over high heat. Add half of the oil (1 1/2 TB). When it is hot, add the garlic and fry briefly (about 15 seconds).
Toss in the meat and fry for about 1 minute.
Add the tofu and press it against the hot sides of the wok to scorch it a bit (10-20 seconds...but I skipped this ingredient).
Pour in the egg and let it cook until it starts to set around the meat and tofu (less than a minute). Use your spatula to cut it into large pieces, then transfer everything to a plate and set aside.
Place the wok back over the heat and add the remaining oil (1 1/2 TB). Toss in the drained noodles and stir-fry vigorously, pressing them against the hot wok to sear them, then turn them and press again. They are a bit unwieldy, but just keep folding them over for about a minute.
If using a smaller pan, remove the noodles during the next part. But if you have a large wok, just move them up the sides.
Toss in about half of the bean sprouts and all of the scallions. Stir-fry vigorously for about 20 seconds to wilt them.
Add your sauce...either the soy sauce mixture plus the dried shrimp and radish OR the jar of sauce (about six ounces plus a little water to thin it out). Cook another 30 seconds, folding everything together and then add the meat/egg mixture back in. Toss gently together.
Turn out onto a large platter or individual plates. Place the remaining bean sprouts on top. Sprinkle on some peanuts (we used sunflower seeds because I forgot the peanuts) and the cilantro.
Each person can add the lime, cayenne, sriracha, and chile-vinegar sauce to their taste. I suggest a good bit of sriracha! We like lots of stars...but if you leave a bit without the heat, your baby may love it as much as mine did!
Finally I feel like I can make a decent rendition of this Thai favorite at home. If you do try it, I'm sure you can skip the Asian store and get the Pad Thai sauce at a grocery store and probably the rice noodles, too. Mmmm, good comfort food!