Pad Thai

I have travel envy. My sister Grace is on an island in Thailand. She met a friend in Bangkok, arriving just in time for things to heat up politically, and they migrated south to Kho Chang where it’s a little more chill, in temperament if not temperature. She says it is really hot and the food is hotter. Apparently, when she’s not island hopping to find good snorkeling spots or lounging on the beach overlooking the Sea of Siam, she’s eating food on sticks from hawker stalls, fish cakes, fiery green curry, and sweet strong Thai coffee.

I guess if I can’t go to Thailand, then Thailand must come to me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you

Pad Thai

Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredient list; some items may be a little exotic, but they keep well and I use fish sauce and mirin in enough recipes not to begrudge the space it takes in my pantry.

Ingredients:

1/2 package of dry rice noodles, soaked and drained

The sauce:

4 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons mirin

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 minced red chili

½ grated piloncillo or 2 teaspoons palm or brown sugar

2 tablespoons tamarind sauce

Everything else:

1/3 cup finely ground roast cashews or peanuts

oil

large handfuls of mung bean sprouts

3 scallions, sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium hot red chili

1/3 block firm tofu (sliced into strips and pressed between paper towels to remove water)

6 ounces peeled and tailed shrimp

1 egg

handful cilantro leaves, chilis, and coarsely chopped cashews or peanuts

The sauce, I mixed up earlier in the day. I have used a couple of different types of tamarind paste- one the blocks of tamarind that still have all of the seeds and fiber that you have to soak and strain to a ketchup consistency, and TamiCon, a little pot of what looks like tar but is actually  Tamarind Concentrate. Clever name, no? I got it at an Indian grocery store and it will stay good practically forever in my pantry. The pulpy stuff had the nicest sharp tangy molassesy flavor, but made me feel like I was squelching my hands around in the bottom of a swamp. TamiCon is convenient and easy to keep on hand, but with a flatter  more cooked flavor and less texture. So, I’m still looking for my happy tamarind medium.

My brother Israel gave me a great wok for Christmas. The only other wok I’ve owned was basically like cooking in aluminum foil in the shape of a wok which resulted in many bitter tears being shed on my part over scorched food at the bottom and raw food up the sides.  I’m enjoying the process of learning how to really use this great piece of equipment. This recipe is perfect for wok cooking because the vessel’s shape helps keep everything moving and cooking evenly. I’m also discovering what happens when you don’t get the wrist flip right. Fortunately, I keep a lot of paper towels handy.

 

Before you heat the oil in your wok or pan, make sure you have everything rinsed, diced, chopped, ready to go. The cooking moves quickly once you get started so best not to have to stop midway through to rummage through the fridge for something.  Sauté the  scallions, chili, and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds until their fragrance is released. Then add a handful of mung bean sprouts and about 4 ounces of firm tofu . A big spoonful of the sauce goes in now to infuse the tofu, then add the shrimp and more of the sauce. Stir or flip (if you dare) to keep everything moving so that it is cooking evenly. Add the noodles. After a couple of seconds, test a noodle for lightly chewy doneness and add a little water if they feel too firm. Pour in any remaining sauce. Rice noodles can get really gummy if they are overcooked, so stay vigilant. Make a little empty space in the bottom of the pan and  crack the egg into the empty spot, quickly scrambling it and then stirring it into the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle the finely ground cashews or peanuts over and toss to coat. Take the pan off the heat and tumble on the cilantro, remaining sprouts, and dust with chopped nuts.

 

 

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