Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pad Thai

John and I consider Mountain View to be the largest host of Thai restaurants outside of Bangkok.  Downtown Mountain View has the potential to be quite fun and cute, but it's vibe is dampered by the fact that every other restaurant is a Thai place.  I'm sorry but if I didn't want to go to Thai-phoon then I probably don't want to go to  either.  And sadly for all those Thai restaurants, I'll be visiting them even less frequently now that I've learned how to make the item I consider the only reason to go to Thai restaurants to begin with (other than Thai iced tea)...pad thai.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to discover pad thai on the menu of Thai restaurants.  I kept screwing around with basil chicken this and peanut chicken that.  What a freaking fool.  After discovering my love for this delicious peanut noodle dish, I only order other things from Thai restaurants when I know their pad thai version is disgusting.  Sadly, this happens more than you might expect.

In order to make pad thai worth eating, you need some legit Asian ingredients for the sauce.  Red pepper flakes and honey are pretty white bread, but fish sauce, tamarind paste, and rice vinegar might not be in your kitchen.  I went to the Asian market for most of my ingredients (man, it was cheap), but I guess tamarind paste is more of an Indian thing, so the Chinese grocer didn't carry it.  The fish sauce I got at Whole Foods too, because they only sold Oyster sauce at the market.

Put 2-4 tablespoons tamarind paste, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/3 cup honey, and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar in a small saucepan.  Heat the sauce over medium-low heat until until it simmers.  Then remove it from heat and add in 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or however much spice you like).

Here are the vegetables you need.  These were so ridiculously cheap (about $1 each) from the Asian market. And no, you don't need five heads of garlic.  You just need one clove.  Mung bean sprouts.  Cilantro.  A small head of napa cabbage.  2-4 scallions.

Cut up 1/4 cup of scallions and place them in a matching bowl.

Napa cabbage has such beautiful frilly leaves.

I went a little crazy taking macro pics of the cabbage frills.

Shred the leaves (or cut into strips) until you have about 4 cups.

If you want your pad thai to taste authentic, you need to use rice stick noodles (they sell these at Whole Foods or at Asian markets).  Make sure you buy the fettuccine width, if you can find it.  They are almost clear to start and then they turn white when cooked.  The fun thing is that you don't put them in boiling water.  Instead you boil some water on the stove (I used a tea kettle) and then you pour it over the dried noodles in a large bowl.  Mine took about 8 minutes to cook.  Drain the noodles and let them sit in the colander until you need 'em later.  Pour in about a tablespoon of peanut oil to keep the noodles from sticking.

In a large skillet (I used a wok) heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Then toss in your chopped scallions and 1 clove of chopped garlic.  Stir it around to make sure the garlic doesn't burn.  Cook for about a minute.

Throw two eggs into the super hot pan and once they start to cook stir it around to scramble them.  I love eggs in my pad thai, so I might even suggest throwing in an extra one if you're like me.

That looks about right!

Now toss in your 4 cups of shredded cabbage and 1 cup mung bean sprouts.  It's amazing how much this cooks down, so don't get chintzy on me here.  Cook until the cabbage wilts.

If you are using shrimp or tofu, you can add them directly to the wok, but since I was using chicken and it takes longer to cook, I cooked it in a separate pan and then added it in once it was cooked.

Once you have your meat added to your vegetables (and the meat is cooked), add in your drained noodles and your sauce.  Stir it all together.

When you plate your pad thai, top it with lots of chopped roasted peanuts, some extra mung bean sprouts, and chopped cilantro.  Serve with a quarter of lime on the side.  I cannot tell you how much I loved that lime flavor in this.  I'm not one to top my food with citrus too often, but I promise you, that this is a must.  I added a tiny bit of salt to mine too since there isn't much in the recipe.

If you like pad thai, then I promise you will like this recipe.  It creates a completely authentic flavor without much work (other than searching the grocery store aisles).  I had it the next day too, and it tasted even better - don't you love leftover surprises like that?    

Pad Thai

4 oz. fettuccine-width rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut oil, divided
2 - 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your taste)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 pound peeled shrimp, pressed tofu or chicken
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered

Fill a large kettle with water and place dried noodles in a large bowl.  When the water boils, pour it over the noodles and let stand until noodles are fully cooked (mine took about 8 minutes).  Drain noodles and toss with 1 tablespoon peanut oil to avoid sticking.  

In a small saucepan add 2-4 tablespoons tamarind paste, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/3 cup honey, and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar and place over medium-low heat.  Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your taste).  Set sauce aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet/wok until almost smoking.  Add in 1/4 cup chopped scallions and 1 minced garlic clove and cook for about one minute.  Crack two eggs into your pan and once they start to cook, stir the eggs to scramble them in the pan.  Add 4 cups shredded napa cabbage and 1 cup mung bean sprouts.  Cook until cabbage wilts.  Add tofu or shrimp to the wok and heat until cooked (or add chicken cooked in a separate pan).  Stir in cooked noodles and prepared sauce.  Plate the noodles and top with mung bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, and chopped cilantro.  Serve with lime quarters and top with lime juice just before eating.  

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