Lately I really enjoy Thai food. Good Thai food that is. We don’t have a lot of great Thai restaurants around here. I find, it’s either amazing or God-awful. There is no happy medium.
In the past few months, several of our favorite Thai joints have closed their doors. I hear that we have a promising new one coming into the spot of our old favorite and I’m eager to give them a shot. I’ll let you know how it is. I may be their first patron. And I YELP just so you know.
So, we have been going through withdrawls around here.
My husband kept asking me “When are you going to figure out how to make pad thai?”
So, first I took a class. The pad thai we made was NOT good. No luck there.
Then, I asked my uncle to ask his wife. She is Thai. They live in Thailand. If anyone should know, I figured it would be her. No such luck there either. Apparently something was lost in translation.
Next came the e-mail from my husband. No text, just the link. I took the hint and headed off to the Asian market.
Now please read this recipe. It gives great instruction and is an amazing tutorial. Pim tells you all about the ingredients and how to prepare them. I read it over and over until it was embedded in my brain.
I got all my ingredients together. I soaked, mashed and strained my tamarind. Measured my fish sauce and sugar and cooked up my sauce. I’ve got to tell ya, that stuff ain’t no air freshener! Gag.
I soaked noodles, measured bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, scrambled an egg, chopped scallions and put it all in a little assembly line.
I followed the instructions step by step and quickly whipped up a dish of pad thai.
And guess what?
It was not good.
But underneath the salty, fishy, sour taste was a hint of possibility. A glimmer of hope. Yes, there was something familiar about the taste that vaguely resembled some of the really good pad thai we have had.
I had to keep trying. I was close…Real close
I looked up her recipe and I found it interesting that she too referenced Chez Pim. I knew between the two of them, I could put something great together.
Another batch of sauce. This time…God awful.
Into the trash it went.
So, I made another batch. Trash.
And another. Trash again.
AND ANOTHER. Please don’t make me tell you it went into the trash again. But it did.
And just when I was about to give it up, I gave it one more shot.
I even got the seal of approval from the husband.
So now, all my measuring and tasting and stir-frying and tossing will benefit you all. Believe me. You’re going to love it.
I will say that it seems like a time consuming recipe and you can’t be bothered, but it is worth the initial effort as you get a lot of extra that keeps well in the fridge, so you can whip up a batch quickly whenever you want.
3/4 Tbls + 3/4 Tbls Tamarind
3 Tbls Fish Sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
6 Tbls Brown Sugar
1 Tbls Sri Racha
2-3 Tbls canola oil
Rice stick noodles-Banh Pho (approx. 2 cups soaked)
3 Scallions, greens only, sliced into 1 inch pieces
3-4 oz. thinly slice boneless skinless chicken breast cut into narrow strips
7-8 (or as much as you want) peeled, uncooked shrimp (I use small 41/50 count)
1/4 c. roughly chopped roasted (unsalted) peanuts (optional)
1/2 c. fresh bean sprouts (optional)
fresh lime slices for garnish (optional)
Red pepper powder (optional, if you want it hotter)
1. Prepare the tamarind paste. This is the most time consuming part. But once it’s done, you’ve got a stash that will keep in the fridge.
Soak the tamarind in 4 cups very warm water. I use my big whisk to squish it and break it down. After about 15 minutes, pour it into a fine sieve and press it all through leaving the pulp and seeds. Discard that stuff.
You are left with a ketchup like substance. I store mine in a glass jelly jar.
2. Prepare the sauce. Add all the sauce ingredients in a jar and stir or shake and set aside. If you have any left, just cover and put in the fridge. It keeps well.
3. Soak your rice sticks in very warm, not boiling water for about 5-7 minutes. Do not overcook them or you will get a giant gloppy mess when stir frying. Trust me, you will be tempted to soak them longer. DON”T!
4. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking and set aside in a colander to drain good.
4. Get all your ingredients in an assembly line to be ready to cook. This recipe moves fast. You’ve got to be quick.
5. Prepare your wok. If it hasn’t been seasoned yet, make sure you do that. You will have read about that in Chez Pim’s article.
6. A really hot wok is absolutely key to a successful dish. Let it get so hot it is smoking before you add the oil. Once you add the oil swirl it around a couple of times to get it nice and hot again.
7. If using chicken, add this and stir fry about 1-2 minutes. You can add a splash of sauce at this point if you wish.
8. Toss in the noodles a small batch at a time. I usually put about 2 cups cooked noodles for a batch. Small batches are essential. Too many noodles will be dry and gloppy. If you do put too much you can adjust the sauce or toss in a little more oil or even a splash of water. Remember that drops the temp though. So try for fewer noodles.
9. Immediately throw in about 1 ladle full of sauce and toss it around. You don’t want too much. You do have to kind of judge for yourself depending on how much noodle you put in. Sometimes I do have to add more.
10. Make sure to keep it all moving for a minute. Then push all the noodle up to the side and add the scrambled egg. Let it sit for 15 seconds then start moving it around again. Add a little more sauce if it looks dry or pale.
10. Move it all up the side again and add the shrimp and bean sprouts. I let the shrimp sit for a minute or 2 without moving then toss them to get the other side. Cook until done. They are small. They won’t take long.
11. Throw the scallions on top of the shrimp and cover with noodles. Let sit about 15 seconds then toss it all together.
12. Serve sprinkled with some crushed peanuts and a squirt of fresh lime juice, if you wish. You can also add a little more heat by sprinkling some red pepper powder. You can get that at the Asian food store as well. This is different than cayenne. Use with caution though. This stuff is HOT!
It may take a little practice, so don’t give up. It is worth it. It sounds like a big process, but it cooks so fast. I will warn you though, you will wonder how something so awful smelling can taste so good. Have a candle and the vent going on your stove. It helps.
If any of you try this, I would love and appreciate your feedback.