Ask me about the best thing I’ve eaten abroad, and I’ll tell you: it’s Pad Thai from a street cart at a night market in Bangkok. And I’m not even trying to be trendy with the whole food truck thing. This was ten-plus years ago.
The noodles were fresh. The flavors were simple yet amazing: briny shrimp and tart tamarind, lightly sweetened and caramelized together to make a brown sauce so delectable you wanted to lick every last egg bit from your plate. (But you restrained, because you were eating at a table full of locals and you didn’t want to give scrubby American backpackers a bad name.) The whole thing was served piping hot, cooled down with a squeeze of lime wedge so that it wouldn’t scorch your tongue.
Good Pad Thai isn’t easy to re-create at home. It’s the fresh-noodle factor. And the heat factor. (Well, maybe your kitchen has a big-ass open-flame burner large enough to accommodate an enormous wok, but I have a crappy electric range.)
But it’s one of my favorite foods, so I try.
I’ve been tweaking this recipe, derived from a booklet I received as a souvenir for taking a tourist cooking class in Chiang Mai, on and off for a few years now, and I think I’m finally getting there.
To make good Pad Thai, you have to use a very hot pan: this prevents the noodles from getting overcooked and sticky. And when using a very hot pan, things happen quickly. When making a dish like this, I always measure and lay out each and every ingredient before I put anything in the pan. Even little things like spices and water.
More dishes, less stress.
So you get your pan piping hot and then add all of the above things in succession, while stirring constantly. My favorite part is the egg; I like to make a little cradle in the middle of the pan and scramble it there, in it’s own little space, before mixing it in with the noodles.
So, anyway. Try it and let me know how it goes for you?
Until then, I’ll keep tweaking….
Almost Perfect Pad Thai [Adapted from the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School cookbook]
1/2 lb dry flat rice noodles
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp jarred crushed garlic (or 2-3 fresh cloves, minced)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cut in to 1/2″ cubes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 C warm tap water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 scallions, sliced
1/4 C dry roasted peanuts, chopped
2 limes, cut in to wedges
1 C mung bean sprouts
1/4 C fish sauce
1/4 C brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)
- Soak noodles in warm water for 20-25 min, or prepare according to package directions for stir-fry.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large high-sided pan or wok.
- Whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
- When pan is just smoking hot, add tofu and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
- Add shrimp and stir until just barely opaque, about 45 seconds.
- Add noodles and water and cook, stirring frequently, until water has absorbed, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium.
- Add sauce and cook until absorbed, about 1 minute.
- Push noodles and shrimp to the edges of the pan, creating a “cradle” in the center. Add egg and scramble. When egg is nearly cooked through, add half of scallions and combine with noodles. Toss thoroughly to distribute.
- Transfer to a serving platter and top with bean sprouts and peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve immediately.
I had some Chardonnay with dinner:
This 14 Hands 2010 Chardonnay was a nice wine. Definitely on the fruitier side, but well-balanced by a hefty dose of vanilla and a very smooth apple-pie-like flavor.
Bottom line: A good value white, in my book! (Purchased at Harris Teeter, $12)
And that brings me to last week’s running recap:
I’m reasonably satisfied with my long-slow-distance (LSD) run and pretty happy that I got a track workout in, but I wish the overall mileage number were higher. I should be in the 50s. Perhaps I could have pushed today’s post-work run a bit to get there, but it just didn’t seem like it was worth it. My legs were tired from a long day at work, and really, I need to be logging that mileage in earlier in the week, not cramming it on on Sunday night on the heels of a long run.
I know I need to start doing doubles again, a couple of times a week, if I want to get my weekly number back up in to the fifties and sixties and beyond.
Let’s call that a goal for this coming week, eh?