Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pad Thai

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Thai cooking course . . . and it was good fun . . . but I couldn't help but realize, about half-way through the class, that it wasn't going to lead to recipes that I could make for dinner. First of all, it involved lots of chopping and lots of ingredients that I wasn't likely to have on hand -- not great for those evenings when I have a late pick-up from school.   These are minor problems, though, compared to the eating prohibitions imposed by my family.  My husband doesn't like curry, coconut milk (for health reasons) or spicy things; my daughter doesn't like any kind of seafood.

I love those Thai flavors, though.  Peanuts. Lemongrass. Coriander. Ginger.

Even though I want to abandon the typical winter fare, our weather isn't really cooperating.  In late March in England, it's still cold and wet and there's not any exciting seasonal produce, either.  Somehow, the spicy, aromatic, fresh tastes of Thai food seem just-right to me right now.

The one thing that everyone in my family loves is noodles, so I have been concentrating all of my efforts on perfecting my Pad Thai recipe.  It is quick to make, delicious to eat, and has just enough flavor to please me -- but not enough to put off the rest of my family.  Pad Thai, like any kind of stir fried dish, is really just a blueprint . . . and I have experimented a lot with this recipe.  I started off using rice noodles, which are thin and brittle and must be soaked for an hour before you stir-fry them.  They burn very easily, though, and absorb lots of oil; so after some trial and error, I decided that ribbon noodles were a much better deal.  (I buy a brand called Sharwood's Thai ribbon noodles, and they can be found in my usual grocery store.)  After five or six attempts at this dish, this is the version we've liked the best, but it can certainly be altered to suit your own taste.  If you like more bite, you could add some diced red or green chilli peppers.  Shrimp is good with it, too.

for stir-fry
shallot or small red onion
garlic -- one or two cloves
a knob of grated or chopped ginger
a couple of tablespoons of groundnut (or vegetable) oil
thinly sliced red pepper
a couple of handfuls of bean sprouts
4 to 6 ounces of cooked chicken
a 300 gram/12 ounce package of ribbon noodles
one egg, lightly beaten
chopped coriander (or cilantro, if you are in the U.S.)

for sauce
two tablespoons of fish sauce
juice from a lime
one tablespoon of sugar
one tablespoon of tamarind sauce
one tablespoon of smooth peanut butter
a handful of salted peanuts


Assemble the ingredients for the sauce in a dish and gently warm -- just enough so the peanut butter will amalgamate with the rest of the ingredients.

Chop/dice all of the vegetables and the chicken.  You want to have everything ready before you begin, because it will only take about 5 minutes to cook this dish.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan or wok until warm, but not sputtering.  You want to GENTLY cook the shallot (or red onion).  As it begins to soften, add the chopped garlic and ginger.  Cook for just a minute, and then add the red pepper and the noodles.  (Note:  you may need to pull apart the noodles with your thumb and fingers.)  Stir quickly, until the noodle mixture is evenly coated with the oil -- and then add a lightly beaten egg (or two) to a clean section of the pan.  As soon as it is just scrambled, lightly incorporate the egg into the rest of the dish and add the bean sprouts and the chicken.  Finally, add the sauce and toss until evenly coated.

To serve, toss with a handful of peanuts and chopped coriander (or cilantro).
This serves two, but you can easily double it.


Lisa-Marie said...

Bee, I live in Scotland, so I am with you on cooking for the weather! I want to do loely springtime dishes, but springtime is grey, cold and often rainy here.

This dish seems like a good compromise- still warming, but a bit lighter!

Char said...

I like your recipe and want to try it - every other recipe i've been given scares me with the amount of ingredients.

pad thai is one of my favorite dishes.

Anne said...

Ooh, now I have a craving for pad thai! I've never had the courage to try making it at home, but you've inspired me. I'm looking forward to giving your recipe a go this weekend!

By the way, those stout hot cross buns? Fabulous. I can't wait to make them again, and I'll be recommending the recipe to my hot-cross-bun-loving mother. Thank you!

Anne said...
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Anne said...
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Anne said...
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Anne said...

Ack! I don't know what happened there. Sorry about the comment spam!

rxBambi said...

I love pad thai, it's one of my faves. I've never made it tho, it seems a little complicated for a wanna-be. The noodles comments kind of scared me.

julochka said...

yummy! may have to do this this evening, tho' what i've got from the box is beef, so i think it'll be a beef version. and i'll probably put cashews on top instead of peanuts. because i can never really follow the recipe correctly. :-)

Bee said...

Lisa-Marie - Yes, we've had enough of pies, I think. Noodles are really warming, in their own way.

Char - I agree; I've seen some complicated dishes, too. Thai cooking in general is demanding in terms of ingredients, but our supermarket carries all of these things. The other nice thing is that you can throw in whatever you fancy. I like it with mange tout as well.

Anne - I was trying to recreate the recipe from Nit Noi. Did you ever eat there during your Rice days? I haven't seen peanut butter in any other recipes, but I distinctly remember that their pad thai has a really peanutty base. They use the ribbon noodles, too.

RxBambi - This is a very easy recipe. You can't go wrong with these noodles. Just avoid rice noodles, which ARE tricky.

Julochka - Like fried rice, this works with any meat -- or a combination of different meats.

Nimble said...

I associate Pad Thai with San Francisco because that's the first place I ever ate it. Mmm, delicious memories. I wish I could buy a half cup of fish sauce at a time. I've only ever seen it in big bottles. Thanks for the recipe.

Anne said...

Yes! After trying various Thai places around Rice, I settled on Nit Noi as my favorite. I really enjoyed their pad thai, and you're right, it has some peanuttiness to it! said...

I love Pad Thai! Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

My stomach is growling. I love Pad Thai.


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