Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Noodle Whore #1: Pad Thai


When the oldest noodle, 4,000 years old to be exact, was unearthed in China, it was big news to a lot of people. Particularly Italians and Chinese, who have long debated the true origin of noodle and pasta making. Some archaeologists question whether or not Marco Polo even reached China since Chinese archaeologists have no records on his travels. It was possible that the Chinese were trading with the Middle-East long before Marco Polo reached China. Who knows, maybe noodles originated from Egypt. Well whatever the case, I thank China, Italy and the Middle East, for I love noodles to death. I eat them at least five times a week, preferably with soup.

To kick off a new category within my blog, I’ve decided to write about the ubiquitous Thai dish: Pad Thai, which literally means “Thai-style fried noodles”. Chinese cuisine was hot in the 80s, and succeeded by Thai cuisine in the late 90s. Even now, it’s very popular. I’m not really into this dish, but figured I should practice cooking all kinds of Thai food if I want to become a good cook. Even my dad, who speaks Thai, doesn’t care much for the dish. It might be safe to say that this is a totally bastardized dish like Kung Pao chicken, Egg Foo Young and anything from P.F. Chang’s menu. I have to say, I do like their lettuce wraps though.

This dish is very simple to make, and like most Asian dishes, relies heavily on prepping food beforehand and only a few minutes or so to cook it.

Ingredients:
1 bag of fresh rice (pad) noodles (vacuum-sealed)
chicken or shrimp, or both
bean sprouts
green onions (1” cuts or chopped)
cilantro
2 eggs
tamarind chili paste/extract
ketchup (if you can’t find tamarind paste)
sugar
fish sauce (mmm)
crushed peanuts
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
limes (garnish)


Party time:

(1) I like to finish the eggs off first, and foremost. Scramble the eggs, and in a hot pan, medium heat, cook the eggs by swirling them in the pan till they are lightly cooked. Don’t overcook or burn it, you’ll be tossing them back in for a last re-heat. Set aside and chop the eggs however you like.

(2) Next, salt and pepper the chicken or shrimp and cook in the oiled pan over high heat with the minced garlic. You’ll want to par-cook them, because again, you’ll be throwing them back in for a last re-heat. Once the chicken or shrimp is cooked about 75%, take them out and set aside. If you really want to make a flavorful pad thai, marinade the chicken in a little bit of fish sauce, shaoxing rice wine, pepper, a little bit of sugar and corn starch (tenderizer). Let that sit for 30 minutes and get the Glade spray ready before you start cooking.

(3) Toss the noodles into the hot, oiled pan and start adding the fish sauce, tamarind paste or ketchup (for flavor and color) and sugar to balance out. Again, I don’t provide exact measurements because I’m an eyeballer cook. And also, everyone has his own preference. If you like it salty, add more fish sauce. If you like it sweet and sour, add more sugar and tamarind paste/ketchup. It’s that easy.

(4) Because most of us don’t own a Viking stove with a 15,000 BTU burner, it’ll take a long time to cook the noodles. It will also get very DRY. If it does, just add a little bit of water gradually to loosen up the noodles and get the fish sauce/tamarind paste/ketchup mixture to spread out more evenly.

(5) Taste the noodles to check for doneness. Once you’re happy with it, add the chicken or shrimp. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add bean sprouts (earlier if you don’t like them crunchy like I do), green onions, crushed peanuts and cilantro at the end.

(6) You’re ready to serve. Serve with lime and Sriracha hot sauce for heat.


Thanks for reading.

17 comments:

Kirk said...

Hi EDBM - I think that ketchup is the secret ingredient for Pad Thai in many restaurants! I use a combination of Ketchup and Tamarind paste. I finally made some Pad Thai on my 50K BTU burner - and man, talk about having to have your act together. When we make it on the stove, we use the same moistening technique as you do, except we use chicken stock. Nice recipe!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

wait you have a 50,000 BTU BURNER??? please advise.

yoony said...

yumm. i'm not fan of pad thai either and never order at restaurants. but the homemade version may be delicious. and i love sriracha!

BoLA said...

Mmm...I absolutely LOVE Pad Thai noodles. But then again, maybe I'm a noodle wh@re. Except I don't like pho.... ;)

Kirk said...

It's a Big Kahuna Burner:

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/stuff/

I use it on the patio, and it cooks really fast, and the legs telescope and handles up to 50 lbs, can double as a turkey fryer duting T-Day.

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2005/12/midweek_misceal.html

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2006/01/aiyai_its_pad_t.html

Worth he $49.95 price. This past year Elmomonster got one for Xmas.

Steve Wasser said...

Great recipe, I'm going to try it. My technique has been a little quicker.

1. Open box of Taste of Thai Pad Thai Noodles.
2. Boil them.
3. Throw the resulting mush into a teflon wok
4. sautee until burned.
5. Add all the ingredients hoping to mask the burn.
6. Burn those ingredients as well.
7. Scrape the mess onto a plate.
8. Add enough lime and Nuoc Cham to cover the taste.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Yoony, pad thai is quite boring to me. just as chinese beef chow mien (which i love) has become quite plain also. sriracha sauce makes anything taste good. when i was in college, i used to make thai chili dogs: hot dogs w/ sriracha sauce. ghetto.

Bola, there's nothing wrong with being a noodle whore. *sigh*, pho is the best haha.

Kirk, i'm gonna look into buying that. does it use the gas tank up pretty quickly?

Zteve, a better recipe for Pad Thai follows:

(1) Get in car.
(2) Drive to Thai Town.
(3) Pick from any one of the 20 pad thai restaurants.
(4) Order and devour.

Kirk said...

If you think about it - it takes about 3-5 minutes to do stir fry - so even though the flame is really hot - you only use the burner for a brief amount of time. I'm still on my first tank. Between the Big Kahuna and my Stovetop Smoker, things have been alot of fun.

Jeni said...

Dang man...your pad thai looks good. I can't make pad thai just like I can't make chocolate chip cookies. I even use the pad thai sauce from the Thai market. For some reason, my noodles just stick together. You got Pad Thai skills. Luuuuucky.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

No, Jeni you're luuuuuuuuucky. You've got goodLAfoodfind skills.

Kirk very true. Why do i think something bad is going to happen to me when i buy this thing? haha

I can cook my face off w/ 50,000 BTU's.

Passionate Eater said...

I like your "(mmm)" notation next to the fish sauce in your pad thai ingredients list. Personally, I would have put "(mmm, but also rancid-smelling)."

I'll have to try your recipe. One of my Thai friends adds vinegar, so I'll have to try his recipe too.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

PE, when you add fish sauce, tamarind paste and sugar, for some reason - it tastes like vinegar. i think i did leave out the mentioning of vinegar. if i did use it, it was only a few drops of it for more room-filling odors.

Kirk said...

EDBM - I think you'll like the sound of the burner going full tilt - sounds like something from NASA. But it's not too bad - just be careful with oil and alcohol - or you may become Eat,Drink, and Look Scary! LOL!

elmomonster said...

Oh yeah baby! LOVE my BIG KAHUNA (Kirk's post made me ask my roommate to get my one for Xmas)! Love the jet whoosh of flames...it's almost too hot actually...or at least I haven't mastered it yet. I've made some killer meals on it already, taking cues from "Breath of a Wok" cookbook.

BTW, do you buy the tamarind paste or make it yourself? I want to try this recipe!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Kirk/Elmo, thanks for replying. I can order this off of Amazon? I wonder if any stores will have it so I can see what sort of danger i'm headed for haha.

Elmo, tamarind paste can be found in any asian grocery store. Make it? Yikes. That would be too laborious.

Kirk said...

I've never seen 'em in stores. I just ordered it off of Amazon.

BTW, Breath of a Wok is a killer book, I haven't tried any recipes yet. I just love the taste of shrimp with just salt & pepper...tastes soooo good. It's really not to dangerous.

elmomonster said...

EDBM,

Thanks for the tip on the tamarind paste...believe it or not, I did try to make it once, and it didn't work out so well.

The Big Kahuna is great, but it has some serious firepower, so you want to make sure you set it up outside on concrete. Just in case.

One thing I'll have to warn you about is that the valve control is a little doughy and so it's not going to give you precise control of the flame. Of course for me, it's either full blast, halfway or off.

And Kirk, I'm with you on "Breath of a Wok", I'm amazed at how each recipe works exactly as the author described. (BTW, I borrowed the book from a friend. I might just have to fess up and buy it myself...it'll be my first cookbook ever!)

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