Monday, February 22, 2016

My Pad Thai

I had never really eaten anything from a Thai restaurant that tasted good to me. At best, noodles with steamed vegetables are just plain simple. Not what I would expect from Thai. At worst, no flavor at all made the foods I tasted just unpalatable. Add to that, if there was MSG in the dish, or just too much salt, I would swell up significantly, which is quite uncomfortable. With those experiences to draw from, when my sisters decided to get together at a Thai restaurant, I was very reluctant, to put it mildly. 

Okay, so I was outvoted on the Thai restaurant for lunch, and I looked through the menu, resigning myself to at least eating some healthy vegetables. This was over the Christmas/New Year holidays, so very little of any vegetable had passed my lips for many days. I was craving vegetables. One of my sisters, who eats at that particular Thai restaurant often, said that all the noodle dishes were excellent. so I opted for Pad Thai, since it listed numerous vegetables in the ingredients. 
Pad Thai
My Pad Thai

And when my dish arrived, I was shocked, amazed, gratified, and finally - joyous! This dish was amazing. The flavors were just out of this world, and as I could not quite identify the flavors, they were all the more intriguing. The portion was very large, so I took half of the meal home, thinking I would eat it next day and see if my assessment stayed the same.

It did!

So, once our holiday travels were over and I was once more situated at home, I wanted to give this a try. I had no idea as to the flavor ingredients. The vegetables were pretty self explanatory. In the dish from the restaurant, there was broccoli, carrot, eggplant, cucumber, Napa cabbage, bok choy, bean sprouts and scallions. The peanuts I could live without - I just do not care for peanuts. But the part I really wanted to know about was the flavorings. What goes into Pad Thai?
Pad Thai
My Pad Thai

I read myriad recipes online. The ingredients for a Pad Thai sauce were pretty universal. The amounts varied widely. I read commentary on the recipes I researched and took them to heart. I put together a recipe I felt should work. I made Pad Thai for the first time. It was good. It was not great. 

My recipe seemed to lack a certain fullness of flavor. It was dry. The noodles cooked through properly, but there was not enough flavor, and I felt that more sauce might be needed. Salt was lacking also, and for that, extra sauce would likely do the trick. My husband and I liked this first attempt. He had nothing to compare it with, but I did, so I resolved to have another go.

This time I did double the sauce mixture. This time, there was enough salt to make it more enjoyable than the far blander version I'd made previously. While it looked basically the same, the flavors were far more in evidence. It still didn't quite compare to the restaurant version, and maybe never will, but for now, this second rendition of Pad Thai turned out to be just the ticket!

Pad Thai

serves 6
Pad Thai
Pad Thai

8 ounces flat rice noodles or Pad Thai noodles

3 tablespoons sugar, or palm sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
hot pepper flakes, to taste, optional  

2 - 3 tablespoons oil or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced/grated
1/2 pound chicken or pork, sliced very thin
1 small red bell pepper, sliced in strips
3 cups Napa cabbage, sliced across in 1-inch slices
3 eggs, whisked
1 1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 - 2 carrots, sliced across on bias

4 scallions, white and green, sliced
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
2 - 4 tablespoons cilantro leaves

PREP WORK: First, submerge the rice noodles into a bowl of cold water. Allow them to soak for about 1 hour. Set aside.

Make the sauce by whisking the 4 ingredients together and set aside. 

Use chicken or pork of your choosing. I used chicken breasts one time and pork loin a second time. Slice the meat very thinly (partially frozen meat helps with thin-slicing). Set meat aside. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and set aside. Very lightly steam the broccoli and carrot and set aside.

Have the garnish ingredients prepped in separate bowls and set aside.

MAKE THE DISH: In a wok, or a large skillet, heat the oil. Add in the garlic and ginger, sauteing until very fragrant. Add the chicken or pork slices and toss quickly to saute until lightly browned and cooked through, about 7 - 8 minutes. Add in the red bell pepper strips and Napa cabbage and toss quickly for about 3 minutes. If there is room in the pan to push aside the vegetables, pour in the whisked eggs and scramble them. (If your pan will not accommodate, simple scramble the eggs in a separate pan, and then add them back into the pan with the vegetables.) Drain the noodles and add them to the pan, along with the sauce mixture and toss well with tongs to heat through and cook the noodles, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add in the steamed broccoli and carrot and toss to combine. Pour the Pad Thai out onto a large platter and garnish with the scallions, bean sprouts and peanuts and adorn with the cilantro. Serve immediately.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.