Friday, September 20, 2013

Pad Thai

Last Year's Post: Pork with Fennel and Caper Sauce
Two Years Ago: Salmon with Balsamic Sauce

Pad Thai is one of the most popular Thai dishes in America, which is why you'll find it on virtually every Thai restaurant menu.  It's a stir-fried noodle dish made with cooked egg, bean sprouts and a chopped peanut garnish. The protein can be shrimp, chicken, or tofu for a vegetarian version. In its best form it has bright fresh flavor and a variety of textures ranging from the tender noodles to crunchy bean sprouts and peanuts.  Unfortunately, quality can vary and in its worst form it's often mushy and overly sweet. I recently had a Pad Thai encounter of the worst kind so I resolved to find a recipe for my ideal version.  I discovered that many Pad Thai recipes contain tamarind which is an unusual ingredient that's both sweet and sour, plus dried shrimp (yeck).  I was therefore really happy to find a recipe from a cookbook author who has traveled extensively in Thailand.  She found a simpler and very authentic recipe she convinced the local chef in southern Thailand to give her that contains rice vinegar and lime juice instead of tamarind and no dried shrimp.  Yay!

This is an easy recipe to make but as with any stir fried dish, you should do the chopping before you start to cook because the cooking goes fast.

You might notice the recipe calls for cooking the rice noodles less than the original package may state; that's because you finish cooking the noodles with the other ingredients and the sauce.  You want to let them soak in hot water until flexible but still very firm.

As I mentioned, the protein can be chicken, shrimp, and combination of the two, or firm tofu if you want to go vegetarian.  We've been having a lot of shrimp recipes lately (the big Costco bag o'shrimp) so I decided to go with just chicken.  Regarding the spice level, I would call the recipe medium-spicy as written.  By "medium-spicy" I mean you'll notice the spiciness but it's not really hot.  Your lips will be tingling a little by the time you're done but you won't have to stop eating because of the spiciness.  If in doubt, start with a lesser amount of jalapeno and have more available at the table for people to add to their tastes.

The recipe also calls for white pepper, which is common in Asian cuisine.  I just happened to have some on hand but I wouldn't recommend going out and buying it just for the 1/8 teaspoon the recipe needs.  It has a slightly different flavor than black pepper but you'll never notice it in that small amount.

One last thought - don't worry if you don't have a wok, this recipe works just fine in a large skillet.

printable recipe
Pad Thai
Serves 2-3

Note:  As written, this recipe is moderately spicy.  You can adjust the spiciness by increasing or decreasing the amount of jalapeno you use.

6 ounces Pad Thai rice noodles
1 boneless skinless chicken breast and/or 10-12 medium shelled and deveined shrimp
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh red or green jalapeno, finely sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
4 green onions, sliced (white parts separated from green)
1 egg
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lime wedges for serving
2 grated radishes, optional garnish

Pad Thai Sauce:
1/3 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons rice vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces; toss with 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl and set aside.

Combine sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add rice noodles.  Cover and allow the noodles to soak approximately 8 minutes until flexible but still firm and undercooked.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan, then add the garlic, jalapeno, ginger, and the white parts of the green onion (reserve the green tops for later).  Stir fry one minute.

Add the marinated chicken and stir fry until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  If using shrimp, cook for approximately 2-3 minutes until they turn pink.

Push ingredients to the side of the pan and crack an egg into the center, then stir fry quickly to scramble.  Add the noodles plus 3-4 tablespoons of the sauce.  Using two utensils, lift and turn the noodles with the other ingredients.  Continue this way, adding more sauce every minute or two, until all the sauce has been added (4-5 minutes).

Fold in the bean sprouts.  Portion out to individual plates and add a lime wedge on the side.  Top with remaining green onions, peanuts, and optional shredded radishes.

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