I was telling my friend Kay the other day how much I want to learn how to cook Thai food, but much to my chagrin have been failing miserably. I had to admit the fault lay in my inability to just follow a recipe first, and experiment later! I think the flavors in these foods are just more complex, and I can't just throw in a little of this and a bit of that until I have more experience with the ingredients.
So after Kay proceeded to tell me about a recipe she had for Pad Thai that she's made several times, and her family loves, I begged it from her, and got a scanned copy complete with splatters of tamarind paste. Determined to "stick to the recipe" this time, I sought out the ingredients - all but the fresh bean sprouts which absolutely no one seemed to have. The produce guy in Giant said I was the second person today asking for them - what's that about? Here is the recipe...
Pad Thai - which according to the recipe serves 4 as a noodle course, or 2 as a main course
8 oz Thai rice noodles - I used a 6.5 oz bag of maifun rice sticks. Soak these in cold water for at least an hour while you prepare the other ingredients, check your email and set the table. Have a colander sitting by the sink so it's there when you need it.
Combine together and let sit 10 minutes or so:
1/4 cup of tamarid paste (I used a pulpless, seedless variety that didn't need straining)
1/4 cup water
8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast or chicken tenders - slice into 1/4" strips and set aside.
6 tbs. roasted, unsalted peanuts - blend or process into a coarse meal and reserve. I used my grandmother's nut chopper that I loved using as a kid at Christmas. She'd make these amazing date nut balls, but that's a story for another day...
1 large clove garlic - smash with the palm of your hand on the flat side of a butcher knife and mince
2 stems green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh bean sprouts - I substituted fresh snap peas I had from market
2 eggs - have ready, but don't crack them yet
1/2 cup vegetable oil - Kay uses peanut oil, and I think I'll try that next time
Combine and have ready:
5 tablespoons of the tamarind paste mixture
3 tbs. fish sauce
2 tbs. lime juice (I agree with Kay - think I'll cut this back to 1 1/2 tbs. next time)
2 tbs. sugar
(I really wanted to add minced ginger here, but resisted...)
Get the wok and the stove and all your ingredients lined up at the ready, because once you start, it goes quickly. Heat the wok with the oil in it until it's just about to smoke, then add the garlic, letting it cook about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then crack the eggs on top of the chicken and let them fry without breaking them up for a minute or two.
While the eggs are frying, quickly drain the noodles and add them to the wok, "giving them a quick fold, stir-frying from the bottom up" for one minute. Add the reserved tamarind sauce mixture and continue stir-frying, mixing everything together for 1-2 minutes. The noodles will soften up "to al dente." I added the snap peas after this.
Add about 2/3 of the ground peanuts and stir, then add the green onion pieces and a dash of red pepper flakes. Stir fry for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Transfer to bowls, top with remaining ground peanuts, bean sprouts, strips of red pepper, fresh coriander and lime slices. I didn't have the last couple ingredients, but they would have been a nice addition for presentation. Serve immediately.
It was delicious, and I felt rewarded for my restraint - so I treated myself to some minced ginger for a bit more bite. Yum!