Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pad Thai, for Kirsten

This past weekend, the hubs and I took a spontaneous trip that, surprisingly, worked out perfectly and proved entirely rewarding, and I didn't realize how much we needed it until the trip was over. We visited my friend, Kirsten, whom I hadn't seen in 7 years, and frankly, I don't think my husband and I have been able to feel as comfortable and relaxed as we were with her and her husband for a very long time. I feel as if I have reconnected with a sister I never knew I had. We spent the weekend cooking, of course, but in between our chatty banter about the nuances of sheep's milk cheese and using an outdoor turkey fryer and bricks to devise a MacGyver-worthy outdoor burner, I found a kindred spirit and discovered a wonderful friend who I admire and greatly appreciate.

Kirsten shares my love of food like no other friend I have. She's passionate, detail-oriented, and quite thirsty for knowledge, and she has no qualms about repeatedly preparing a dish until she gets it right; because of these qualities, I had no reservations when she told me we would be having Pad Thai for dinner our first night. The dish itself isn't hard to prepare, but figuring out the sauce can be challenging. Many recipes I've seen call for distinctly un-Thai ingredients such as white sugar or even ketchup. Ew. This recipe, however, utilizes palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind to get that wonderfully unique sweet-salty-sour balance so familiar to Thai cuisine. It's important to make this one serving at a time to avoid a textural disaster, and before you taste it, be aware: once you do, you'll never be satisfied with most restaurant adaptations of Pad Thai again.

Pad Thai

Tamarind concentrate
A good fish sauce
Palm sugar
Thin, flat rice noodles, prepared
Chicken or Shrimp
Green Onion
Bean sprouts
Crushed peanuts

To make the sauce:

Reconstitute the tamarind concentrate.

Julienne carrots. Cut green onions into two inch pieces and then into strips.

In a small saucepan , combine equal parts tamarind, fish sauce and palm sugar over medium heat. Simmer for a minute or two and then taste test to make sure the flavors have combined adequately. You should be able to notice a change in taste between the onset of the simmer and a minute or two later (you want balance between the flavors). Adjust sweetness/saltiness/sourness as necessary.

Heat wok on high heat. Add oil, swirl, add chicken or shrimp, and then add carrots, green onions, and bean sprouts. Cook for a minute, then add a handful of noodles. Stir noodles, allowing them to heat through and then add egg, pushing other ingredients aside so the egg can scramble.

Add sauce from saucepan (you don't want it too saucy- this isn't marinara sauce).

As soon as sauce is added, stir and allow to cook for about ten seconds, then add green onions and bean sprouts and cook for just a few more seconds.

Dish noodles onto plate, sprinkle with crushed peanuts, cilantro, and bean sprouts and squeeze a wedge of lime over the top.


  1. Hey look! I'm in someone's blog!!! *ridiculous grin*

    Okay, cheesiness over. That WAS a fun weekend, wasn't it? Ever feel like your husband is literally a gift from God? That is how I feel about you guys and that weekend.

    Ah, yes, the turkey fryer. For you other readers, our new stove couldn't be hooked up to gas until Monday morning. Even when it was, the inspector took his good ol' time getting there and didn't check until Tues, after they had left. So we had to spend the whole weekend cooking any stovetop dish over a turkey fryer or campfire stove. It was awesome. We got reeeal good at problem solving. Pho pot too big for a campfire stove but turkey fryer too hot to simmer liquid? No problem!! Put some bricks under the pot!! At one point or another, all four of us had mullets and devised solutions out of toothpicks and chewing gum. Luckily, pad thai is best in a super hot wok and would have been done over the turkey fryer anyway.

    And I have to say... After cooking this what? 11 times in a row? on Friday night, this recipe has been supertested and will rock your face off. Nobody left dissatisfied.

  2. I love pad thai! I really should try to make it at home. I bet it would be delicious.