Pad Thai

It’s Friday! You’re going to order take-out tonight, aren’t you?  It’s fine, you deserve it.  Go home, put on sweats, open a bottle of wine, order take-out and watch a movie. That’s the plan, right?

Unless, of course, you have friends. Whatever.

Ever tried making your favorite take-out at home? I think you should try. Start with this pad thai. I mean, you might as well since you’re already reading this.

I love, love, LOVE pad thai. Like, serious love affair. Unfortunately this is a total case of unrequited love, seeing as pad thai is made with peanuts and those little guys make my throat close up. It’s one thing to not like me. But to kill me?

Most of my savory dishes are based off of something my mom has made that I obsessively try to recreate (with no luck!) or something I read in another food blog that I obsess over until I find my way to a kitchen.

Obviously I don’t use the word “obsess” lightly. OBVIOUSLY.

However, this recipe was based off of a need. A need, I tell you! I use to get thai food quite frequently back when peanut butter and I were friends and I pretty much always ordered pad thai. It’s just so good. Since I couldn’t have it at restaurants any longer, I needed to take matters into my own hands. Enter Google.

I love Google. And it loves me. After doing some research, and testing about 10 different recipes I finally came up with this. In no way am I saying this tastes like traditional, legit pad thai. But for an easy, homemade version I think it’s great. Disregard the fact that I haven’t had any other version in almost two years. It’s still really good. Perfect for those nights when you want something comforting, but you don’t want to go out. Or if you just want to try cooking something different – something out of your comfort zone.  And with this recipe, I tried really hard to make sure all the ingredients were things most people kept in their fridge or pantry at all times.

What? You don’t always have fish sauce around? Fine, I also made sure everything was readily available at grocery stores.

Through all my trials I learned a few things. I am now obligated to share my findings with you.

1. While there is some prep involved with this dish, the cooking time is very quick. Make sure you have everything prepared and laid out next to your wok before you even think of putting it all together. Cut all your vegetables, prepare your tofu/chicken/shrimp, get your noodles ready, make the sauce.

2. You can make this vegetarian by only using tofu. You can make it vegan by omitting the egg and using soy sauce instead of fish sauce. But be warned, it will change the flavor. Fish sauce is pretty important to this dish.

3. Pad thai noodles can be found in the international food aisle. If you can’t find the noodles look for pad thai bowls or kits. It’ll cost like an extra dollar, and I never use the seasoning packet it comes with (hiii MSG) but it’s the perfect amount for one serving. And if you can’t find those? Write a letter.

4. Bean sprouts are traditionally used in pad thai. However, I sometimes use red pepper instead. Why? Because bean sprouts start to go bad after a few days in the fridge, and I hate finding rotting vegetables in the drawer. It’s terrifying. It’d be awesome if stores sold smaller amounts of bean sprouts, but alas, I have yet to find one that understands my life.

5. If you like them, top this dish with roasted, chopped peanuts. If I remember correctly, it’s kind of awesome.

6. Pad thai is best made in smaller portions. This recipe makes two servings, or one if you’re really hungry. I have doubled it before and it’s come out well – but you have to work really quickly to make sure the noodles don’t clump up.

7. If you want to make this more authentic you can use tamarind instead of vinegar. But that’s hard work. And you’d have to go to an Asian grocery store. Real hard work. However if you’re willing to put in the extra work, just soften a tablespoon of the tamarind (it comes in a soft block) with the back of a spoon in hot water. Drain so you don’t have any clumps, and then use that water to make the sauce.

Okay, fine. It’s not that hard.

Sorry for the photo above. There is a reason they say natural light is best for photography. Yikes.

Okay, enough talk. Let’s do this.

Pad Thai (makes two servings)

Half a red pepper, sliced into thin strips AND/OR 1 cup bean sprouts

Quarter of a white onion, sliced into thin strips

1 garlic clove, minced

1 t ginger, minced (optional)

2 green onions, chopped

4 oz tofu, diced OR chicken, cut in bite size pieces OR shrimp

2 t vegetable oil

1 T brown sugar

1 1/2 T white rice vinegar

1/2 T garlic chili sauce

1 1/2 T fish sauce

1/8 t salt

1/4 c water

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 oz rice noodles

Siracha sauce (optional, unless you’re me), lime wedges, cilantro

Prepare your tofu/chicken/shrimp/whatever: Pan fry your tofu in a bit of oil until they turn a light, light brown. If using chicken, cook in a bit of vegetable oil in a wok until done. Ditto for shrimp. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, garlic chili sauce, fish sauce, salt, vinegar and water. Set aside.

Soak the noodles in boiling water for a few minutes. Drain when they are soft, but not mushy – they shouldn’t taste raw, but they won’t taste completely cooked either. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll know. Do this right before you’re ready to start cooking – if they sit out for too long they’ll turn into one big clump.

Rub your wok with a tiny bit of vegetable oil and let it heat up. Add your beaten egg and scramble. Remove onto a plate and set aside. I bet you’re getting good at the whole “set aside” thing now, huh?

Add the rest of the vegetable oil  to the wok and let it heat up. Add the onions and red pepper (if using) and saute for a few minutes – until they start to soften. Add garlic and ginger (if using) and saute for another 30 seconds. Add tofu/chicken/shrimp/whatever and give it a big stir. Let it cook for a minute longer before transferring it to a plate – might as well use the one the eggs are hanging out on.

Get the wok heated back up – high, high heat for this guys. Add the sauce and let it come to a boil. Dump in the noodles and immediately toss so they don’t stick together. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with the green onions and bean sprouts (if using) and some siracha sauce (again, if using!). Toss with tongs until it all comes together. It may seem like there’s too much sauce at first, but have no fear. Turn off the heat and let it sit for a minute before serving – the noodles will soak it up. Serve with lime and cilantro.

Note: If the dish sits too long and the noodles seem dry just add in a splash of water or stock and mix. This will also help if you’re reheating leftovers of this dish. Rice noodles clump together really quickly, so don’t be alarmed if you need to add more liquid.

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  1. I’m to chicken to try making my own, but maybe I’ll give it a go.


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