Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pad Thai: Local and Seasonal?

For years I  have been making Pad Thai striving for some idea of an authentic dish like I've eaten in Thailand.  I had to make a quick meal the other day and looked in my fridge and saw some Broccoli and sweet orange pepper that needed to be used and it occurred to me that I could easily throw these into a Pad Thai.  I decided for the first time to just wing it and not slavishly follow a recipe to make it this time. Indeed in Thailand you always get a bunch of condiments served with pad Thai (ground hot pepper, lime wedges, fish sauce with chopped up hot peppers and sugar so you can adjust it to your taste).

I use a half a bag (8 ounces) of  medium or large size pad thai noodles they go a long way.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the dried noodles and turn the heat off.  Let them soak until soft then remove and set aside until you need them.  Because I used Broccoli I kept the water and place the florets in it to barely cook them.  The same could be done with Bok Choy, or Chinese Broccoli or any other green you wanted to use (Swiss Chard?).

Fry up the aromatics in about 1/4 cup of peanut or canola oil:  a bunch (6-8) spring onions smashed and cut into large sections, 3-4 Tablespoons of fresh ginger, 1-3 Thai red peppers (I left the seeds in and only used 1 the seeds make it hotter procede as you see fit)  6-8 cloves of garlic.  Fry this over medium heat until wilted not browned then remove from heat with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Try and keep as much of the oil in the wok.
Press season tofu is found in most Asian grocery stores, use as little or as much as you like. I used about a cup chopped into bite size cubs.  You could also use pork instead or as well as in what ever amount you want.  Shrimp can also be added, if you use shrimp  (de-veined, shelled, de-headed, etc) be sure to only cook the for a minute and stir in at the very end.  I added a roughly chopped sweet pepper to this a minute before I tool it off the heat, to cook it a little but so that it still retained some crunch.

Add more oil if you need to fry the tofu, cook for a minute then add ... 
4 eggs lightly whisked with 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt freshly grated black pepper.  Traditionally this is suppose to be an omelet that gets cut up later I just make it as a kind of scrambled eggs.  Don't over cook.  Remove from heat.  
Have your prepped veg and noodles at the ready.
After the egg/tofu/meat is cooked add some more oil to the pan another 3 or 4 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, cook it until it is just start to brown then stir in the noodles.  Cook until they are coated with the garlic oil then add  2-4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce, 1-3 Tablespoon Soy Sauce and about 1/4 cup Tamarind (either reconstituted from pulp using hot water or store bought concentrate which tends to be stronger so start out adding a little bit and increasing it as you go. I like a nice strong flavor and the Tamarind has that wonder citrus/sour thing going on that really brings this dish alive.
Stir in the ginger, garlic, green onion mixture, whatever other veg you have prepped and the egg mixture.

Add more fish sauce, soy sauce and tamarind until you get the flavor you want.  You can also add some lime juice, sugar, salt, black pepper. and ground hot chili peppers to this as well.  Just before serving I like to stir in some fresh herb, Thai Basil or Cilantro or both!

This is such an easy and delicious dish that so many people are apprehensive about making because they think it is hard or challenging when really it si very forgiving and very easy to adapte to what ever you have in your fridge.  You can easily swap out the pressed season tofu for fresh tofu or not at it at all and just do pork or chicken or duck (fatty cuts work best).

Fish sauce, tamarind and rice noodles will require a trip to your fav Asian grocery but these are great staples to have on hand anyway.

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