Monday, October 13, 2014

Pad Thai Recipe

In every family there are foods that become associated with special occasions.  When I was growing up, we always went to my Grandpa and Grandma Tino's house for Christmas and Easter.  Maybe it wasn't every year, but my memories are of enjoying lasagna and cheesecake on those occasions.  I'm fairly certain that I stained more than one white Easter dress with a nice slab of cheesy, melty, saucy lasagna.  Yum!

For birthdays my parents often let us choose the dinner meal.  I remember asking for spaghetti and meatballs on many birthdays.  Of course, we ate spaghetti about once a week, but there's nothing quite as comforting as those familiar dishes.

We also let our kids choose what they would like to eat for their birthday dinner.  The little ones - Jer and Abby - have picked whatever is on the schedule for that night.  Both of them had birthdays on Thursday this year.  Thursday is burrito night, and they both were thrilled that they would get to celebrate their birthday on their favorite meal night.

But, I think Claude and I have set a bit of a trend for the older kids.  We both had Pad Thai for our birthday meals this year and Joshua and Hannah followed suit.  It's familiar enough for the kids to ask for it, but since we don't make it every week or even every month like many other meals, it's a bit of a novelty.

Being Asian only by proxy, this is one dish that I make regularly enough for it not to be tedious to me.  I love eating Asian food.  It is prepared to be easy and enjoyable to consume.  But cooking it is another story.  My goodness!  Talk about food preparation.  You don't throw a hunk of meat and some washed veggies into the oven when it comes to Asian food.  You slave away...cutting, chopping, mincing, soaking, wrapping, steaming, frying, stirring.

So. Much. Work.

But so yummy!

Anyway...I thought that I would share the Crew's tried and true Pad Thai recipe, for posterity.  I find it to be pretty simple on the preparation end compared to some other dishes we have tried in the past.

The most uncommon ingredients, which you may or may not be able to find in a typical American grocery store are the following:

Tamarind concentrate or tamarind pulp can be found in the Southeast Asian section of any Asian grocery store.  Look for the picture of the tamarind fruit (as seen in the above photo).  The concentrate smells a bit sweet and tangy and looks like watery peanut butter.  It's normal for it to settle and separate, so mix it up well and scoop from the bottom of the jar to get all the good, thick stuff.  This is what gives Pad Thai it's distinct flavor.  Without it, you'll just have noodles cooked in fish sauce. sauce.  While I was adding this to the sauce yesterday, Abby, who was in a different room, shouted out, "Something smells like poop!"  Everything has to do with the potty around here.  :)  In all honesty, this stuff does have a very strong odor aroma.  But you just can't beat the distinctively Asian flavor of fish sauce, no matter how stinky it is!  If you don't have it, or can't stand the smell, you can substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce in this recipe.

If you wander into an Asian grocery store just look for an aisle lined with shelves of bottles.  Somewhere near the soy sauce you'll probably find it.  This particular bottle actually has some English.  If you can't find any familiar writing, look for a picture of a fish and a bottle that looks like light colored soy sauce.  You'll know if you got the right thing once you open it at home.

Here's what you'll need:

For the Sauce
1/3 cup white sugar
2 TB lemon juice (or lime juice if you have it)
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 TB tamarind pulp or concentrate

For the Noodles
1 12 oz. package dried rice noodles, medium-thick ones work best
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
4 eggs
1 12 oz. package firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch strips
Soy sauce, to taste
1 1/2 TB white sugar

1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika (or chili least that's what I substitute.)
1 1/2 cups peanuts, ground

For Serving
1/2 cup green onion or chives, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1 lime, cut into wedges
Chili sauce, to taste

1. Prepare the Pad Thai Sauce.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, blend sugar, lemon juice, fish sauce, and tamarind concentrate.  Heat it through until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Soak the rice noodles in warm water until soft, 10-15 minutes.  Drain.

3. While the noodles are soaking, chop the garlic, whisk the eggs in a small bowl, cut tofu, mix together sugar, salt, and paprika in a small bowl, grind/finely chop peanuts, chop green onion and cilantro, rinse bean sprouts.  You want all of these ingredients prepared before cooking because once the pan is hot, things move quickly.

3. Prepare the Pad Thai.  In a large skillet heat oil and add garlic and eggs.  Scramble the eggs and then adds the tofu.  Put a splash of soy sauce for color and added flavor.  Add noodles, a (very) little more soy sauce and stir constantly until noodles are cooked.

4. Add the Pad Thai Sauce, the sugar, salt, paprika mixture, and the peanuts.  Stir it all together.  Remove from heat.

5.  Add green onion, cilantro, and bean sprouts.  Serve with lime on the side.  Try some Sriracha chili sauce for a nice flavor and a spicy kick.

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