Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lunch Week 35: Pad Thai

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Pad Thai
I'm a fan of pad thai. I order it occasionally when I'm out for lunch or dinner at a Thai restaurant. It's a good staple to use to compare different places. So when I recently saw a recipe online, I was inspired to make my own. The thing about many Thai recipes is that it has a lot of ingredients. Lucky for me, I had a lot of them in the pantry already.

First, the pad thai noodles. These noodles are rice based and usually come dry.

To use them, first soak them in water for about 30 minutes. They'll soften enough to be pliable.
Next prep the other ingredients. I had some leftover napa cabbage. I chopped off the end and the leaves come off easily. Stack the leaves and slice them into ribbons.
It may seem like a lot of cabbage at first but when you cook it, it'll wilt down.
Like so. It becomes pretty much a 1/3 in volume. Cook with a little oil and some salt. It'll release a good amount of liquid.
I also had some tofu on hand. I used five spiced flavored tofu which is much firmer and also has a lot more flavor.
It comes in two blocks. Slice them in half then into strips.
It should look like this.
Cook it in a bit of oil too until warmed through.
And now the meat. I used pork tenderloin but you can pretty use any kind that you like. I marinated it with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, and garlic chili sauce.
Again, cook in some oil.
Whip up some eggs and season with salt and pepper.
Cook into an omelet and slice into strips.
Take two bunches of green onions and chop the green parts about 3 inches apart. Slice the white parts in half and chop off the ends.
Sear them on high heat in a large pot.
Then add some sliced garlic.
Add a bunch of wash bean sprouts to the pot as well.
When the garlic starts to brown and the bean sprouts soften, add the noodles.
This would be a good time to add the prepared sauce. I didn't have any tamarind. Instead, I substituted it with peanut butter. In this bowl, I had the peanut butter plus soy sauce and chili sauce.
Add that to the pot and mix well. Next add all the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Using a pair of tongs here would be really helpful. Lastly, taste for seasoning. It was bland at first so I added more of the peanut soy sauce mixture.
When the pad thai is fully cooked, serve on a plate.
But it's not ready yet. To keep things fresh and bright, I packed a small bag of a lime wedge, cilantro, and roasted peanuts.
Squeeze the lime onto the noodles, then add the cilantro and peanuts. This last step was really important because it added so much extra flavor to the dish. It really brought out the flavors while the peanuts added nice crunch to an otherwise soft noodle dish.
Overall, I really enjoyed the pad thai that I made but there could be a few improvements. I think the tamarind was an important flavor and I couldn't help but think something was missing from my version of the dish. It must have been the tamarind. Also, it was kind of difficult to cook the noodles in a pot. A wok would really be beneficial here. And lastly, a little extra lime would do really well. Maybe two wedges instead of one next time. It really cuts through the savoriness and saltiness of the dish.

My version of pad thai was adapted from this recipe from Gourmet and Epicurious:

Vegetarian Pad Thai
12 ounces dried flat rice noodles (1/4 inch wide; sometimes called pad Thai or banh pho)
3 tablespoons tamarind (from a pliable block)
1 cup boiling-hot water
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce)
1 bunch scallions
4 large shallots
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
6 large eggs
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups bean sprouts (1/4 pound)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer; a well-seasoned 14-inch flat-bottomed wok
Accompaniments: lime wedges; cilantro sprigs; Sriracha

Soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well in a colander and cover with a dampened paper towel.

Meanwhile, make sauce by soaking tamarind pulp in boiling-hot water in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Force mixture through a sieve into a bowl, discarding seeds and fibers. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Cut scallions into 2-inch pieces. Halve pale green and white parts lengthwise.

Cut shallots crosswise into very thin slices with slicer.

Rinse tofu, then cut into 1-inch cubes and pat very dry.

Heat oil in wok over medium heat until hot, then fry half of shallots over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Carefully strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Reserve shallot oil and spread fried shallots on paper towels. (Shallots will crisp as they cool.) Wipe wok clean.

Reheat shallot oil in wok over high heat until hot. Fry tofu in 1 layer, gently turning occasionally, until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer tofu to paper towels using a slotted spoon. Pour off frying oil and reserve.

Lightly beat eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat 2 tablespoons shallot oil in wok over high heat until it shimmers. Add eggs and swirl to coat side of wok, then cook, stirring gently with a spatula, until cooked through. Break into chunks with spatula and transfer to a plate.

Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Pour in 6 tablespoons shallot oil, then swirl to coat side of wok. Stir-fry scallions, garlic, and remaining uncooked shallots until softened, about 1 minute.

Add noodles and stir-fry over medium heat (use 2 spatulas if necessary) 3 minutes. Add tofu, bean sprouts, and 1 1/2 cups sauce and simmer, turning noodles over to absorb sauce evenly, until noodles are tender, about 2 minutes.

Stir in additional sauce if desired, then stir in eggs and transfer to a large shallow serving dish.

Sprinkle pad Thai with peanuts and fried shallots and serve with lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, and Sriracha.

December 2007
Lillian Chou

1 comment:

  1. Look good and pretty easy! I'll have to incorporate this into my lunch rotation!


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