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
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.
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.