According to a friend of my husband’s, “Pad Thai is like cheeseburgers. Everyone has a recipe and thinks they hold the secret ingredient. Truth of it is, its all just a different take on a fairly easy dish.”
I will admit that Pad Thai, although mostly noodles, held an intimidation factor for me. For one, it is a personal favorite dish served up in my neighborhood pub. What if what I create doesn’t compare on any level to my favorite pub’s masterpiece? Two, the style of dish was new and I had very little expertize in this area.
For the first attempt (can anyone guess where I’m going with this?), I did some research and opted for a 30-minute fool proof Pad Thai recipe courtesy of my husband’s subscription to Cook’s Country magazine. The easy-to-follow instructions made it seem easy peasy. What could go wrong?
D) All of the above would be the correct answer. Fool-proof my rear end. Not understanding the delicate nature of the rice-based noodles, I hard-boiled them past their prime and then attempted to fry the gooey mass of starch. It wasn’t pretty and the burned smell lingered for at least a day.
Back to the horse we go. I found a different recipe — one that explained a bit more, offered a bit more instruction (hand holding) and made it seem easy with the deception of being totally easy. I grabbed my apron and headed for the kitchen.
The second time around turned out way better. Instead of dropping the delicate noodles into boiling water, I pulled the hot water off the burner and let it sit a few minutes before adding the ingredient. They were soft enough to be eaten, but still firm and a little “crunchy” at this point before adding them to the pan.
However, I did err a bit the other direction and they could have been fried a bit longer than they were. I was petrified of over cooking. In the end, eatable — but could use a bit of finesse or tweaking. Like I said, a learning process.
Here is the easy peasy recipe courtesy of About.com:
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes
Yield: SERVES 2
- 8 oz. Thai rice noodles
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped chicken breast or thigh
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- optional: 1-2 fresh red chilies, minced
- 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
- 1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts (or other nuts, such as cashews)
- vegetable oil for stir-frying, and wedges of lime
For the Pad Thai Sauce
- 3/4 Tbsp. tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, + more to taste
- 1-3 tsp. chili sauce, or substitute 1/2 tsp. or more dried crushed chili or cayenne, to taste
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove pot from burner and wait a few minutes before dunking your rice noodles. You will be frying the noodles later, so you don’t want to over-soften them now. Noodles are ready to be drained when they are soft enough to be eaten, but still firm and a little “crunchy”. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Make pad Thai sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well to dissolve tamarind and brown sugar, and set aside. NOTE: I used less sugar and added a bit of mustard. This is to your taste.
Warm up a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus garlic and minced chili, if using. Stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds). Add marinated chicken. When wok/pan becomes dry, add a little chicken stock, 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, to keep the chicken frying nicely (5-7 minutes, until cooked is cooked).
Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Using two utensils, use a gentle “lift and turn” method to fry noodles (like tossing a salad). Stir-fry in this way 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom of the pan.
Add the bean sprouts and and continue frying 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer “hard” or crunchy, but chewy-sticky wonderful! Taste-test for seasoning, adding more fish sauce until desired flavor is reached. Toss well to incorporate.
Lift noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of fresh coriander, spring onion, and crushed/chopped nuts. Add fresh lime wedges to squeeze over each portion.