Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Yesterday was a Monday, my short paperwork and erranding day at work, and I was in high gear from 7am on to make it home by early afternoon to spend time with Ann. Dealing with her father's stroke has been wearing us both thin, her more than me, and she has been away a lot, so we just needed some us time. When it was clear that I would be getting home on the late side of lunch, I asked her if I could bring something home for lunch. By the time she suggested Thai, I was long gone from downtown where I could get some carryout Thai. She then asked if I could make pad thai at home. Fortunately, I was at the market where I could grab some fresh rice stick and tamarind.

It's been a long while since I have made pad thai or even eaten it. It's a dish that I love but don't ever order out. I have yet to find a Thai restaurant in these parts that makes this simple food cart food well. So I make it at home and although the prep takes a little while, the dish itself takes almost no time to make.

Ingredients for Pad Thai
The setup for this pad thai is as follows from the bowl of beaten egg clockwise: cilantro, pickled turnips, pad thai sauce in the sauce pan, lime wedges, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, fresh rice noodles, and shallots.

The first thing to do is to make the pad thai sauce, which I always make separately from the noodles because the palm sugar is difficult to dissolve if put directly into the pan with the noodles. The sauce is roughly equal portions of palm sugar and tamarind paste, a half portion of fish sauce, and a half portion of water.

Tamarind Pods
Tamarind paste is fairly easy to make. If you are working with a block of tamarind pulp, cut off a chunk and cover it with water. I find a little heat helps dissolve the pulp, so I put it in the microwave for a minute. I find it easier to work with tamarind pods than with block tamarind. As you can see above, the pods have a loose bark and then longs strings under that running along and through the pulp. Pull off the bark and pull out the strings, then break the pulp apart between the seeds. Cover with water, and warm. At this point, no matter whether you're working with block or whole tamarind, use a spoon to agitate the warmed tamarind, then work it through a sieve to separate the tamarind pulp/paste from any seeds and debris.

To start making pad thai, I like to caramelize my shallots and garlic and this time I added lime leaves for their haunting scent. I added spicy pickled turnips instead of red pepper for spice. This would be the point where I would have added shrimp and/or tofu if I were using them. Next come the rice noodles. After tossing them for a few seconds, I start adding the sauce in small additions along with more water as needed to steam-fry the noodles until they are just ready to eat. At the last second, I add the beaten egg and stir it in.

I garnished with lime wedges and cilantro. And usually I garnish with crushed peanuts, but I didn't have any. I serve it at the table with white pepper and fish sauce for those who want a little more in their noodles.

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