Happy Valentine’s Day (or as we call it, Stella‘s birthday) from Thailand! Due to overwhelming popular request (from five different people including Steve’s mom), I’m posting a photo-illustrated recipe for pad thai from the Smart Cook Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, where I took a day-long class and learned to make a few different Thai dishes! If you haven’t prepared a thoughtful gift for your significant other or loved one, a homemade dish of pad thai just may save the day. If you’re celebrating the single life, this’ll be lunch for tomorrow.
Serves two. Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 5 minutes.
Ingredients (in grams, but approximations provided wherever possible)
100 g narrow rice noodles (a good handful)
100 g (1 cup) your preferred protein (tofu, chicken,whatever, or substitute for another egg)
40 g (1/2 cup) firm (preferable) or soft tofu, small diced
20 g Chinese chives or spring onions (2-3 stalks)
40 g soybean sprouts (a handful)
1 tbsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tbsp cooking oil (anything but olive oil)
3 tbsp oyster sauce (vegetarians substitute mushroom sauce)
1 tbsp fish sauce (vegetarians substitute soy sauce)
1 egg (or 2 in place of other proteins)
2 tsp white sugar)
1/2 cup water
1 handful cilantro
2 lime wedges
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
Paprika or crushed chili
First step: make sure you have everything you need, or go shopping to replenish your supplies. Don’t worry too much about the ingredients if one or two are missing. I’ve long substituted teriyaki sauce or soy or whatever dark savory sauce is on hand for oyster sauce and other very specific sauces. Same goes for the soybean sprouts and green onions – if you can’t find one, just add more of the other. Improvise a little, but just a little, lest your creation come out looking more like chow mein.
When you’re in the kitchen, prepare your ingredients beforehand. Wash well all the vegetables. Dice up the tofu, and cut the green onions into large sections. Mince the garlic. (You can use the flat side of your knife or cleaver to crush the clove and easily release it from the skin.) You can also measure out all the sauces beforehand into a bowl just to make it simpler if you’re in a hurry once the wok is fired up. The portions below in all the photos look a little small, but I was cooking for one.
Use a large wok or something with a good non-stick bottom. Turn the heat up all the way, and add the cooking oil. At the same time, add the garlic and diced tofu. Give it a few seconds, and then add whatever protein you want — chicken, beef, etc. Stir it around with a spatula, and make sure to turn the meat over to cook on both sides. If it’s tofu or egg, hold off a little bit since it doesn’t need so long to cook.
As soon as the meat is cooked, crack an egg (or two if you’re using it), and add it to the mix. Stir continuously, and within a minute, it should be cooked. At this point, push everything to one side to make space for the rice noodles. Add water and sauce to the rice noodles, and stir them until tender. This should take no more than a minute. Now, turn off the heat, and add everything else: spring onions, sprouts, any tofu if you were saving it.
Stir well until they’re all combined, and then share it out among two bowls — one for you, one for that special person. Or heck, all for you. You’re special too!
Usually, you garnish the end product with chopped cilantro and squeeze a lime wedge over it. Omit cilantro of course if you have that weird gene that makes it taste like soap. Add extra cilantro if you’re Steve, and can’t get enough of it. Chopped peanuts are also a good idea, and tiny dried shrimp were suggested by our Thai cooking instructor. Some like it hot, so they can sprinkle some dried chili or paprika over it. Take a photo so you can show the world what a great cook you are (and what a great recipe-sharer I am), and eat it right away!
The Extra Mile: it’s not a special night if there’s not a special drink to go with it. Steve suggests mai tais for creative Brownie points, but I think it probably goes best with a cold beer. Chang, Singha, and Leo are all Thai beers we (and by me I mean Steve) have gotten to know well. Singha and Leo are both pretty solid, and won’t give you a headache the day after like Chang. Enjoy!