Pad Thai

Pad Thai: an inclusive noodle

Originally appeared in the July 19, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Most cultures have a mind-numbing variety of noodle or pasta dishes, but one of the most versatile and flavorfully complex is the popular Pad Thai.

Pad Thai is composed of, well…it depends.  Like many stir-fry specimens, the profile for pad Thai will have requisite variations, but it is the homogenous arrangement of often numerous individual ingredients that contribute to its singular personality.  What you can be certain of is the presence of rice noodles, sautéed onion, perhaps some for form of protein (pork, chicken, tofu, eggs), with hints of citrus and sweetness along with a nuttiness from the oil and crushed peanuts.  And then there’s the issue of heat.  If you’re dining out, you can often request a heat level for many stir-fry dishes; but if you’re cooking at home, you won’t have that problem, will you?  All it takes is a little Pad Thai tinkering and crushed pepper experimentation.

My suggestion is that you take advantage of the season’s fruits and vegetables by incorporating generous amounts of citrus and fresh herbs (pad Thai is known for fresh scallion).  Stir-fries are inclusive and unpretentious dishes, so approach this with a friendly attitude, because you should be prepared to share.

Pad Thai

Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 pound dried, rice-stick noodles
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ½ rice wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 ounces garlic, mashed to paste
  • 10 ounces chicken, cut into thin strips
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons or to taste Thai chili powder or cayenne
  • 4 ounces scallion, bias-cut into thin rings
  • 4 ounces unsalted peanuts, fine chop
  • 3 cups mung bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

Condiments­

  • Bean sprouts
  • Fine chop unsalted peanuts
  • Lime wedges
  • Thai chiles, thin slice
  • Minced cilantro

1.  Soak rice sticks in bowl of warm water until soft (about 15 minutes).  Meanwhile, combine fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and ketchup in a small bowl.  Stir until sugar has dissolved.  Drain noodles—reserve until needed.

2.  Heat oil in wok or wide-bottomed sauté pan; add chicken and sauté until meat begins to turn white; add garlic and cook briefly (don’t burn).  Add fish sauce mixture, and bring to a boil; add noodles and gently toss with sauce.  Continue to cook until noodles have absorbed sauce (about 2 minutes).

3.  Pour eggs into the pad Thai mixture, and mix thoroughly until egg is set.  Add chili powder or cayenne, along with scallions; cook until scallions are softened.  Stir in peanuts and bean sprouts until incorporated well.  Sprinkle pad Thai with cilantro, and serve with condiments.

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