A couple of weeks ago I was in the throes of cooking – and I was in heaven. I don’t make pad Thai very often, perhaps because some ingredients, namely the tamarind, can be difficult to find so some pre-planning is involved. There’s a lot a lot of chopping – and though it’s a dish that takes some effort, it really is worth it.
I made it for the Fabulous Lisa’s surprise birthday party, there it is, in the front –
I toned down the spice because, well, I didn’t want to kill everyone’s tastes buds. You know what? People were disappointed that it wasn’t as hot as I normally make it. It’s the last time that will happen!
I attempted to photograph ingredients and cooking steps and had to piece together the photos because, well, my sous chef and photographer weren’t around to help me. That’s if I had a sous chef and photographer. One can only dream.
As it turns out, I was scheduled to demo a dish for the End Hunger Culinary School that same week and the logical dish to showcase was pad Thai. Teaching these folks is one of my favorite things to do.
I had the double duty of teaching & cooking so why I brought my camera is beyond me. It’s a habit I suppose. I was able to capture a few shots though, in spite of all the activity going on.
Pad Thai is a Thai national dish and it is commonly served as street food. It brings back so many childhood memories for me. I was excited to bring it to Maryland and to the culinary school. I love exposing people to something completely new! And even better when it’s appreciated, like these students were. One of them asked me what pad Thai meant, and well, pad means noodle in Thai, so pad Thai is – Thai noodles.
It’s just that simple. He smiled:)
What You’ll Need:
– Rice noodles (soaked)
– Tamarind pulp
– 2 Eggs
– Peppers, Chilis or chili sauce (to taste)
– 3 cloves of garlic
– fish sauce
– 2 large chicken breasts (you can also use shrimp or pork as a protein)
– 1/2 cups palm sugar (or white sugar is fine)
– chopped unsalted peanuts
– green onions
– vegetables (I like bok choy in this but you can also use green or red bell peppers)
– vegetable oil (for cooking the chicken or protein)
– black pepper (to taste)
What You Do:
The first thing you do is to soak the rice noodles for at least two hours in warm water. It will soften the noodles for cooking. It take a little bit of preparation but I promise you it’s worth it!
I actually had a half a chicken in the refrigerator so I brought that to the demo and had the students deconstruct the chicken from the bone. It was great practice for them!
Let the chopping begin!
Chop the chicken into small pieces and set aside. Then in a separate area and on another chopping board, chop the vegetables and green onions and set aside.
Beat the eggs together and set to the side. I don’t have a photo of this – don’t forget this step!
Mince the garlic. I prefer to use a garlic press but I didn’t bring one that day so I asked the student to chop the garlic very fine.
Garlic – it’s the stuff of life. I love it and can’t live without it.
My friend Kathy-girl gave me a bunch of peppers and I brought some to put into the dish, not knowing how hot they were. And they were hot! A great surprise for the students!
After all the chopping is done, and the mis en place is set (I love that word), let’s start the cooking!
Put the chicken, garlic and black pepper to taste into a hot wok and cook with a little bit of oil. When the chicken is done, place into a dish and put it to the side.
In the same wok or pan, cook the tamarind and palm sugar together. I don’t have a photo of the tamarind packaging and I’ll have to do a more comprehensive post on it later. I promise to link it here when I do!
If you have chilis then this is where you would add it – right into the sauce.
This is what the palm sugar looks like. I get it in a block and just chip pieces off that I need. If this seems a little task intensive to you, just go ahead and purchase it in granules or use white sugar. I just love the taste of this in this form, but I understand if you don’t want to go through the work of breaking it up. It’s pretty concentrated.
After you cooking the tamarind and sugar together on high heat for about 2 minutes, add the rice noodle and stir it so that the noodles are completely covered with the sauce.
Don’t let it cook too long because it will get soggy! I told the students to stir quickly, there’s no lollygagging in stir fry cooking! After the noodles are covered thoroughly with the sauce, add the cooked chicken back into the wok and stir quickly to mix the noodles and chicken together.
IMPORTANT – I don’t have a photo of this. After the noodles and the chicken are mixed together, move the mixture to one side of the pan and add the beaten eggs (remember this was part of the mis en place!). Slowly fold the noodles and chicken over the eggs and cook until the eggs are done. Remember to stir, stir, stir.
Then quickly add your vegetables. Here I used bok choy and shitake mushrooms. This is also where you would add the fresh peppers to taste if you have any.
Then add the green onions and you guessed it, stir quickly.
Add the chopped peanuts right to the dish. In this version (the one I made for Fabulous Lisa’s party), I have red bell peppers and bean sprouts in the pad Thai. Note: if you use bean sprouts, do not over cook them. There’s nothing worse than soggy bean sprouts. Trust me.
On another side note: I crush the peanuts in a blender. I used to use a mortar and pestle to do this but this is much easier. Technology is fantastic!
Once everything is mixed and heated thoroughly, take it off the heat and put it in a large bowl.
It’s heavy so it will take a couple of students to do this – or you can just lift weights . . .
Oh it looks delicious!
Pour some fish sauce and lime juice over the pad Thai and serve immediately while it’s hot.
I’m so proud of these students! They are working hard to learn a new skill and make a new life for themselves. And they loved the pad Thai! I think it offered them a great taste of Asian cooking. Hopefully some of them will get hooked.
Go ahead and try it!