Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mami's Pad Thai for Two

Pad Thai
Pad Thai
When it comes to Pad Thai, you can pretty much put whatever meat, seafood, or veggies you want. It's all up to you! My favorite combination is beef, shrimp and fried tofu with extra peanuts and hold the onions.  The most common combination I found is chicken and shrimp with onions, scallions and crushed peanuts.  No two families make pad thai the same.  Everyone makes it different!

Although most westerners conceive pad thai as an entree for lunch or dinner, its pretty common to eat any type of fried noodle dish for a breakfast.  When the Mo and I was in Bangkok, we saw many locals eating fried noodles or noodle soups for breakfast from the street vendors before heading off to their daily grind.

Growing up in a Cambodian household, my mother would usually make us fried wide noodles with sauce, fried ramen, or fried thin rice noodles (very similar to Pad Thai) but served with homemade fish sauce on the weekends.  She would make so much that we would eat it for breakfast, dinner and breakfast again on Sunday.

Fresh Pad Thai Noodles
Many people ask me the recipe for pad thai, and to be honest, I don't really know it.  I just kind of improvise.  Each time I make it, it comes out different.  Also, the amount of phad thai I make affects the method and ingredients used.  For instance, if I am making large catering trays for a party, I purchase the dried noodles because its less expensive.  If I am cooking for just the Mo and I, I would just purchase a fresh bag of refrigerated noodles for convenience.  The difference is that I don't have to soak the fresh noodles as I do with the dried noodles.

Here is a simple recipe for Two:

Store bought Pad Thai Sauce
  • 1 Bag of Fresh Pad Thai Noodles (Can be purchased at any Asian store, but I actually got this at the local Market Basket in Chelmsford, Ma for $ 1.59)
  • 1/4 lbs of Sliced Beef ( I use siroloin, but you can use any cut)
  • 1 Scallion, sliced or julienne 
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of fried garlic in oil
  • 2 Cups of bean sprouts
  • 2 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Pad Thai Sauce (You can Google some recipes to make your own pad thai sauce, I learned how to make the sauce while working at Southeast Asian in Lowell but it is just easier for me to buy the sauce if I am cooking for only two people) If you are lazy like me, you can purchase the sauce at any Asian store or any International Foods aisle in a Western grocery store. ** Please note, not all sauces are the same and it takes some experimenting.  Some are actually really spicy, BUYER BEWARE
    • Optional: 1/2 cup of Shrimp/tofu
    • Optional: Lime Wedge
    • Optional: Sriracha Hot Sauce
    • Optional: Small Onion
First, heat up a frying pan and prepare the eggs as you would cook it sunny side up. Flip the eggs over, and start scrambling with the eggs so they break up in the pan.  Set the cooked eggs aside. You can also beat the eggs before you scramble them but I like to see the contrasting yellow and whites in the noodle dish.

Sunny side up eggs
Scrambled Sunny Side up eggs
Sugar heating up in pan
To prevent the meat from overcooking or being too dry, I caramelize the meat.  This can be done with pork chicken or beef.  Caramelizing is very popular in Southeast Asian stews and stir fries. In the same frying pan (trying not to get the Mo mad by using too many pots/pans for him to wash later), add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of sugar and let the sugar dissolve on med heat.  After about two minutes, the sugar will turn a light brown.  Stir gently with a brush or a wooden spoon so you do not scratch the surface of your pan.  When the color turns medium brown, add the meat into the pan.  ** Be careful when doing this as the oil will splatter.  Use a cover if you need to prevent the splatter.  
Sugar caramelizing

Also, this "caramelizing" process is a bit tricky.  It took me a few trial and errors as teenager to get it right.  I used to wait to long before adding the meat and the sugar would be burned and I would have to throw away my meat.  When in doubt, just add a few pieces of meat initially so you don't have to waste any if its burned.  Its easier to throw away burned sugar than a pan of meat coated in burned sugar.  Don't get discouraged, just keep trying until you get it right.

Beef and oyster sauce
Add the oyster sauce to the pan and stir.  If using frozen seafood, blanch the seafood in boiling water before adding to the pan.  Stir occasionally until the meat and seafood is thoroughly cooked.  If you are using any other vegetables or tofu, you can add it to the mixture now.

In a large wok, add 1 cup of the pad thai sauce, fried garlic and the optional sriracha hot sauce if you prefer spicy.  Stir the mixture and let it heat up on medium temperature as it slowly boils.
Pad Thai Sauce

In a medium pot, boil 12 cups of water.  Add the noodles to the boiling water for 30 secs and drain.  **Careful not to overcook as the noodles will become gummy and stick together.  Do not use this method if using dried noodles. Since the noodles are already soaked using the dried method, the blanching step will overcook the noodles) 
Add the drained noodles and meat and seafood to the wok with the sauce and stir with tongs or chopsticks.  Be careful not to rip the noodles into pieces.  When the noodles are no longer white and covered with sauce, add the beansprouts and scallions. You can choose to add a little bit of lime juice if you prefer a more sour taste.  I don't care for it that much so I opt not to.

 Plate the noodles and add crushed peanuts and a lime wedge for garnish.
Mami's Pad Thai Noodles

The traditional Cambodians and Thais roast their own peanuts on the stove. Again, I like to cut corners so I buy the salted peanuts already roasted and use a mortar and pestle (that has been in my family for more than 20 years) and crush the peanuts manually.  You can also use a small mini food processor if that is easier for you. I prefer the peanuts more coarse for texture.

Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts
Mortar and Pestle