Now for something completely different
Here’s a recipe for Pad Thai: not Italian at all, but made with noodles, so I guess it vaguely enters into the category of distant cousin to Italian cuisine. Pad Thai is an all-in-one dish from Thailand and Laos.
Noodles are eaten at many festive occasions in Asia to signify long life. It is an absolute no-no to cut them, therefore shortening your life. I wonder if this tradition is the unknown reason why the Italians have a large aversion to cutting spaghetti. “Italian” noodles did originally come from China, after all! In fact, all noodles all over the world are said to have originated from the Chinese ones.
Why pad thai is called pad thai
In Thailand and Laos rice noodles are used to make this delicious street-food called Pad Thai that is also eaten at festive occasions. The dish was imported from China by Thailand’s prime minister during the Second World War, and given a Thai twist with the signature flavours that identify Thai food; lime, coriander, and fish sauce. It was also renamed Pad Thai to help Thai nationalism and stop people from eating so much rice so that Thailand could export more of it (and therefore make more money!). Amazingly, the strategy worked and Pad Thai has become a nationally recognized dish!
The secret to making a good pad thai
The making of Pad Thai is more of a description that a recipe. It’s very difficult to quantify as it depends on the taste of the cook who is making it. A Lao friend told me recently that when making this type of dish, you taste it all through the cooking process then adjust the ingredients to suit. I have tried to measure the ingredients here, but generally I do it by the “handful”. This is quite a foreign concept in Western cooking.
The first couple of times I made this I rushed around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to cook it as everything cooks so quickly. Since then I’ve refined my technique a little and have everything pre-prepared and lined up on the bench next to the wok in the order they’ll go into the Pad Thai.
So, here’s a little something different from me. I look forward to hearing if anybody tries it, and how it goes!
By Lisa Watson
- 1 clove garlic chopped or crushed
- ½ block firm tofu cut into small cubes
- 150 g 5mm rice noodles 5.5oz
- 1 Egg
- 150 g prawns (or pre-cooked chicken) shrimp about ½ – ¾ cup
- ½ cup peanuts roughly ground
- Lime juice from 1 lime
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 small bunch spring onions
- For the Sauce
- ¼ cup salty fish sauce
- ¼ cup sour Tamarind pulp
- 1 Tbsp white sugar or palm sugar
- Chili powder to taste
- First prepare all the ingredients: chop the garlic, spring onions and tofu. Have everything ready on the bench to be thrown into the wok. I precook the shrimp as I can’t seem to get my wok hot enough.
- In a small pot, mix together the ingredients for the sauce and heat. Taste it to see if you like the salt/sweet sour combination. Remember that the flavours will not be as strong when added to the Pad Thai.
- Soak the rice noodles in hot/boiling water for about 5 – 10 minutes. When they’re ready to cook you should be able to wind them around your finger.
- Now, are you sure that everything’s ready? The cooking goes fast, so there’s no time to prepare anything! Right off we go then! Heat some vegetable oil in a wok until it’s very hot. Throw in the garlic. Let it sizzle for a couple of minutes, then throw in the tofu cubes. Cook them, stirring constantly, until they are brown.
- Drain the noodles and add them. Add half the sauce and stir until the noodles can be broken between your fingers….this may only take a couple of minutes.
- Push the noodles to the side and add the eggs. Scramble them and then stir everything in together.
- Add the shrimp or chicken (precooked) and stir.
- Add more of the sauce all through this cooking period. Take off the heat.
- Add the beansprouts and spring onions. Add the lime juice. Stir. Sprinkle with ground peanuts.
- Eat it hot! After a couple of tries, it gets less nerve-wracking to make. As long as everything is ready to go, it’s easier than pie! When you get confident, you can start throwing in handfuls of things: more or less of each ingredient, depending on your tastes.