Monday, February 1, 2010

Homemade Pad Thai: The Backstory + Some Link Love

In January, my friend Amie started a food blog called {My Retro Kitchen}.

It is a refreshing mix of stories + interviews + restaurant reviews + recipes.
From the day she sent me the link I was hooked…however, when she posted a recipe for Pad Thai that she had tried,
I knew I would be forever indebted.

You see, Pad Thai is my all time favorite food. I was going to say that it’s on my top three or five favorite foods list, but I was just sitting here trying to think of a dish I crave more and I can’t. There is no food I crave more often than Pad Thai, so you can understand my excitement when I read that she had made it and it rivaled her favorite Thai restaurant’s version.

So, I spent part of my Saturday hunting down the ingredients that included tamarind paste.
After visits to three different mainstream grocery stores, I called my mom and asked her where the closest Asian market was.
She pointed me in the right direction and I ended up at what I came to learn was a Korean grocer. As I pulled in I prayed, Lord, please have someone in there speak English. And sure enough, as I wandered down aisle #1, an adorable little old man came up to me and asked, in a thick accent, “Can I help you find something?”  I smiled and he walked me around the store, finding the obscure (to me) things I needed and giving me advice about noodle width and other curries and ingredients for other dishes.

I walked out with a “wet tamarind brick” (instead of paste), Pad Thai sauce (instead of paste), fish sauce and enough noodles to make Pad Thai for a small army.

Then the ingredients sat on the counter haunting me. I even dreamt of making it on Saturday night. Sunday morning came and I had Pad Thai on the mind. All day. I prepped many of the ingredients long before I needed them – out of sheer excitement. I cut the tofu in neat little triangles like our favorite Thai restaurant, Lemongrass, does. I chopped two chicken breasts, peeled and deveined some shrimp, chopped some scallions. And. then. I. waited.  

We had invited my parents over for the feast because they love Pad Thai as much as I do. Maybe more. Then, at church in the morning, we invited some other friends over. A couple that were some of our first friends at this new church. And as luck (or fate…or destiny) would have it – they were just the Asian friends I needed to help me with my tamarind-goo-straining- wok cooking-pad-thai-making endeavor. See, although she had never made Pad Thai, she knew all about tamarind paste vs. the wet brick I had, and fish sauce and rice noodles.

I was already in the process of pre-cooking the egg, tofu, chicken and shrimp when they knocked on the door. My mom was already over, chopping peanuts and voicing her concerns as I began to mix the unfamiliar ingredients for the sauce. They entered, we greeted and I immediately asked Sophia for assistance – which she graciously offered.

We were a good team, her with mad wok skills and me with fearless kitchen confidence, I ended up multiplying the recipe by 6 (not sure what I was thinking!) and so we made it in batches based on how many noodles I had decided to use. After mega-batch #2, we decided to eat and that I would make batch #3 after dinner so as not to let batch #1 get cold. We brought the massive bowl of noodles to the table, along with an extra dish of crushed peanuts and some lime slices and we went to town. And boy oh boy, did we eat. I think at last count, the boys were on helpings four and five.

After plates were licked clean, we critiqued the recipe for next time (because you know there’s going to be a next time!) and we all concluded it was wonderful but could have used a little more oil and more sauce over all. Then Sophia had to go to work (a nightshift at the hospital) and my dad had to leave, so my mom and I left Curtis and Mike to talk over girly wine as we whipped up batch #3 of Pad Thai, this time with critiques in mind. I made a little extra sauce and we all decided that batch #3 was even better than the first two. A little sweeter, a little saltier and hot off the wok is best.

Although I saw the last steaming bowlful sitting there, my body was saying wrap it up and save it for tomorrow. So that’s what we did. And after doing the dishes, we all hit the couch in a noodle-induced-food-comatose-state and watched some of the Grammy’s.

For the recipe, read Amie’s post {Homemade Pad Thai I Think I Am in Loveover at her blog {My Retro Kitchenand if you like Pad Thai I STRONGLY suggest you try this recipe.

*My edits to the recipe: In leui of Pad Thai paste, the man at the market I went to suggested a bottle of traditional Pad Thai sauce instead. And the “wet brick of tamarind” that I bought was in leui of the tamarind paste that the recipe calls for. The difference being that this “brick” still had some skins and pits pressed in it that just had to be strained out after constituting in the sauce.

Oh, and we ended up using the Sriracha on the side, because you’ve got to like spicy to like Sriracha (which I do, but some don’t) adding it in gives it a Country-Style Pad Thai affect that is quite delightful, just too hot for some.

So, thank you Amie. You don’t even know all the ways that this recipe has changed everything! I’m already looking forward to leftovers tonight!...and tomorrow night…and the next night (because we still have that much of it!)


CitricSugar said...

I think the look on your face in the first photo says it all! Sounds like you had a great time - Many happy returns of the Pad Thai!

Amie said...

Yay!! I am so thrilled you loved it as much as I did! I also added a little extra sauce when I made it too. It looks like you had such a fun night- that is what cooking is all about really! Nothing much better then food and friends. And I must say- you are so brave to make such a new recipe for some many people! I go about food that way to. I love trying out new recipes on guests! Like my mother-in-law always says "We can always order pizza!"

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