The classic Thai street food.
My recent cooking adventures: I went shopping for cooking supplies, timing this precisely with the opening day of the sales in Paris because I’m a klutz. All in all, it could have been worse: there weren’t many people in the cooking department–presumably because most people don’t shop for frying pans and saucepans during the sales 🙂 I was looking for two things, a garlic press and a lid for my wok. Garlic press was a failure, as everything was so horrendously expensive (more than 5 times what I paid for my old garlic press in the 13th District, our local Asiatown). Lid worked out OK, though: I got this neat little thing that fits on pans of various widths. It’s got a valve for letting steam escape which I don’t need (a lot of wok cooking is steam cooking in the pan, which, er, needs the steam?), but which you can open or close, but it was better than most of the alternatives (which were either horrendously expensive, pierced with holes that I couldn’t close, or just plain not practical). As a note, I really wouldn’t have thought it was that hard to buy a pan lid…
Recipe-wise, I tried making chả lụa (Vietnamese sausage), which didn’t turn out great (I will try again, as I think I’ve got a fair idea of what went wrong during the recipe), and I finally found a pad thai recipe that worked for me, by dint of sheer adjustments with the condiments.
It’s below, though note that the authenticity of the recipe is totally not guaranteed. I’ve never had this anywhere but in the United States, so I’m mostly reproducing what I ate…
(my picture for it is awful due to major camera failure, so I’m using one from Steve Snodgrass. It mostly tells you what the dish ought to look like, and I make no pretense that mine was this pretty, especially since concentrated tamarind is inky black and tends to stain food the same colour…)
- 200g dried rice noodles
- 4 eggs (1 per person)
- 4 shallots
- 16 large shrimps
- 4 cups bean sprouts
- 4-5 spring onions (green part only, cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 4 tablespoons roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- optional: one piece tofu, fried and cut into small pieces
- 4 teaspoons tamarind concentrate (this is the tamarind concentrate, the dark sticky paste, NOT the fresh tamarind pulp soaked in water)
- ⅓ cup boiling water
- 2.5-3 tablespoons fish sauce (the 35° fish sauce kind. If not using this, put 4 tablespoons in)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon chilli paste (or pepper if chilli isn't your thing).
- Cook the noodles by dunking them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse them.
- Make the sauce: dissolve the sugar in the water, add the tamarind concentrate, the fish sauce and the chilli/pepper. Taste: it should be balanced, with no strong taste of any of the ingredients dominating the mix. Adjust if needed.
- Cooking's best undertaken in two batches, though if you're impatient you can put everything together (but it'll be less effective, and a little awkward to handle). Split the ingredients in half, roughly. Beat two eggs into an omelette and set aside.
- Heat up a wok on high heat.
- First off, cook the chopped shallots until fragrant.
- Add the shrimps and cook until pink.
- Push shrimp and shallots to the side, and put the beaten eggs in, stirring them to scramble them. Let them cook until they're firm, then hack them into small pieces with your spatula (think sprinkling of scrambled eggs here. If it helps, you can take them off the heat and use a knife).
- Put the shrimps and shallots back in.
- Add half the noodles and half the sauce, and stir everything for a minute or so. Then toss in the bean sprouts, the peanuts and the spring onions (or chives), give it a whirl or two, and serve.
- Repeat for second batch with the remaining ingredients. Serve hot, et voilà!