Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pad Thai

I made this for the family last night, and it was a big hit. As with any stir-fried meal, it’s really important to get all the prep work done in advance. Those small Pyrex bowls really come in handy.

(serves two parents and two children)

1 7-oz pkg rice noodles (stir-fry style)
peanut oil
juice of a lime
2 Tbs fish sauce (nam pla)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs oyster sauce
2 Tbs sugar
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ lb shrimp
1 lb firm tofu
3 large scallions
2 c bean sprouts
½ c peanuts, chopped
a handful of cilantro, chopped
4 large eggs
Asian hot sauce (such as Sriracha)

1. Cover the rice noodles with very hot water. Let stand until they soften but still remain a little chewy (al dente). Rinse with cold water, drain well, and coat with a little peanut oil. Set aside.

2. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar to make the sauce. Set aside.

3. Combine the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

4. Shell and devein the shrimp. Dice the tofu.

5. Slice the scallions (both the white and green parts) into half-inch lengths. Combine the scallions with half of the sprouts. Place the remaining sprouts on the table as a garnish, along with the chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro.

6. Beat the eggs with a little salt.

7. Heat a wok (or a large skillet) over a high flame until very hot. Add 2 Tbs peanut oil. Let the oil come up to temperature and pour in the eggs. Stir-fry the eggs until they set, about 1 minute. Remove to a cutting board and chop.

8. Add 2 Tbs more oil to the hot wok and let the oil come to temperature. Add the aromatics and stir-fry until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until opaque, about 1 minute. Add the tofu, and continue stir-frying until the tofu becomes hot, about another 2 minutes. Remove from the wok and set aside.

9. Add 2 Tbs more oil to the hot wok and let the oil come to temperature. Add the noodles. Stir-fry briefly, then add the sauce. Continue stir-frying until the noodles become hot and most of the sauce is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Toss with the reserved eggs, shrimp-and-tofu mixture, and scallions-and sprouts mixture. Serve immediately with hot sauce on the side.

• Make sure that you monitor the soaking noodles carefully so that they don’t become limp. One way I manage this is to use hot tap water instead of the boiling water that most recipes recommend. The reduced heat slows down the hydration process so there is less change of overcooking them. I use Thai Kitchen–brand noodles, which are available in most supermarkets.

• If you don't already buy frozen shrimp, start doing so. As it turns out, nearly all shrimp are frozen at sea as soon as they're caught. The shrimp that are sold unfrozen in fish stores and supermarkets have merely been thawed in advance. Better to keep the shrimp frozen and defrost them as needed. It takes only a few minutes in a cold water bath.

• I usually use raw peanuts in my Asian cooking, but for this dish, roasted salted peanuts seem to work better.

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