Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pad Thai

Here's my favorite version of pad thai. I've had lots of different tasting pad thai, with good reason. Pad thai is a lot like spaghetti in that there's as many versions as there are cooks. I've had it hot, salty, sweet, and sour. This recipe balances all of those tastes. My version started out from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated, with my simplifications, substitutions, and additions.  For me, cooking is all about creating food that tastes good to me and my family ... so work this recipe until it tastes just as good for you and yours. Feel free to further simplify this recipe, making your own substitutions or additions.


4 oz. pad thai rice sticks
about 4 cups very hot water

1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
   (4 ounces per person)

1 whole egg, plus 1 egg white

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and deveined, then minced
or 1/2 Anaheim chili, seeded and deveined, then minced
3 green onions or scallions, sliced
2 carrots, cut into 1/4 x 1/4 x 3 inch long matchstick slices
2 cups mung bean sprouts

8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
   (4 ounces per person)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons chopped peanuts
1.   Place the rice sticks in a bowl and cover with the 4 cups of hot water. If your tap water isn't very hot, use your microwave or stove top to heat water until steaming but not boiling. Cover the bowl, and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, until the rice sticks are very limp, but not cooked through.

2.   Prepare the sauce while the rice sticks are sitting. Use a medium size bowl to mix the lime juice together with the 1/4 cup water, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and olive oil. Taste the sauce, to make sure you like the balance of sour (from the lime juice and the vinegar), salty (from the soy sauce), sweet (from the sugar), and heat (from the cayenne pepper). If you can't taste one of the four flavors to your liking, add a little more of the corresponding ingredient.

3.   Place the tofu cubes in the sauce. Heat a broiler, and cover a small cookie sheet with foil. Use a slotted spoon to drain the tofu cubes, letting the remaining sauce drain back into the bowl, and place the tofu on the cookie sheet. Broil the tofu for 12 minutes total, turning it every 3 minutes. When done, remove from broiler and set aside.

4.  Using a small bowl, whisk together the whole egg and egg white, then set aside.

5.  Chop the remaining vegetables, and set aside. Prepare the shrimp, by peeling and deveining. To peel shrimp, grab the legs and peel the tough shell off of each shrimp. The hard tail part will remain, but the tough shell should come off in one or two pieces. Using a small paring knife, cut each shrimp along the back, where you'll see a small black line (which is the shrimp's digestive tract). Remove the black line, throwing it away. Set the shrimp aside.

6.  Begin cooking the pad thai when the rice sticks are ready, and all the remaining ingredients are ready to cook. It will now come together quickly. Heat a large nonstick skillet, adding the 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to scramble the eggs, cooking them until they softly hold their shape. Add the garlic, chili peppers, and about half of the green onions to the eggs and cook for an additional minute. Add the sauce, the carrots, and the noodles and cook until the sauce has cooked down and the noodles are done. Add the bean sprouts, tofu, and shrimp and toss until well mixed.

7.  Serve by dishing up noodle mixture onto each plate, and topping with some of the remaining green onion, peanuts,  and cilantro.

Serves 2. Easily doubled.

Stealthy Cooking Tip:  Add additional vegetables, like zucchini or mushrooms, to your taste. Also, if you have someone who doesn't like something, cook it separately, then serve it on the side. For example, I don't like shrimp, so I cooked the shrimp separately, and omitted it from my plate.

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