Tuesday, October 23, 2007

AEB Classics #61: Pad Thai, rev. ed.

homemade pad thai fig. a: Pad Thai with chopsticks and lime wedge

Let's face it: Montreal's not without its quality Thai restaurants, but this ain't Frisco and it ain't Chicago neither. I still dream of this one no-nonsense Thai noodle joint in I had the pleasure of experiencing in Chicago some years back now. There were a few tables, but mostly there was just a lot of counter space, and behind the long, winding counter, an entire regiment of Thai stir-fry masters whipping up order after order of out-of-this-world stir-fried noodles and fried rice in just seconds flat. I've tried many a Pad Thai recipe over the years in an attempt (however vain) to recreate the magic of those stir-fry masters. This is the very best I've encountered. It's simple and to-the-point and it turns out beautifully. The toughest thing about it is rounding up the ingredients, but your finer Asian supermarkets and grocers will have the harder-to-find items. However, if you feel like you need an absolutely encyclopedic overview on Pad Thai and how to prepare it (and a remarkably similar recipe to the one you'll find below), by all means take a look a Chez Pim's authoritative "Pad Thai for Beginners" from earlier this year.

Pad Thai

1/2 package Thai rice noodles
1/4 cup canola or peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb fresh shrimp, peeled
1/4 lb deep-fried tofu, diced
1/4 cup pickled radish
1 egg
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed

1/4 cup sugar

Golden Boy fig. b: high-quality fish sauce

1/4 cup high-quality fish sauce
1/4 cup tamarind pulp*
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp crushed hot red peppers

bean sprouts
crushed peanuts
lime wedges

Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes, then drain. Heat your oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and the shrimp and sauté for 3-5 seconds (yes, seconds--remember: you're a Thai stir-fry master now and you're totally in the zone). Add the noodles and sauté, stirring constantly, until the noodles soften (you'll reach a point where you become convinced that they'll remain stiff and inedible forever, and then, all of a sudden, they'll take on the characteristics of the Thai noodles you know and love), about 2-5 minutes (depending on the brand of rice noodles, as I've discovered). Add the sauce, mix well, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the egg and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the scallions, bean sprouts, peanuts and radish, stir well, then remove from heat. Serve with garnishes and allow your guests to garnish their Pad Thai according to their wishes.

[recipe courtesy of Philippe de Vienne and La Dépense (Jean-Talon Market, 273-1118), which also happens to be a very good place to get those harder-to-find items listed above]


* For AEB's instructions on making your own tamarind pulp, look here.


Anonymous said...

I would like to make Pad Thai and am looking for the Tamarind Pulp. Where can I find some? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

hi anonymous,
you won't be disappointed--i just made it yet again on sunday--works like a charm

you can find tamarind pulp at Latin American specialty food stores (such as Andes) as well as many Asian specialty food stores (especially Thai ones)--remember, you have to turn it into puree before you can use it--you can use the overnight method that i provided a link to, or you can use the quick method: tear the tamarind pulp into pieces and place in a saucepan with just enough water to cover; bring to a simmer; simmer gently for 15-30 minutes, watching carefully (and stirring, if necessary) so as not to scorch; when this step is done, pour the tamarind plus liquid through a sieve placed over a bowl large enough to contain the liquid; push the tamarind through the sieve as thoroughly as possible, making sure to scrape the underside of the sieve into the bowl; repeat as needed (using the liquid from the bowl) to extract the maximum tamarind puree from the block of pulp; store in a jar in your refrigerator; use as needed; keeps for 2-3 weeks.

That's really the most difficult step--otherwise, have all your prep done well in advance and read the instructions carefully so that you can make the pad thai quickly


Anonymous said...

ps--if you're up by Jean-Talon Market, the Asian stores up there stock tamarind pulp, as does La Dépense

Anonymous said...

Hi ajkinik! Thank you so much for you're help and tips. Can't wait to give it a try. I love you're blog - keep up the great work!