Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pad Thai: Kind of Like the Steve Buscemi of Food

Much like the casting of a Coen Brothers movie, you'd think Pad Thai is just an ensemble of weird shit. But, just as any good Coen Brothers film can combine the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, and John Goodman with surprising synergy, this dish combines ingredients like tamarind, vinegar, shrimp paste, and eggs to create an unexpectedly delightful meal. It's so good, it'll make you want to move to Fargo.

The stuff like shrimp paste, tamarind paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, and rice noodles can be found at any Asian grocer or most large supermarkets. And you can always veganify this by substituting 3-4 TBSP soy sauce for the shrimp paste and fish sauce. But keep in mind that many of these ingredients can vary a lot in intensity by brand, so the amounts below should only be a rough guide. You'll need to adjust as you go, based on flavor and personal preference.

Prep time: 2 cocktails.

1 batch Incredible Jerk Tofu (but replace first 5 ingredients with 1-2 TBSP Siracha)
2 TBSP tamarind paste
8 ounces wide (fettuccine-size) Asian rice noodles
3 TBSP fish sauce
1-2 tsp shrimp paste
3 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP rice vinegar
3-6 Thai chilies, sliced into thin wheels
3 TBSP peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 eggs, scrambled together
A handful of peanuts, chopped up a bit
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, sliced into wedges
3 cups bean sprouts

Prepare tofu according to the hyperlinked recipe (with adaption) and set in the refrigerator to cool. 

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Combine 3/4 cup of that water in a bowl with the tamarind paste. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool. After 10 minutes, with a fork, break up the tamarind completely. You'll have some big pulpee bits and maybe some seeds. Remove these with your hands or, if you want to be cleaner, pass it all through a mesh strainer and discard the solids.

After you've removed the boiling water for the tamarind, remove the pot from the heat and immediately add the noodles. Let the noodles sit for 10 minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together fish sauce, shrimp paste, palm sugar, rice vinegar, and chilies. Set aside.

In a wok, heat the oil on medium-high heat. When it's hot, add garlic and 2/3 of the scallions. Saute 3-4 minutes. Then scoot them off to the side and add the egg to the cleared area. Once the egg sets, scramble it up with a spatula. When egg is just tender-done, add the noodles, tamarind juice, and fish sauce mixture. Stir well. Once everything is incorporated, add tofu, peanuts, and cilantro. Stir it all up again. Then stir in the bean sprouts and remaining scallions. Remove from heat and serve with lime wedges, additional peanuts, and Siracha all as optional garnishes. And a Thai beer! 

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