Pad Thai

I was to make this when I was on my little Thai food cooking frenzy but since I had another noodle dish on my menu, I decided to save this for another cooking episode.  Making Pad Thai is nothing new to me.  I've cooked this many times long before I started documenting my cooking and baking via this blog. In fact, this is the first Thai dish I ever made. But just recently, I discovered that this noodle dish has a Vietnamese origin as it was introduced to Thailand by Vietnamese traders during ancient times.  That could only mean that the Viets made these noodles before the Thais.  I guess having used Pho noodles one time I ran out of the usual wider pad Thai noodles has a reason and feeling a little uncomfortable about it then is pointless, really.

I can say my Pad Thai has evolved as I’ve evolved, thanks to my friends for giving me authentic ingredients which I can’t find or missed in my trips to the Thai market.  It just made cooking more exciting and the prospect of coming up with a good dish goes up another notch.  Everything else goes down to execution.  Yeah, making pad Thai is serious business.  The noodles should have the right consistency and the sauce should be the perfect blend of the salty, sweet, spicy and sour.  I know of people who don’t like pad Thai because they think it’s too sweet or too spicy or sour or soggy and I feel sad when someone dismisses or dislikes a certain dish that way because apparently, it wasn’t cooked properly.  The poor dish never had a chance to be liked from the get-go.  Actually, that applies to any dish or concoction and I could go on and on but let me just share with you my pad Thai version.

1 lb Pad Thai noodles
1 1/3 cup bean sprouts 
2 tbsp canola or vegetable cooking oil
2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp palm sugar
1 boneless chicken breast sliced into thin strips and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 medium shallot
1 cup extra firm tofu
2 tbsp ground peanuts 
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground dried chili pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1 extra large egg

Start by preparing the sauce which is breaking the tamarind paste in 2 cups of water.  Mash it with the back of your spoon or a fork to soften it then pour the juice into a strainer to remove the seeds. Transfer the juice into a small sauce pan and add the palm sugar, light soy sauce and crushed garlic. Bring it into a gentle boil over medium heat and then turn off the heat when the palm sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.
NOTE: You may double the prepared sauce but use only half of it and save the rest if you need more or if you feel the noodles need more moisture.
Next, soak the noodles in hot water and I mean really hot water.  I prefer this over boiling the noodles because It increases the risk of overcooking it.  I want my noodles al dente at the final stage. Peel and de-vein shrimp- set aside.  You may cook it separately in a little oil just until they turn pink.  Set aside.
Cut the tofu into cubes and fry separately in a little canola or vegetable oil- transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.  It helps to drain the tofu- keep it in a colander for as long as you can to drain excess water.  It makes frying way easier; no splatter, I guarantee you!
Brown the chicken pieces in the same pan and saute until cooked through, set aside
Prepare the vegetables- rinse the bean sprouts and drain; slice the carrots into thin strips; slice the shallot thinly and crush the garlic. Rinse and chop cilantro and spring onion 
Toast the peanuts in the pan over low heat, allow to cool then grind or place in a Ziploc bag and roll your rolling pin or bottle over to do the work.
Heat oil in a wok over medium high. 
Add shallot and garlic; saute until they start to brown. 
Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Stir quickly to keep things from sticking. Add prepared sauce and stir. Make sure to maintain the temperature and the wok should be hot enough.
Push the noodles to the side and make room for the egg.  Crack the egg onto the wok and scramble it until almost cooked through.  Fold the egg into the noodles.  Add shrimp, tofu and chicken and toss together. Sprinkle cracked black pepper.  Add carrots, bean sprouts and spring onion.  Toss a few more times,  Serve hot topped with chopped cilantro and ground peanuts and lemon wedges on the side.


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