On the weekends I love that I have time to meditate a little over my cooking, and brush up on my chef skills. My husband hates that I have this much time on my hands to “mess up the kitchen.” Right now I am trying to eat no gluten, no dairy, (I know, I know. You can blame Christina and her organic voodoo for this…) so I have been looking for alternatives to my regular pasta and cream sauce. And I discovered rice noodles. Gluten free, right? Noodle-y, right? So the natural thing to make was Pad Thai.

I had been reading about this recipe from Throwdown with Bobby Flay, where he lost the throwdown to a Thai chef who made the most amazing Pad Thai ever (well, at least according to the recipe reviews on foodnetwork.com). The recipe was majorly labor intensive, but delicious in the end. The biggest part of this is the pad thai sauce, which you can buy pre-made, but let’s be honest — when does any of the junk in a jar taste good? It’s always better to make your own, I say. And plus, it freezes well, so you can save what’s left over from the recipe and thaw it out later to make a quick dinner one night.

Pad Thai Sauce (From Kuay Tiaw, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Food Network)
  • 1 cup tamarind juice* (See note below.)
  • 1 cup palm sugar plus 3 tablespoons (You can use brown sugar instead.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce* (See note below. I used 1/4 cup, as the fish taste can be very strong with 1/2 cup.)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan on medium high heat for about 60 minutes until it is well mixed, reduced and syrupy. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Cook’s Note: If you want to double this recipe, DO NOT double the ingredients, for the bulk will be too much to work with. Rather, make the dish twice. If you plan to make this for company, cook noodles ahead of time and add bean sprouts and garlic chives when you heat it up. If it is an informal gathering, it is fun to let your guests cook their own noodles.

Tamarind

Let’s talk a little about tamarind. I thought it was a little strange at first. They look like big beans. But while in Puerto Rico, they served these things on the breakfast bar and I couldn’t stop eating them. This ingredient shows up in Indian, Hispanic, African and Asian cooking. An ingredient that spans that many cuisines has to have some redeeming value. The paste is what’s edible. You crack the outer shell and have what you see below. It looks gross, but it’s good.

To eat it, you peel off the stringy parts, and suck the paste off, until you get to the seeds, below.

You can buy pre-mixed tamarind concentrate or make your own tamarind juice. Buy a package of compressed tamarind pulp at any Asian market, cut off 3 tablespoons of paste and soak in 1 1/2 cups of warm water for 20 minutes. Squeeze out the pulp and discard; the remaining liquid is tamarind juice. Store any leftover juice or noodle sauce in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.

I didn’t go to an Asian supermarket to find tamarind juice, and couldn’t find any tamarind concentrate. But luckily my grocery store had whole tamarind. Just crack the outer shell, peel off the stringy stuff and scrape enough paste off for 3 tablespoons. Soak this in warm water for 20 minutes and strain the solids out.

A Note About Fish Sauce

Cooking it down STINKS. I’m talking about open your windows, turn on your exhaust, light a candle by that bad boy, and simmer the sauce with the top ON. I read the most hilarious review on foodnetwork.com from a mom who warned everyone how bad this smells to cook, and that her son asked her to “please, mommy, make the smell stop.” I lost it, rolling on the floor laughing. So I thought I should warn you too. It’s serious.

Pad Thai (From Kuay Tiaw, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Food Network)

You will need:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra as needed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, optional
  • 1/2 cup sliced pork
  • 1/2 cup whole shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon (shredded) preserved radish (I didn’t use this, and it was fine.)
  • 1/4 pound medium-size dried rice noodles (soaked 60 minutes in cold water and drained)
  • Water
  • 5 tablespoons Pad Thai sauce, recipe above
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground hot chiles, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons ground roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup sliced garlic chives or green onion
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed, plus more for garnish
  • 1 wedge lime

 Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden brown.
  2. Add the meat and shrimp and keep stirring until the shrimp changes color. Remove the shrimp to prevent overcooking and set aside.
  3. Add the noodles. They will stick together so stir fast and try to separate them. Add a little water, stirring a few times.
  4. Add the Pad Thai sauce, and keep stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed. The noodles should appear soft and moist. Return the cooked shrimp to the wok.
  5. Push the contents of the wok up around the sides to make room to fry the eggs. If the pan is very dry, add 1 more tablespoon of oil. Add the eggs and spread the noodles over the eggs to cover.
  6. When the eggs are cooked, stir the noodles until everything is well mixed-this should result in cooked bits of eggs, both whites and yolk, throughout the noodle mixture.
  7. Add chiles, peanuts, garlic chives and bean sprouts. Mix well. Remove to a platter.
  8. Serve with raw bean spouts and a few drops of lime juice.
 
Enjoy!
 
~ Dana
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