And now for a classic…making Pad Thai is an event, and what I would call a high maintenance dish. I’ve made it in Thailand with my aunts, and in NZ with my mother. They have different techniques, but they all manage to turn it into a sort of military drill. Once you have your ingredients lined up, the cooking needs to be fast and it’s done one serving at a time. This can be fun, as each person can have a turn at cooking their own or someone else’s portion. (You could have a Pad Thai party)…In Thailand my aunt insisted on starting several days early by sprouting the mung beans herself (it would be unheard of to buy them) and therefore the Pad Thai making day had to be carefully planned in advance. In NZ, we use a large flat pan and a small amount of coconut oil, whereas in Thailand we used a wok. Either way, you will need to wash the pan or wok in between portions, making it a fairly labour intensive dish. I made Pad Thai today with Mum. Mum scares me when she makes Pad Thai. She used generous amounts of the tamarind sauce on hers, leaving barely enough for me, then insisted on eating the one she cooked herself. In Thailand, we each cooked our own, and my aunt began stealing mine off my plate. It’s really very different from grabbing a kit from the supermarket. The planning that goes into it makes me question whether it’s worth all the fuss, but there’s no other way to make it, so here’s a recipe if you have the inclination…
For two portions:
Flat rice noodles – 125g
1 medium onion
4-5 large cloves of garlic
Dried tamarind – a small 2×2 inch block
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp raw sugar
1/2 cup ground peanuts
10 stems of Chinese chives or 3-4 spring onions
1 small packet mung bean sprouts
3 large eggs
Large handful of coriander
1 Tbsp cider vinegar placed in 1 cup of water
Coconut oil for frying
Soak the noodles in cold water for one hour.
Place the tamarind and one cup of hot water into a small saucepan, and knead until the water is full of the pulp and you can discard the remaining fibres. Add the sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. Taste, making sure you have a balance of sour, salty and sweet, then take the pan off the heat and keep to one side.
Finely julienne the onion and garlic and starting with the garlic, brown both separately in oil, placing them in individual dishes.
Cut the chives or spring onions into matchstick lengths, and put aside.
Roughly chop the coriander and set aside.
Beat the eggs and set aside.
Drain the noodles.
Before starting the next part, you should have all these ingredients (including ground peanuts, bean sprouts and dried chilli) now prepared and lined up in individual dishes, ready to be thrown in.
Using any remaining oil from the fried onions, and adding a small amount of coconut oil if needed, bring the pan to a high heat, and place half of the noodles into the pan. Add two tablespoons of the cider vinegar and water mixture to help cook the noodles. You need to stir quickly, and now move the noodles to one side of the pan, add another small knob of coconut oil to the pan and when melted add half of the beaten egg mixture. Once the egg has just started to set, you can scoop this up and mix it into the noodles, breaking it up as you go.
In Thailand, we cracked the egg straight into the noodles, but I think this discolours the dish and makes it a bit mushy, so Mum and I both prefer to cook the egg a little first.
Pour or ladle three tablespoons, or almost half of the tamarind sauce onto the noodles, reserving half for the other portion and also to add if you find this portion drying out.
Stir frequently, while adding a good pinch of the fried garlic, onions, a pinch of chilli, and a good tablespoon of the ground peanuts.
Now add almost half the bean sprouts and chives, reserving some for garnish.
Taste, for a balance of sweet, and sour, and if necessary at this stage you can add more of the tamarind sauce.
Place onto a serving dish, adding extra ground peanuts, coriander, chives, bean sprouts, and a sprinkling of dried chilli. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
At this stage you need to clean any debris from the pan, or just use a new one for the next portion. Don’t worry if at any stage the noodles are sticking to the pan, this is completely normal, and you might find a thick layer at the end. Don’t be tempted to cook the next batch on this as it will burn and taint the flavour of the next portion. Always use a clean pan.
Pad Thai in Bangkok…