JB's Legendary Pad Thai
Pad Thai has as many versions as cooks - and perhaps many more. This one was the result of extensive research - no, not in Thailand! It began as a dish with promise prepared quite differently in various restaurants. But each had something wrong. Too sweet, not enough goodies, "Where's the shrimp, man?" ... I searched for recipes and tried several. The most satisfying was from Kamolmal’s Kitchen. Then this began a process of optimization (for my palate). The latest version is here, the right column carries comments about variants, each of which contributed to the path. As a sole dish, this will feed two famished bodies, six polite birdlike souls, or ... you get the idea. This quantity will quite fill an average wok, a wee bit will end up on the floor for the dog (ok, ok, Xenia, or the cats). Enjoy.
|2 teaspoons or 8 small ones (optional)||roasted hot chili peppers||Roasting these is very dangerous to your nose. Delicious taste but dangerous. Only do it with wonderful ventilation and a mask. Before my great fan, I used to coerce Slava into doing it outside in the toaster oven. They are ultimately sprinkled on at the table and make a wild variation on the dish. Roast in your steam oven, 270F for an hour.||1 Tablespoon is hot, 2 Tablespoons makes for Crying-Hot! This made me forget my sorrows once - very thoroughly! Dried red flakes adequate, roasted tastier though.|
|8 oz||Vietnamese dried rice noodles 1/8" wide||Soak 15~25 minutes in hot tap water (Not boiling water, Xenia!). They should be flexible and soft, but not so soft that they can be mashed easily with your fingers. Later cooking will soften them more. Drain thoroughly in a collander. Leave intact.||Wider or narrower ok, but the texture is detrimentally affected. Green bag, not the red bag (wider). Don't put noodles in while water is heating, you will have a pudding. Avoid old noodles. Best: Family Elephant Brand from Vietnam[!]|
|8-16 oz||shrimp||If frozen, toss in with the noodles to thaw. Peel but leave tails intact.||7 Oz Chicken + 7 Oz Shrimp was good for carnivores. 12 & 15 Oz Shrimp alone is OK too. Thighs not as good as breasts. 12 Oz Chicken + 12 Oz Shrimp cured a bad depression once. Shrimp "13-15 count" is way too big. 16 oz shrimp OK. But 16 of both is way too much, we became totally lethargic!|
|8-12 oz||chicken breast||Debone and Slice into thick 1/2-3/4" chunks. A Typical full (double) breast weighs 18 oz. To make up for modern, watered chicken: Cut then pre-dry on paper towels in fridge for a few hours. Pre-brown in garlic then remove, prevent boiling!|
|3/8 cup||fish sauce||Mix these 3 together and let them sit in a bowl. Any vinegar will do, I recommend the cheapest white vinegar you would use for cleaning boots in the sink!||1/2 cup Fish Sauce is too much|
|3/8 cup||white vinegar|
|3/8 cup||sugar||1/2 cup sugar is too much.|
|4||scallions||Slice all diagonally into pieces 1.5" long. Split the biggest bulb parts lengthwise.||Scallions good but not essential.|
3-5 heaping T
(6+ cloves or a small head!)
|garlic, finely chopped|| Fry
garlic actively in 2T oil, flipping until it is quite brown
and starting to clump.
Toss in the chicken
so it sautés instead of
boiling. Cook lightly. Remove so it doesn't boil.
Frantically stir up the fish sauce-vinegar-sugar liquid to collect the sugar from the bottom and douse it onto the noodles. Stir, then let it bubble, gently folding every minute or two. Don't break the noodles! Add the bean curd foams now so they absorb the liquid and become luscious.
When liquid is half-gone, put the chicken around the edge where it will contact the wok and hopefully brown but not boil. Don't be anal about it.
|1/2 cup (don't measure)||vegetable oil||I tend to skimp on the oil, but you can double this if you want. Any edible oil except olive oil is fine.|
|1 fistful or 3 Oz (optional)||fried bean curd foams, cut into 3/4" pieces||Fresh Bean Curd adds nothing to the dish. Fried: 1/2" size is too small. Cut 1" cubes in half. Don't soak in liquid.|
the liquid is gone, do the funky thing with the eggs. Lift the
noodles gently from one side of the wok, pour 0~1 teaspoon oil
along the side of the wok, and break an egg into the oil. Break
the yolk and cover the egg with the noodles immediately. Do
not stir! Repeat with the other egg(s) on the opposite
side of the wok.
Add the shrimp around the edge. The idea is get the shrimp rare.
Allow the eggs to cook undisturbed until they are set and almost dry. Add additional oil if they stick to your wok.
When the eggs are set and almost dry, fold them gently but rapidly into the noodles. Try not to break the noodles, which will be soft and fragile at this point. An effective way is to insert the scoop under the eggs, lift it through, and fold the mixture over. Continue the lifting and folding motion until the eggs are broken up.
|3 eggs are better than 2.|
|3/4 cup||coarsely ground roasted unsalted peanuts||Here you get to make a mess. Add the bean sprouts and the peanuts. It will be a huge heap. Using your wok pusher (or spatula) and a fork, fold and stir the sprouts into the noodles. Using the fork, stretch out and break up big clumps of the noodles. Keep the whole mass moving so the sprouts cook and mix in. Aim for less than 5% on the floor. A few minutes should do it. Don't overcook the shrimp. Decant onto a good-sized platter.||Not a total disaster without peanuts. Just partial.|
|16-32 oz||mung bean sprouts||Bean Sprouts essential. 12 Oz inadequate. Soy sprouts better than nothing.|
|1.5~2||limes||Cut each lime into quarters. Arrange around the edge of the platter.||Limes are better than Lemons.. Lemons better than nothing. Pathetic with neither.|
|1/2 cup||cilantro||Clean to de-grit, chop coarsely (1/2" pieces), including half the stems. Glob around on top of it all.|
So - you tried this? How did it go? Do let me know. If you tried a variation, do tell. It will add to the options.
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