Noodle on this

One of the most frequently asked- for recipes when I teach Thai cooking is Pad Thai.

At one class several years ago there was a man sent by his wife, who was six months pregnant and craving Pad Thai, with a goal of "not coming home until you know how to cook it." Now if you think this sounds somewhat extreme, then you probably have not tasted good Pad Thai.

Pad Thai is a classic Thai noodle dish that can be a complete meal on its own or a complement to other dishes.

The basis of the recipe is rice noodles - merely a vehicle for fragrant cilantro, roasted peanuts, crunchy bean sprouts, spicy roasted dried red chiles and a touch of fresh lime peel. Typical of most Thai recipes, you will need to do chopping, roasting and soaking of ingredients. Then when you are ready to actually assemble and cook the Pad Thai, it only takes about 10 minutes.

This recipe is easier than it may look on paper. Don't let the preparation scare you. It is worth what the French call "mis en place" (getting all the ingredients ready). Once you have made it yourself and tasted it you will realize this.

You may well find your homemade version better than any restaurant's.

Ingredients such as the fish sauce, dried red chiles, unsalted peanuts and rice noodles are available at Uwajimaya or in the International section of some grocery stores.

The small dried red chiles are what make the noodles spicy. Using the amount in this recipe will make it mild to medium spicy. Decrease or increase the ground chiles to modify the level of spiciness you desire. If you do not want to go to the trouble to roast and grind them you may substitute 1 Tablespoon dried red chile pepper flakes, but not with the same results for flavor.

Pad Thai

(3-4 servings)

1 pound dried rice noodles (1/8-inch wide)

Pad Thai Sauce* (see preparation below)

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1/2 pound thinly sliced chicken breast or pork tenderloin

2 eggs

1/3 cup chopped green onions

1/2 pound bean sprouts

2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup finely chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts* (see preparation below)

1-1/2 teaspoons finely ground roasted dried red chiles* (see preparation below)

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Put noodles in large bowl; cover with warm water and soak until softened and flexible (but not mushy), about 20-25 minutes; drain and set aside.

Make Pad Thai sauce and set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat; add garlic and cook and stir just until softened and lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add chicken and stir-fry until cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Add drained noodles and stir to mix with chicken and garlic. Pour Pad Thai Sauce over noodles; bring sauce to simmer.

Push noodles to one side of wok; crack egg and slide it down the inside edge of wok; break the yolk, then cover with noodles. Repeat with remaining egg on other side of wok. Cook over medium heat until yolks are set, about 3 minutes. Once cooked, scoop under eggs with spatula and gently lift them up and through noodles to distribute evenly.

Remove wok from heat; add onions, sprouts, cilantro, peanuts and chiles; gently lift up and through noodles with spatula to evenly distribute ingredients or toss gently with tongs.

Transfer Pad Thai to serving platter; garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired. Arrange lime wedges around platter.

* Pad Thai sauce: Whisk together 1/4 cup fish sauce, 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, 1/3 cup

granulated sugar, 1/3 cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon grated lime rind and 1 teaspoon paprika.

* To roast peanuts: Put peanuts on baking sheet. Roast in oven at 350 degrees F. until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Allow cooling before chopping.

* To roast and grind dried red chiles: Put 10 small dried red chiles on a baking sheet. Roast in oven at 350 degrees F. just until slightly darkened, about 4-5 minutes; allow cooling to room temperature. Break apart each chile and discard seeds and stems. Put chiles in spice grinder or small food processor and process until finely ground (One tablespoon dried red pepper flakes may be substituted.)

[[In-content Ad]]