When West Meets East

pad thai 3

My Pad Thai – Packed to go

The secret to making a terrific Pad Thai is preparation and individual execution. The most that should be prepared at any given time is one or two servings. To prepare, first mix a good sauce. It’s a combination of sweet from the brown sugar, salt from the fish sauce and sour from the tamarind paste with a finish of citrus.  Each should be in perfect balance with no one flavor overwhelming the other. This is hard to do if you try to add each flavor (sweet/sour/salt) in the wok or pan as you’re stir frying the noodles. You usually end up with noodle muck and a sauce that lacks balance. Instead, mix your sauce ahead of time, adjust it to taste, and then use as needed.
I followed the recipe below from about.com and it was terrific.
Ingredients

·           1 to 1.5 Tbsp. tamarind paste , to taste
·        1/4 cup chicken stock
·        3 Tbsp. fish sauce
·        1 Tbsp. soy sauce
·        1/2 to 1 tsp. chili sauce, OR 1/3 to 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
·        1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
·        3-4 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar

Next I began to assemble and prep my ingredients and put my own spin on a few things: (Each is enough for 2 servings)

·        Rice Noodles (about 8 oz) soaked in warm water until firm but flexible and drained
·        Chicken (6 oz) – cut in thin bite sized pieces and dredged in gluten-free garbanzo bean flour (or use fresh shrimp)
·        Tofu (2 slices) – the extra firm kind – cut in ¼ inch matchsticks
·        Scallions (2 – 3) – cut very thin on a diagonal
·        Dried Shrimp (about 2 tablespoons) coarsely chopped
·        Shredded Carrots (about half a cup)
·        Garlic (1 large clove) – finely chopped
·        Crushed red pepper flakes (a pinch or two depending on how spicy you like it)
·        Canola oil standing by

Garnish

·        1 egg scrambled
·        Snow Peas – a small handful – sliced thin on the diagonal
·        Peanuts – a small handful – roasted and coarsely chopped
·        Shredded Carrots (think I’ll use some next time)

Instructions
Place the wok over high heat, add ¼ cup of canola oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken, stir and cook until just golden on all sides.
Add the tofu, carrots and scallions and stir around for about 30 seconds more. Remove all ingredients from wok and set aside.
Add a bit more oil if needed followed by the noodles and a pinch of salt. Stir for a few moments and add enough sauce to form a small pool for the noodles to “swim” in.
Lower the heat and more gently cook the very al dente noodles to soften them to taste while separating the strands and allowing the sauce to reduce, thicken and be absorbed into the noodle. Add a bit more sauce if needed.
Just before the noodles are cooked to taste, add the ingredients back to the wok and cook for a few moments allowing them too to absorb the sauce. Turn off the heat, place contents of wok onto one or two plates and top with the garnishes. Serve with a wedge of lime.
Chicken and Bok Choy

With wild mushrooms and soba noodles

After the success of the Pad Thai, I decided to embrace my new found confidence and try another Asian inspired dish that was a little less structured. I cooked this dish in a saute pan the same way I would any Italian pasta dish with a sautéed sauce. First I cooked the soba noodles – which are made from buckwheat flour, rich in essential amino acids and antioxidants – in boiling (salted) water until al dente (cooked but still firm) and drained them. I then prepared my ingredients: sliced the chicken into thin, bite sized pieces and lightly floured them; sliced my mushrooms; separated, cleaned, patted dry and sliced the large outer leaves of the bok choy; and assembled the liquid ingredients (chicken broth, sake, rice vinegar, soy sauce and canola oil) within reach of the stove, along with a wedge of orange and some fresh ginger. If this sounds complicated, it’s not – but cooking it did make me feel a bit like an alchemist.

The process begins by sauteing the chicken in a hot pan, quickly followed by the mushrooms and the bok choy. I then lowered the heat, added the garlic and pepper flakes and began to build the sauce. I began adding splashes of all the liquid ingredients (about a small ladle of each) in no particular order, into the pan, mixing them all in the hot oil, along with a squeeze of the orange while the chicken and other ingredients continued to cook for about a couple of minutes until the sauce began to caramelize. I then tasted and adjusted the sauce, added the noodles and stirred, separating them in the liquid. I then turned off the heat, finished by grating the fresh ginger into the pan, gave it another stir and plated the contents onto the dish.
Like the Pad Thai, it’s best to make only 2 servings at once. It takes a very skilled hand and a very large pan to attempt to do more. Besides, here again, it’s the process that’s most important. You can play around with everything else and make it your way.
8 oz of soba noodles – cooked in boiling water (al-dente) and drained
6 oz. of chicken – sliced thin in bite sized pieces and lightly floured
1 head of bok choy – leaves separated, cleaned and dried
1 cup of wild mushrooms (portobello, crimini, shitake) cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or diced fresh chili
Fresh ginger – grated
Please add a comment if you like, or reply to this email if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you.
Add if you’re within driving distance of New Milford, stop by the Green Granary and I’ll whip up these dishes or some other sauté/stir fry creation for you.

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