Pad Thai at home: let's talk about the sauce
Pad Thai means stir-fried rice noodles cooked in Thai style. Perhaps its multinational origin is behind the popularity of this Bangkok street food, appealing to so many people in the world regardless of their cultural heritage.
Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes to take out. Sadly, it is not easy for me to visit restaurants that serve great Pad Thai. I find its Americanized version sometimes overwhelmingly sweet and sour from a generous use of tomato ketchup and vinegar. That is no no for me and encouraged me to come up with my own recipe. Guess what? It is all about the sauce. If you have ever wondered whether making Pad Thai from scratch is doable, this recipe is for you.
Like Bibimbap, you can mix and match different vegetables and protein of your interest (eggs, pork, etc.) with this Pad Thai sauce. As with other Thai cuisine, fragrant aroma from lemongrass, ginger, and cilantro counters somewhat stinky smell of fish sauce, generating unique umami flavors of Pad Thai. Depending on your preference for spicy and nutty flavors, you can also adjust the amount of red pepper powder and nut butter to your liking.
Pad Thai sauce (4-5 servings)
2-3 tsp Coarse red pepper powder* 1 tsp Lemongrass powder* 1 tsp Soy sauce* 1 tsp Water 1 tsp Sunflower or any nut butter (oil for those allergic to nuts) 2 tsp Fish sauce*
One clove of garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp ginger powder
* Available at any Asian grocery market.
Ingredients (4-5 servings)
One small sweet onion (thinly sliced)
One medium carrot (julienned)
One Chinese eggplant (thinly sliced)
Two sticks of celery (thinly sliced)
A quarter pound of soy bean sprouts (thoroughly washed)
One pound of asparagus (cut into 2-inch sticks)
Half pound of baby portobello mushrooms (thinly sliced)
One red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
A quarter pound of seafood mixture*
Half a bunch of cilantro (thoroughly washed and sliced)
Freshly ground black pepper
*You can buy a package of uncooked, snap-frozen seafood mixture (chopped squid, chopped octopus, scallops, mussels, and shrimps) at any Asian grocery market.
First, you need to defrost the seafood mixture by taking a portion out of the package and immersing it in water. Now it is time to cut all the other vegetables as specified above.
If you are done with chopping and slicing, you are ready to roll now. Heat up a stir-fry pan over a medium high heat with two teaspoons of your favorite oil on the pan.
Once the pan is hot enough, stir-fry the sliced onion first. When they become somewhat translucent, add the julienned carrots to the pan. Stir-fry them with a pinch of salt for a minute or so. Now add the sliced Chinese eggplants. Stir-fry them with a quarter teaspoon of salt until they become cooked down a little. Next, add celery, soy bean sprouts, and asparagus to the pan. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt over the vegetable mixture, mix everything well, and cover the pan. Lower the heat to the medium level and let the water coming out of vegetables steam them for two minutes.
While steaming the vegetables in the pan, rinse and drain the seafood mixture.
When the time is up, open the lid and raise the heat to the medium high level. Add the sliced mushrooms, red bell peppers, and a quarter teaspoon of salt to the vegetable mixture in the pan. Stir-fry it until the mushrooms become cooked down and add the seafood mixture to the pan. Continue to stir-fry everything for one or two minutes until shrimps turn pink. Turn off the heat. Add the Pad Thai sauce and cilantro to the pan. Mix everything well and season the final mixture with salt and pepper to your taste.
Put a portion of cooked rice or rice noodles in a deep serving bowl and serve the vegetable/seafood mixture over rice (noodles). Then, mix them well in a bowl.
Bon Appétit !