I’ve always been partial to Tom Yum Goong, that sour and spicy shrimp soup that expresses the feelings and thoughts of Thailand. I love soup it wasn’t a difficult choice. Then came Dr. Cal Lightman. His daughter Emily once said that Pad Thai is his favourite. At that time began my interest to make the dish.
Tamarind is the most crucial ingredient in pad thai. As I’ve seen in a handful of Travel and Living shows featuring Thai cuisine. The accompanying protein and vegetables may vary according to your personal taste but the sauce strictly requires tamarind. That’s where the sour component comes from.
It reminded me of that time when I was around six or eight when I’d run over to the neighbour’s lawn and pick ripe sweet and tangy tamarind from the ground. Crack the peel and it will reveal a thick, sticky paste like substance that we liked to dip in a bit of white sugar.
That was a long time ago. Now it has become scarce and I’ve always found it ridiculous that I had to go to the supermarket just get myself some. Good thing I found someone who could give me a bag of tamarind for free. Anytime I want. So Pad Thai for lunch it is.
To Make Pad Thai Sauce:
1. Make tamarind paste by mixing 1 cup of wet tamarind with 2 cups of hot water. Mash with a potato masher until the tamarind forms a paste and then strain to get all of the seeds and veins out.
2. Mix 1/4 cup tamarind paste, 1/4 cup palm sugar (brown sugar is a good substitute), 1/4 fish sauce AND chopped chillies. This measurement is to achieve an equally sour, sweet and salty sauce with enough amount of spice you can manage. You may however adjust the taste according to your preference.
150 grams rice noodles
1 medium sized burger patty, cooked then roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried baby shrimps
1 small carrot, julienned
two shallots, peel then chop
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a small piece of ginger, grated
Pad Thai sauce
2 tbsps. of sesame oil (vegetable oil will do)
chopped dry roasted peanuts
cilantro, parsley or in my case a small handful of mint
Cook the rice noodles in boiling water for about 4-6 minutes. Drain then immediately plunge in iced water then drain again. Set aside.
Heat sesame oil in a pan. Sauté the shallots, garlic then ginger until aromatic. Add the baby shrimps. After 30 seconds add the chopped burger patty. Stir fry for about 30 seconds. Season with fish sauce.
Add the rice noodles. Pour enough pad thai sauce to coat all the ingredients. Stir and toss everything, don’t allow the mixture to dry.
Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with chopped peanuts and mint (again, it is preferred to use either cilantro or parsley).
This dish is best eaten while piping hot. If I were given enough time I could’ve have chosen to use shrimp and some scallops instead of the burger patty. A handful of onion leaves would’ve have been a good addition as well. I’d also crack an egg into the pan and scramble it then toss it with the noodles that I pushed aside for a bit. Then perhaps some crunchy bean sprouts and chilli flakes as an additional garnish as well.
The things I missed. Then again, the most important ingredient in Pad Thai is the pad thai sauce so for now I’m good to go.