Tiny #Kitchen, #Culinary Mission: #PadThai

Using the previous tips for making rice noodles, the Pad Thai sauce, and prepping all the portions of the Pad Thai, we can make the full dish.

Ingredients

  • 7 oz prepared Banh Pho rice noodles
  • 1 batch Pad Thai sauce
  • 3 tbsp + 1 tsp peanut oil
  • 5 oz diced firm or extra firm tofu
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oz crushed peanuts (separated into 2 oz and 1 oz parts)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped into small segments for the base and with leaves cut in half
  • 5 oz bean sprouts (separated in to 2 equal parts)
  • Lime juice

Instructions

  1. Add 3 tbsp of the peanut oil to a wok or large pan. Heat on high until almost smoking.
  2. Add the tofu and fry for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to stir frequently so it fries evenly. Adjust the heat if necessary now as it will affect your timings later if they are off.IMG_20140825_202709
  3. Add the garlic and fry for about 15 seconds – it should just start browning.IMG_20140825_202740
  4. Add the onion and cook for about 15 seconds – it should turn translucent.
  5. Add the chili flakes and stir quickly for about 10 seconds.IMG_20140825_202842
  6. Add the rice noodles and stir while frying 1-2 minutes, or until texture has slightly softened.IMG_20140825_203043
  7. Move everything to a side of the wok/pan and add the remaining teaspoon of peanut oil to the empty space. Add the eggs there and fry in the oil until the eggs set.IMG_20140825_203131
  8. Scramble the eggs and cut into small pieces and fold in to noodle mix.IMG_20140825_203332
  9. Add the sauce and stir, continuing to cook until the noodles are fully cooked.
  10. Add the small green onion segments, 2 oz of peanuts, and half the bean sprouts. Cook about a minute or until vegetables just start to wilt, then turn off the heat.IMG_20140825_203532
  11. Add the remaining peanuts, bean sprouts, and green onion leaves. Quickly stir for about 30 seconds.
  12. Add lime juice to taste and serve, letting people add lime, sugar, fish sauce, or chili flakes to their dish as necessary.IMG_20140825_204627
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Tiny #Kitchen, #Culinary Mission: #PadThai Prep

One key to a lot of Asian street food is the ability to work quickly. Many of these street vendors are competing with others, and that competition forces recipes that are both delicious and can be made incredibly quickly. This phenomenon also explains things like why you see such high quality pizza at such relatively affordable prices in a place like New York, but less so in other parts of the world. But I digress.

For a recipe like Pad Thai where you are working with such high heat, you have to work fast, or you will very quickly overcook or burn your ingredients. One way to do that is to do all of your prep work upfront. You will often see the Thai food masters able to whip up exactly what they need mostly by look and feel, though for us mere mortals, we need to measure things out in advance to know they will come out right when working this quickly.

I like to create a system where ingredients that I will put in together are near each other so I am ready to simply pick them up and drop them in, going down a line. The order I will be cooking things in is:

  1. Frying the tofu
  2. Frying the garlic
  3. Frying the onion
  4. Frying the chili flakes
  5. Frying the noodles
  6. Frying the eggs
  7. Mixing in the sauce
  8. Mixing in some bean sprouts, some peanuts, and the chopped stalks of green onions
  9. Mixing in remaining bean sprouts, peanuts, and green onion leaves

First, prep the tofu. Try placing some weight on your tofu and placing it between paper towels. You want to start with firm tofu, and remove any moisture possible from it before frying. Once as much moisture as you can get out has been removed, cube your tofu. Pick your desired shape, remembering that the thinner you go, the crisper it will be. I like rectangles that are about 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch by 1/8 inch.

 

Next mince your garlic. I use a healthy dose of about 1/3 head of garlic, or about 5 cloves. To remove the skin easily and to make chopping easier, press the side of your knife down against the garlic first. The skin will come right off after that, and the garlic will have a more flat surface for easier cutting.IMG_20140825_194739

 

To cut the onion, take the skin off, and cut off any stem that might be on the top. All you need to do is cut thin slices in one direction from pole to pole – the onion will then fall apart into tiny slices on its own. Here is a shot of the onion on top and minced garlic below:

IMG_20140825_195613

 

Next, measure out 1 tbsp of chili flakes. I just keep it on a spoon so it is ready to go. I also crack 3 eggs in a cup so I can simply pour the cup in when necessary.

Normally to prepare the peanuts, I would put them in a food processor, or even put them in a ziplock bag and bang them with a hammer. Unfortunately these tools were not in my arsenal in the tiny kitchen – so I crushed them by hand. It is tedious, but simply apply pressure to the center of the unsalted peanut and it will crack into several pieces.

IMG_20140825_195609

 

For the green onions, begin by chopping off the white root. Then chop the stalks off below the leaves. Cut the stalks into 1/4 inch segments and set aside, then cut the leaves in half.

IMG_20140825_201919

 

This prep work is the time consuming aspect of making Pad Thai. Stay tuned for tomorrow where we put everything together, and see how having everything ready to go is so helpful!

Tiny #Kitchen, #Culinary Mission: #PadThai #Sauce

When making Pad Thai, a critical step is creating the sauce. You want to balance flavors perfectly between sweet, sour, spicy and salty. If you are like me and enjoy spicy food more than most, you will want to make sure to not go too far with the spice and add later to your liking. It is common in Thailand to have all of these flavors represented in some way as condiments so you can adjust dishes to your liking. Without further ado, here are the key players in our sauce:

The Salt: Fish SauceIMG_20140826_133633

Fish sauce derives its saltiness from the anchovies in it. It is a savory sauce that really adds to the complexity of the Pad Thai.

The Sour: Tamarind PasteIMG_20140826_133501

Tamarind paste is made from the pulp of tamarind fruit. It is an acidic fruit that adds a sweet-sour component to our sauce.

The Sweet: SugarIMG_20140826_133515

Unfortunately, the tamarind is not sweet enough to provide true balance to the sauce. For that, we need to add sugar until the balance is just right.

The Heat: Red Chili FlakesIMG_20140826_133549

The heat in this sauce comes from chili flakes. I actually don’t add these in at this stage, as I like to fry the flakes slightly in oil when making the sauce to help release their flavor. I generally only add about 1 tbsp of flakes when cooking, as that seems to be the amount other people like. Remember – you can always add more to your individual plate at the table.

Making the sauce

The key to the entire process is balance, and tasting as you go to get the proportions right. To start, measure out about 3 tbsp fish sauce, 3 tbsp tamarind, and 2 tbsp sugar. Mix well and you should have a slightly viscous sauce. Now taste, adding whichever flavor you feel is lacking in your sauce, then mix and taste again until it is balanced to your liking. You should end up with a sauce like this:

IMG_20140825_195606

The great thing about this process is everyone has different tastes, but you can account for them here. It also helps refine your pallet to figure out how to balance different flavors against each other, particularly in a sauce like this with so few ingredients where each provides such strong flavors.

Tiny #Kitchen, #Culinary Mission: #Thai #BanhPho #Rice #Noodles

Our next #adventurous meal is #PadThai! The biggest difficulty in making good Pad Thai is that all of the ingredients must be added to a hot cooking pan in a very short period of time, or else some ingredients will overcook. So there is a lot of preparation that must be done ahead of time, before you even turn on the stove. The preparation that will take the most time (but not effort) is the rice noodles, so we will start with that.

In case you aren’t familiar with cooking rice noodles (or rice sticks, as the packaging may call it), they are very different from your typical wheat flour pasta. Texture, taste, and shape are the more obvious distinctions, but they must also be prepared very differently. For our Pad Thai, we made sure to buy dried Banh Pho rice noodles.

Boiling water is too violent for rice noodles, which are much more delicate than other pastas.  Instead, you use lukewarm water for a longer period of time.  Fill a large bowl or pot with your noodles first, then add warm tap water until they are completely submerged.  Set it aside, because you’re going to leave it for about 40 minutes while you handle other preparation, or until the noodles feel flexible but still extra al dente. That is to say, the noodles will easily bend, but will still feel too hard to eat.   This is because the noodles will continue cooking when you fry them later, so you don’t want to fully cook them now. IMG_20140825_194435

 

At this point, you will want to quickly drain the noodles to prevent further cooking. Here is the final product:
IMG_20140825_195603

#Thai Flat #Rice #Noodles with #Broccoli

Here is a recipe we adapted from vegetariangastronomy.com.

Ingredients

  • 10 oz flat rice noodles
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, washed
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil for coating pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (about 10-12 leaves)
  • 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1-2 tsp chili sauce (e.g. sriracha)
  • 2 tsp corn starch

Instructions

  1. Cut the broccoli into medium sized florets. Mince the garlic. Dice the onion in to large pieces. Roll the basil in to a cigar shape and roughly chop.
  2. Prepare the sauce by whisking the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, chili sauce, and corn starch until the corn starch is completely dissolved.
  3. Cook the rice noodles according to the package (generally this involves putting the noodles in a pot of hot water for a few minutes, followed by cooking in boiling water for only a few minutes). Rice noodles cook fast, so be very careful not to overcook!
  4. Once the noodles are cooked, strain them and coat with a bit of vegetable oil to ensure the noodles don’t stick together.
  5. Add the sesame oil to a wok and heat on medium-high until a splash of water sizzles.
  6. Add the garlic and fry for about 15 seconds.
  7. Add the broccoli and onion and cook until vegetables are soft and cooked.
  8. Turn the heat down to medium, then add rice noodles and sauce. Mix frequently until sauce begins to thicken and coats everything.
  9. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and mix to combine. Serve hot.

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