Friday, May 2, 2008

Pad Thai dinner (and recipe!)

Last night I had some friends over for dinner. We had-

Vietnamese vegetable rolls, which we made at the table
Pad Thai
Magic Hat #9, an 'almost pale ale'
Ciao Bella's Blood Orange Sorbet.

Peanuts have been my muse lately. I thought of pad thai and how it's the one dish that tells me more than any other in a new thai restaurant- it's always a good gague of how good the kitchen is. I also have been craving fresh Vietnamese-style vegetable rolls, since we're just approaching warmer weather and better produce. Stewing season is offically over until November!

I found several You-Tube videos showing the process of making the rolls, the best of which is here:
We ended up using thinly shaved carrots, purple basil, spinach, cilantro, thin rice noodles, shrimp (well, everyone but me), hoisin sauce and peanuts. I think I may have a new obession with those rolls- so fresh and simple, and the flavor lingers nicely on the palate.

For the Pad Thai, several months ago I stumbled upon a really solid recipe and the results were quite satisfying. I love the tangy flavor of tamarind so I increased it a bit, and used a bit less garlic than the recipe called for but you wouldn't have known it was missing. The beer had a nice fruity-ness that worked well with the heat of the noodles. I suspect there could be a better pairing out there, but this one was unique and delicious.

And of course, Ciao Bella's blood orange sorbet is the best I've come across- not too sweet, not too acidic and a perfectly refreshing close to the night.

Pad Thai (vegetarian)
Y: 4-6 servings

12oz dried flat rice noodles, 1/4" wide, called 'pad thai' or 'banh pho'
3T tamarind from a pliable block
1c boiling hot water
1/2c soy sauce
1/4c brown sugar (packed)
2T Sriracha (southeast asian chili sauce)
1t garam marsala (anchovy oil)
4 lg. shallots, cut crosswise into very thin slices
1 pkg firm tofu (14-16 oz), cut into cubes and rest on paper towels to remove excess moisture.
1 1/2c peanut or vegetable oil
6 eggs, lightly beaten with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 bunch scallions, cut into 2" piecces and halved
1 garlic clove finely chopped (or more, if you'd like- the original recipe called for 4)
2c thick bean sprouts (1/4 lb)

For the garnish:
-1/2 cup or more of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped- if you can find 'em, spanish peanuts are the best, but be sure to remove the skins after roasting
-lime wedges

Soak the noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened, about 25-30 minutes. Drain them well and leave them in the colander and cover them up with a dampened paper towel.

Meanwhile, make your saucce by soaking the tamarind pulp in the boiling-hot water in a small bowl. Stir it occasionally until softened, which should take about 5 minutes.

Force the tamarind pulp and water through a sieve and discard the seeds and fibers. To this, add your soy sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha and stir until the sugar is disolved.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat until hot- be sure to have a plate with a papertowel on it nearby. Fry half of the shallots over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until golden brown. This will take about 8-12 minutes, with most of the browning occuring in the last minute or two. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them onto the paper towel and allow them to cool- they will get nice and crispy as they cool.

Carefully strain the hot oil to remove any extra bits and set it aside. Give your wok a good wipe with a paper towel, and pour the shallot-infused oil back in. Return the heat to medium.

The next step is frying the tofu, which should be done in two batches to ensure even browning. When the oil is hot- test it with a stray cube of tofu- if it rises back to the surface within 5 seconds, then you're ready- add half of the tofu and fry it, occasionally turning it gently, until golden, which should take about 5-8 minutes. Transfer the fried tofu to paper towels using a slotted spoon, and repeat the process until it's all done.

Carefull strain the hot oil again, and give the wok a good wipe.

To fry the eggs, add 2T of the shallot-infused oil back to the wok and heat it over high heat until it shimmers. Carefully pour in the eggs and swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Then allow them to cook, stirring gently with a spatula, until cooked through. Break them into chunks with a spatula and transfer them to a plate.

Again, give your wok a good wipe, and set the heat to high. When it's hot enough to instantly evaporate a drop of water, add 6T of the shallot-infused oil and swirl it around to coat the sides of the wok. Stir-fry the scallions, garlic, and remaning uncooked shallots until softened, which should take about 1 minute.

Add the noodles and stir-fry, lowering the heat to medium. It helps to use two spatulas at this point to move the noodles around. After 3 minutes, add the tofu, bean sprouts and 1 1/2cups of the sauce. Redue the heat to a simmer and turn the noodles over to absorb the sauce evenly. After about 2 minutes they should be tender and ready. Stir in additional sauce if desired. Add the eggs. Transfer the whole lot to a large, shallow serving dish.

Sprinkle with peanuts and fried shallots, and serve it with lime wedges, cilantro sprigs and Sriracha.

No comments: