So I tried my hand at Pad Thai this evening, using a recipe, er, method, I found over at ChezPim. Pim's method calls for combining a number of the ingredients into a pre-made sauce and cooking the dish for as little time as possible, and only one portion at a time. This is, she tells us, how the street food vendors in Bangkok do it. And, well, Pim is from Thailand, so I'm inclined to defer to her authority on this matter. I made a few derivations, but on the whole stayed true to her instructions, although I'd encourage you to have a look at her version should you decide to try this yourself (if you make this with chicken or tofu, you'll definitely want to consult Pim's tutorial). My proportions here are for one serving, except for the sauce, which makes enough for about three servings. It should freeze well, I figure.
Before I go on to the Pad Thai itself, allow me to offer a little useless trivia: Pad Thai was popularized in Thailand during World War II by then Prime Minister Luang Phibunsongkhram, in part to reduce consumption of rice due to shortages. Fascinating, no? Okay, back to the food...
1/3 cup Ma Kahm (tamarind paste)
1/2 cup Nam Pla (fish sauce)
1/3 cup palm sugar (or 1/4 cup light brown sugar)
Four thai chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups dried rice noodles (often called rice sticks)
Three Tbsp oil (canola, peanut or safflower)
One clove garlic, minced
One extra large egg, lightly beaten
Two Tbsp chives, chopped into one inch pieces
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
Two Tbsp unsalted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
Shrimp, peeled and deveined, enough for one person
Two thai chiles and a lime wedge for garnish
Here's the meez on that, by the way:
Melt the sugar in a saucepan with the tamarind paste, shrimp paste, fish sauce, chiles and paprika over low heat. While this is happening, reconstitute the rice noodles in a bowl of hot water until they're pliable, but not quite soft enough to eat, about 15 minutes, and drain. At this point I put the sauce into an ad-hoc double boiler set-up to keep it warm (I used the lid from the shrimp paste jar to raise the measuring cup off the bottom of the pan):
Place your wok over high heat and once it's almost smoking hot, add the oil, then the noodles and two oz. of the sauce (a 2 oz. ladle comes in handy here). Keep the noodles in constant motion. If they start to stick together or dry out, add a little more sauce. Once the noodles are done, push them to the side and add the egg:
Let the egg cook for about 20 seconds, and stir the noodles back into it. Add the shrimp, garlic and bean sprouts. Stir constantly until the shrimp are cooked, about two minutes. If the mixture looks too dry at any point, you can always add a little sauce. Stir in half of the peanuts and half of the chives, and remove the wok from the heat:
Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with the remaining peanuts and chives, and garnish with the chiles and lime wedge (a little lime juice will finish your Pad Thai off very nicely). Pim said this would be better than any restaurant Pad Thai, and I can tell you, she was dead right. I've eaten more than my share of Pad Thai and this was by far the best I've had. So whip some up and enjoy!