Pad Thai Mi Mai?
Fucked up some Pad Thai last night, and when I say "fucked up", I mean "ate". In my experience it's very difficult to fuck up Pad Thai (in the traditional sense) if you make it at home, though scrod knows restaurants botch the job left and right. Even those gnarly back of the box recipes that call for a half cup of ketchup taste superior to some of the bland renditions I've ordered in NYC.
(Chicago-style Pad Thai is a completely different story, especially if it comes from Penny's Noodle Shop )
Well, anyway, a few days ago I was in the vicinity of Bangkok Center Grocery and there's some sort of categorical imperative which states that if I find myself within half a block of this humble storefront, I have to go in and what's more, buy something. I walked with a cellophane baggie of dried shrimp and some Golden Boy brand fish sauce, which an old man who was approximating the Thai equivalent of hanging around the pickle barrel insisted was far superior to the brand I've been buying for years. I don't know about you, but I can't just sit around idle when I've got some dried shrimp burning a hole in my freezer. So I hauled out my old friend, Hot Sour Salty Sweet and realized I didn't have half the ingredients the authors consider necessary, but what were we going to do at seven o'clock pm? Not eat? I didn't hear any complaints, not even from the feral young (whose portions were fished out of the wok before they could be tainted with dried shrimp.
Soak 1/2 pound of dried rice noodles in warm water for at least 20 minutes. I suppose any size would work. Mine were the kind that you get in Pho.
Fire up the wok, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or peanut oil, but I hear that substance is too rich for some of y'alls moth eaten coin purses, and anyway, Inky's allergic friend Aeden was spending the night and I didn't want him coming down with a contact high on my watch.) When the oil's hot, add 3 cloves worth of garlic, minced. I don't know if the garlic I was working with last night was Thai elephant garlic or what, but it was GIANT. Rather than stray further afield of the recipe, I obediently chopped up three cloves of the stuff and the results were DEElicious, so if your garlic's dinky, you might want to consider chopping up six or seven cloves. Unless, of course, you're some sort of vampire or vampire lover or something.
Quickly now, because that garlic'll turn to cinders in the blink of an eye, throw in a half package of large cooked shrimp, which you have providently already defrosted and patted dry. Give it a quick stir, and throw in a few ounces of pressed tofu, cut into narrow strips. I know you've got your hands full with that frozen pre-cooked shrimp, so do what I did and use this jive-ass product I originally picked up in a health food store and was later amazed to find at Met Foods. If you can fiiiiind it there, you'll find it a-ny-where!!! Lightlife Smart Strips Chick'n Strips. Could there be a queerer name? (and not in the post-Stonewall, good kind of way.) They taste pretty good though, for what they are.
Given that nothing's raw, go ahead and pour in the three eggs that you've beaten lightly with a pinch of salt. Let them set up and then give them a scramble to assure yourself that you aren't making an appointment with Ol' Doc Salmonella. Dump it into your reserve container and don't worry if it's not going to win any beauty contests. Wipe out the wok with a paper towel to prepare for the next phase of this operation.
Add another 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil to your wok and when it's hot,drain the rice noodles and throw them in there. Stir fry them vigorously (or, if you're sticking to the letter of the way I do things, less than vigorously, and be prepared to tell your children that the brown spots are what make it taste good.) Do this for two or three minutes.
Push the noodles up the sides of the wok to clear a space for 3 scallions, which you've smashed flat with the side of your knife and cut into 1 inch segments. Let them feel the awesome power of your flaming hot wrath for a sec, then stir them into the noodles.
Make a little sauce of
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of soy sauce (you know I never use anything but Kamada Dashi soy)
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
& 1 tablespoon of water.
Drizzle that into the wok and stir! Stir like you've never stirred before!!!
(if you've got picky kids on the premises, here's where to pull out their portions)
Add 1 tablespoon of dried shrimp. (Don't tell my friends at Bangkok Center Grocery, but I think you can skip this step if you don't happen to have any on hand.)
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on top, so this dish will be as sweet as you are (ie. not very, but enough)
Unreserve your egg-shrimp-fake chick'n strip mixture by dumping it in on top of everybody else and putting some elbow grease into it, spoon-wise.
Cut a cucumber in half - save one half for another purpose and cut the other in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a spoon, chop it into crescents, throw it in the wok, give it the briefest of stirs, and turn the whole mess out onto a serving plate.
You can sprinkle it with chopped, dry-roasted peanuts, but we made the supreme sacrifice and didn't, out of respect for our little guest. You can also squeeze some lime juice on there, which we did, but only for the second helping, because the first time around, we forgot.