After two visits to Thailand, I have fallen in love with Thai food. It is fresh and simple (my most adored combination), and it is full of flavour. Generally, the Thais don’t use all the mass-produced, gluten-rich products that we often do in our meals. They work with fresh local produce – meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, herbs, and spices. Now that it is spring, and I see beautiful new green shoots and blossoms appearing, I can’t help thinking about the fresh coriander and chillies in a sensational Thai dish that I love, Pad Thai. It’s really popular among tourists, served roadside by many a Thai street vendor, and fairly easy to whip up. It contains ingredients that (aside from the shrimp paste and fish sauce) are not foreign to your average Kiwi home cook, and it doesn’t even take that long to make. Now that we have warm spring temperatures, I feel the time is right to share a rendition of this dish with you.
I’ll take a Pad Thai, please
200g thick rice noodles (no need to specialty shop, you can buy these at most supermarkets)
3 tablespoons of oil (preferably peanut oil)
½ teaspoon of shrimp paste (most often needs to be purchased from an Asian supermarket)
1-3 red chillies, finely diced
400g chicken breast (sliced in to small-medium chunks) or 400g fresh prawns with tails on, peeled and deveined
3 fresh spring onions, finely diced
1/3 cup fish sauce (most often needs to be purchased from an Asian supermarket)
1/3 cup lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ cups fresh bean sprouts
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
¼ cup garlic chives (the dish can survive without these)
¼ cup plain roasted peanuts, chopped roughly
Place the noodles in a heat-proof dish, cover with boiling water and then the bowl with a kitchen cloth. Leave to soften.
Place a non-stick deep dish pan on high heat — a wok works splendidly if you have one.
When things really start to warm up, quickly crack all three eggs in to the pan. Swirl them around until they are only just cooked. Remove the eggs from the pan and set aside, clean the pan ready to re-use. When softened, drain your noodles, rinse briefly under cold water, and toss them with two tablespoons of your oil. Set them aside for later.
Place one tablespoon of oil in your pan and return it to high heat. Add the shrimp paste, making sure that you haven’t used more than the specified amount. Shrimp paste is quite potent stuff. Simmer for a minute or two until fragrant. Throw in your chopped chillies, and your chunks of chicken or prawns, and toss everything about. Cook for approximately three minutes.
Add noodles, sliced spring onions, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Toss everything together, cooking for a further three minutes. Finally, add your cooked egg, bean sprouts, garlic chives, and coriander leaves and toss over high heat for one last minute. Pour everything on to a big beautiful serving dish, and drizzle all the roughly cut peanut pieces over the top. Give everyone a bowl and a fork, and let them tuck in. Deliciousness!
by Nicola Bolton