Almost two decades ago, when Chinese food first came to the country; there was a barrage of dark red carts all over the streets. Over the years, the Indian palette was bombarded with MSG coated dishes. Then came Thai food, which some of my friends described as "Kooch Chinese Jaisa" (Something like Chinese), but very spicy. Thankfully, with the internet coming in and the advancement in travel, that trend changed. Today, fine dines and even normal restaurants are trying to replicate authentic Chinese and Thai food.
Coming to the point, I have tried my hand at many a Chinese dishes and with a reasonable amount of success. But I always believed that cooking Thai food is an art. Literally. Achieving the right balance of flavours, the texture and some of the ingredients, which until recently were exotic and purchasing them would mean you pay and arm and a leg. Made sense to actually drop by at the nearest Thai restaurant or takeaway and grab a bite. But then, it left you with a sense of void, a feeling that this same bowl of curry should be replicated at home. It should be!! I waited for an opportune moment.
The World on my plate gave me the opportunity. As I read, spoke, tweeted, I realised there was a dish that is symbolic to Thai street food as the two versions of curries.The choice was made; the dish that would be Pad Thai(pronounced Pud- Tha-e). Strangely for its status symbol is very rarely cooked in Thai homes. It is more of a street food and is available for as less as a dollar. So, I decided to go the entire way and make it with prawns. Personally, I have faith that prawns can single handedly make anything taste good.
The path was not as difficult as I thought. All went as per plan and the rice noodles which I was making for the first time, behaved like a well mannered school kid, turning out just the way I liked. How did it Pad Thai fare? All of us wished there were more noodles that night.
- 1 Pack Glass Noodles (or rice Noodles)- Refer Note 1 below
- 5 tablespoons Pad Thai Sauce- Refer Note 2 below
- 3 teaspoons oil
- 7-8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch, spring onion, sliced
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1 Thai Chilli, finely chopped Or 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 100 grams firm tofu, cut into fine pieces OR use 100 grams of Cottage cheese, Shredded chicken or prawns to suit your taste
- 50 grams, sprouted beans
- 2 teaspoons, oyster sauce
- Juice of Half a lime
- 80 grams unsalted peanuts, crushed.
- Few coriander leaves, for garnishing
- Cook the noodles as instructed on the pack and keep aside.
- Heat oil in a wok and when the oil is smoking hot, add the garlic and saute till it is aromatic.
- Next add the spring onions, chillies, bean sprouts and carrots do quick stirs. Then add the tofu (or chicken, prawn, cottage cheese) and mix well.
- Add the noodles, the oyster sauce and the Pad Thai sauce and give a good mix so that all the vegetables are coated well with the sauce.
- Sprinkle the lime juice and toss the peanuts.
- Garnish with corriander leaves and serve immediately.
- Cooking the rice noodles: Most packs available at super/ hyper markets will have instructions on cooking the noodles. Please follow the instructions carefully, as the rice noodles tend to get squishy very quickly. Incase the pack doesnt have instructions, all you need to do is heat sufficient water to boiling point. Then take it off the heat and immerse the noodles in the water, till they are soft and a bit chewy and not mushy. The rest of the cooking will be done in the wok.
- Pad Thai Sauce: This Sauce is actually the base of this dish and this is what gives the right balance of all flavors. Ready made Pad Thai sauces are available at online gourmet stores and super/ hypermarkets. But, if you like me, prefer making your own seasonings, here is how to make it. Soak tamarind (about the size of a tennis ball) in 100 ml warm water for a few minutes. Discard the seeds and squeeze the juice from the pulp. Add in 2 teaspoons fish sauce (or soya sauce), 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or brown sugar) and 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (or chilli powder). Heat the mixture in a small sauce pan till it simmers. Remove from flame and cool.