I had never eaten Thai food before I went to Thailand, and I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if the flavors were spicy or cheesy or if they used noodles or rice or pasta or tortillas. Really, its completely sad how little I knew. I had heard about this thing called “pad thai” running around the airwaves before we left, but had no idea what it involved. Not being a fan of seafood, I was actually pretty nervous that Pad Thai centered around fish and shrimp, or other unrecognizable things with eyes and heads on them. I had this vision of sitting down in my first Thai restaurant, nervously ordering Pad Thai, and being handed a plate full of steaming shellfish mixed with greasy noodles and the faint smell of cat food. And this wasn’t helped by Jeff’s stories of greasy noodles swimming in spicy fish sauce from his terrible experiences at Thai restaurants in the U.S.
When the five of us friends (three of our friends from the states joined us in Thailand) sat down at our first restaurant on the day we arrived in Thailand, we closed our menus, held our breath and ordered Chicken Pad Thai. It was AMAZING! Apparently this Pad Thai thingy comes with noodles, a yummy sauce, moist chicken, tons a veggies, and angel kisses.Yum.
When we arrived in Kanchanaburi, there was a sign right next to our guesthouse that advertised Thai cooking classes, so I convinced my friend Brittany to tag along with me to a class. For the second time, we completely lucked out and ended up being the only ones in the class with a fantastic teacher, Mickee. Mickee is from a Thai family that moved to Southern California, where she grew up and (funny enough) she went to school at SDSU! But she moved back to Thailand YEARS ago and loves cooking and teaching. It was so great being taught by someone who has an understanding of both Thai and American cultures. It made the instruction incredibly easy and complete for us overly-eager cooks!
Alright, enough chatter! Here we go with our very own Recipe Sunday, Thai style! (Note: This bowl contains ingredients for all of the dishes we made that evening, including Tom Kha Gai, a Thai soup.)
The first thing you need to know about Pad Thai is that it is super simple. There are very few ingredients and only a few steps. The second thing you need to know about Pad Thai is that you can mess it up really easily if you don’t move fast. Not that I would know…
Mickee told us to make each Pad Thai serving individually instead of all together because the seasonings work much better this way, so all of the ingredients below are measured for one person. Also, all of the ingredients are approximate and measured by hand, as in, you’ll need a handful of grated carrots and a handful of bean sprouts for every one dish. Lastly, all of your Thai dishes can be modified to taste and preference, so learn if you like spicy or sweet or sour and modify your dishes accordingly.
Ok, first, you’ll need a large heated wok and some oil. I *think* we used peanut oil. Here’s Mickee getting her cook on, and all of the images below are from Mickee demonstrating how to cook the dish. After we watched her, we tried it on our own. Also, I’ve added two great blogs at the bottom of this post that have a lot of great additional information about cooking Pad Thai. Check them out!
You’ll also need to dice some little red shallots. You’ll saute these in oil first, and you could add a minced garlic clove if you’d like as well.
Saute over medium heat in a large wok until they turn slightly brown. Don’t burn them like some people would (not me of course…).
This is the important part, so pay attention. Crack your egg into the onion and garlic.
Then quickly scramble it up, let it cook for a few seconds. Put the egg/onion mixture to the side of your pan and let it sit while you cook the noodles.
Pad Thai noodles are long and flat rice noodles. Again, you’ll need about a handful for every serving. Add the noodles to your wok, which is still at medium heat.
Immediately add 4 large tablespoons of fish sauce (A note on fish sauce: it smells disgusting, but it actually tastes like a really good soy sauce when cooked. Don’t be scared like I was!), 2 tablespoons sugar, and about 2 tablespoons of lime juice. You can skip the lime juice and just serve each dish with a slice of lime as well. Cook the noodles until they are soft – only about three minutes. Also, depending on how spicy you like your food, add some dried red pepper flakes.
Add your beans sprout, carrots, and chives and mix everything together well. There is no need to cook the veggies – just heat everything up and dump it onto your serving dish. This all moves very quickly!
Ta-DA! I think the entire process took less than five minutes. Talk about a fast dinner! You can add chicken, just cut it up into small pieces and cook it at the very beginning before the onions. Shrimp is also a popular add-in if you’re into that kind of thing (weirdos), or crushed peanuts as well. Thai food is all about adjusting dishes to your own tastes, so play with the spices and flavors until you get yours just right.
Mickee’s Pad Thai
(All ingredients are for one serving)
2 or 3 tablespoons red shallots
One garlic clove, minced (optional)
3-4 tablespoons peanut oil
One handful Pad Thai rice noodles
4 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice (optional) or a slice of lime to garnish
One handful of grated fresh carrot
One handful bean sprouts
Half handful Chinese chives, chopped
Crushed peanuts (optional)
Dried red pepper flakes (optional)
Heat up a large pan or wok over medium heat. Heat oil and cook shallots until fragrant. Add egg and quickly scramble until cooked – push all ingredients to side of pan. Quickly add noodles, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice if desired. Cook until noodles are done (about three minutes). Add carrot, bean sprouts, chives, red pepper flakes, and peanuts – keep things moving and add quickly! Mix well and heat through for about one minute, then transfer to plate and serve.
I also found a number of great recipes on Pad Thai as an added resource to everyone, so check out these links:
Pad Thai for beginners: Chez Pim (great instruction!!)
Advice from a Street Vendor : Thai-Blogs.com
Lastly, I don’t remember or have the name of Mickee’s cooking class so all of you can join her one day when you’re in Thailand. The best I can tell you is that we stayed at the VN Guesthouse and Mickee’s class is right next door. Definitely stay at the VN Guesthouse in Kanchanaburi, without a doubt. It was the best place we stayed at in all of Thailand! Ask for a room floating on the River Kwai. Yes, you just read that correct. ON the River Kwai. Like I said, this place rocks!
Happy Easter everyone and let me know how your Pad Thai turns out!