I am in love with Asian cuisine...doesn't matter much were it comes from, I want some! Tonight I became very heart sick for one Asian cuisine very dear to my heart...Thai.
There is just SOMETHING about great Thai food. No question about it, Thai food has quite a large fan base. Even in the most obscure, tiny towns in the United States...there is a Thai eatery. I'm glad for that as I travel so much, but it also helps me know that I am NOT alone in this love and should I decide to make it for myself rather than go out, I will most assuredly have the means to make myself a great mess of FABULOUSITY right in my OWN home!
I went straight to work finding a Thai grocer in Oklahoma City. It was a snap. When you google "Thai grocer" with my zipcode two well known places pop up straight away. If you read reviews they are mixed for both. I of course went to both and called ahead, making sure they carried the things I needed. Super Cao Nguyen Market by FAR was the larger of the two places. But I quickly discovered when you have a small list, more is NOT always "better". I was only able to find three things that were actually ON my list, I of course bought things that weren't. They have a large selection of fresh meats, including live catfish, crab, oysters and lobster...the Sprout was VERY entertained. Alas...I knew I would have to check out the other market. I spent over an hour and a half in Super Cao and couldn't find the stuff I needed for my dinner plans tonight. I was super bummed... So I left with only my rice stick noodles, bean sprouts and lemongrass... I bought the FROZEN lemongrass because all their fresh lemongrass (and all the other veggies) looked PRETTY sorry... *sigh*
I meandered my way to Chinatown Supermarket the next morning. It was smallish for a grocer, but they SURE know how to make the most of a small space! They had SO much more fresh produce than Super Cao did and....the people working there spoke English as well as Spanish, Chinese, Hmong and Korean. I was super dooper impressed. I was able to find my salted radish, Srirachi sauce fixings, chive, tamarind concentrate, Thai chili peppers...and of course OTHER things that weren't on my list that I did NOT see at the other place. Plus...and this is SUPER important to me...I got MORE stuff from Chinatown and spent LESS money....love it when that happens! They had the same great variety of fresh meats in the meat case and fresh catfish, blue crab, oysters, etc. I'll be going back there for all my Asian cooking needs. They have it all, sell it at a fair price and I can ask ANYone a question in there and they ALL know the answer be it a stock person, the lady selling ready made food at the front or the peeps on the registers. Nice!
I searched high and low for the PERFECT recipe for Pad Thai. I am a purist at heart...if I order it in a restaurant, I know I can make it at home. I have a great uncle that permanently lives in Thailand and has for decades, so this was another challenge...without Uncle Jerry's help..lol...find an authentic recipe. I of course found this BEFORE I shopped, always shop with a list people... The place I found the recipe was a website that came up in a Google search (can you tell I love Google??) called Import Food.
Their site is amazing. Not only can you buy all the things you need to make whatever recipe you are eying up, but they have VIDEOS of street vendors in Thailand makin the stuff right before your eyes so you can match techniques and methods NO problem. Sadly, I didn't have time to watch them with the Sprout pulling at my leg...but the videos aren't going anywhere and I am always going to love Thai food. Check them out if you have time...
The recipe I used for the Pad Thai was a pretty straightforward, no frills recipe. I had all my ingredients...I was ready to go... I read through the recipe a couple of times because there were some things that had to be done ahead of other elements, like the soaking of the rice stick noodles. This got me into a sticky situation. The recipe on the website said to soak them for only 15 minutes. The bag they came in clearly stated for Pad Thai the noodles needed to soak for 20. I assumed that the less they soaked the more Pad Thai sauce they would soak up. Not so. This is a flash fry type of meal nearly from start to finish. Frying one element, removing it from the wok, adding more oil and frying the next...removing that when it is finished...you get the picture. So, after I was done and my noodles felt...a bit firm (to be kind...) I was disappointed that I didn't follow bag directions rather than the internet recipe. Trial and error is a wonderful thing though... This is the ONLY element of the recipe that didn't turn out perfectly. This is a keeper and I'm certain I'll be making it again soon.
My Pad Thai
I followed the recipe exactly, only leaving out things that are considered garnish or merely "nice to have" in the dish. Pad Thai, for the average Thai with a lower to middle income, is largely a vegetarian dish. If you can AFFORD the shrimp or the tofu, it is a great thing to have. But if you can afford that in Thailand...you can afford to get Chicken instead. I knew my husband wouldn't want the shrimp or tofu called for, so I omitted it with no regrets. It called for garnishing with peanuts and fresh lime as well...but my Mister isn't a fan of nuts in his Thai, so I omitted the peanuts as well. Honestly, I didn't miss any of the things I left out. The sauce recipe for this is a DEAD on match for a very popular Thai place I had Pad Thai when I was in Alabama a couple months back. It hit all the right places in my mouth and in my belly.
I would recommend this recipe to a lover of Thai or someone that just thinks they MIGHT like Thai. I believe anyone could cook this recipe, even someone with only "beginner" level cooking skills. The recipe was VERY easy to follow. But, if you feel lost when you look at the recipe...hey, there is a VIDEO you can watch! The recipe offers a perfect, clear example of the flavors that Thai cooking has to offer and Pad Thai is a staple on every Thai restaurant's menu. Start teaching yourself Thai with this dish and you'll be opening up a whole new world of spectacular smells, flavors and eye candy in your own home in NO time!