Get ready to wok your world: Pad Thai

23 Jan

My fondest memory of pad thai is at the floating markets in Thailand.   Floating markets are the traditional Thai way of life for those who live along the river banks with no road access.  I remember dozens of small wooden boats laden with fruits, flowers, vegetables and other produce from nearby orchards, which made a colorful and bustling scene.  During our trip to the market, we spotted a boat that specialized in making pad thai.  I ordered my pad thai and watched as the chef whipped up my dish, stopping only for seconds to rinse off the cooking utensils in the river water (unsanitary much? Who cares!  It was still delish).  

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PRIfessionals only.  This is a complicated recipri.

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I have tried making pad thai SO many times and it never comes out as it did at the floating market.  A very dear thank you to Chez Pim.  Due to her expertise and guidance, I am finally able to make traditional pad thai!  Her recipe was meat-based, so I vegetarianified it.  Also, a huge thanks to my lovely boyfriend and my dear friend Nikhil, who motivated me to be so ambitious in making this recipe, took beautiful pictures and assisted me when I accidentally started a five foot fire.
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First, the basics:
  • The textures and flavors of a proper Pad Thai derive largely from the way the dish is cooked: its quick footloose dance in an ultra hot wok.  That simply means you can’t do many servings at once (2 max).  Else you will end up with oily, sticky noodles unfit for human consumption.
  • Buy a wok!  You can buy this at any Asian market.  No need to buy anything fancy.  I bought mine at Ranch 99 for $9.29 and it worked great (even after I set it on fire)!
Ingredients:  Serves 4.  All price stickers are according to Ranch 99 prices.
  • tamarind concentrate $2.59
  • light (thin) soy sauce $6.99
  • palm sugar $1.19
  • red chili powder
  • dried rice noodle sticks (banh pho) $1.49
  • diced firm tofu $1.29
  • roasted and unsalted peanuts
  • flat-leaf garlic chives (also called Chinese chives) $2.24
  • bean sprouts $0.89
  • pickled turnip (radish) $1.29
  • chopped garlic $1.92
  • oil
  • kosher salt $2.19
  • 2 limes $0.65
  • 15 broccoli florets $0.30
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • House of Tsang Szechuan Spicy Stir-Fry Sauce
  • Trader Joe San Soyaki
  • 4 eggs (1 egg/person)
  1. Season  your wok: BE CAREFUL!!!!  The first time I did this, I started a FIRE in the kitchen.  To avoid starting a fire, do NOT at any point COVER the wok.  Add one cup oil and brush it all over the inside surface.  Heat the wok until it is smoking.  Tilt the wok around to keep lubricating the surface with oil and let it continue to smoke for a few minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and dispose of extra oil.  Pour 1/2 cup kosher salt into the wok and with a paper towel, rub the salt all over the inside surface of the wok.  Throw away the remaining salt.  Wipe the wok clean with a damp towel.  Pour a small amount of oil onto a paper towel and wipe oil all over the inside surface.  The wok should be nice and smooth, ready to let the pad thai dance in it.  *You only need to season the wok once.  It can be re-used several times in the future without re-seasoning it.
  2. Make your personalized sauce: Start by melting one cube of palm sugar on low-medium heat.  Add 1 tsp. each of tamarind, light (thin) soy sauce, TJ’s soyaki, szechwan and red chill pepper.  Taste and adjust flavor by adding sauces until it suits you (remember: pad thai should be spicy, NOT sweet).  Turn off the heat and let rest.
  3. Boil a pot of water. Put the noodles in until the are cooked.  You want them to be a little stiff; if they are too soft, they will turn into mush in the wok.  Strain the noodles and let them cool.
  4. Set up your station with all the ingredients easily accessible near the stove.
  5. Now you are ready to wok n’ roll.  Heat your wok over high heat until very hot, to the point of smoky.  (Remember: only make 1-2 servings at a time & always keep everything moving in the wok so nothing burns.)
  6. Add 3-4 tablespoons oil.  This ain’t no diet food.
  7. Add the tofu, broccoli, onions, garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cook until tofu is light brown.
  8. Add the noodles and about 1/4 cup sauce.  Cook until noodles & veggies are covered in sauce.
  9. Push them to one side of the wok and crack an egg into the middle.  Let it set for 10-15 seconds and then toss everything together.
  10. Add the pickled turnips, ground peanuts, bean sprouts and garlic chives.  Cook for about 1 minute.
  11. Turn heat off and mix everything together one last time.
  12. Serve on a plate with a fresh-sqeezed lime.
  13. To make another serving, give the wok a quick rinse with warm water.  Wipe off excess bits of food with a warm towel and start back at #1.
  • Don’t throw away the egg shells!  Did you know that egg shells are good for your garden?  Crush the shells and add them to your soil to provide calcium to your plants.
  • Don’t throw away the egg carton!  Egg cartons are meant to store fragile things like eggs (duh!).  So save your egg carton and use it to store holiday ornaments or other fragile items.  They are also great to sort and store pocket change, nuts and bolts for your tool area, buttons or any other tiny item.  Finally, if you go to the farmer’s market, bring your empty egg carton with you to transport the new eggs you purchase – the local farmers will surely thank you for sparing them the cost of packaging material.

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this is the wok I bought from Ranch 99 for $9.29


me and my co-chef Nikhil

would not have survived this recipri without these 2

R demonstrating how high the fire was when I attempted to season the wok

sad that I burnt the wok 😦

R successfully seasoned the wok!


fresh veggies

step 2: melting the palm sugar

step 2: personalizing our sauce

step 3

step 4: my station

step 7

step 9

step 10

the chefs taste testing after the first batch




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