It’s practically tropical out there today! Well, tropical for England. It’s about 17C and the sun is shining, and my goodness, what a difference the sun makes. The world suddenly seems like a better place, although you realize with some horror that you haven’t shaved your legs since last October. People are smiling, the dog hasn’t barked at the neighbourhood cat who likes to venture into our backyard every day, and I exposed my toes on the school run. There are certain things I only want to consume when the sun shines, like barbecued burgers, mojitos, and spicy Asian noodles. I had a craving for pad thai (which conveniently happened at the grocery store) and put together a couple of plates for lunch. My youngest and I dined al fresco today, basking in the temporary sunshine.
There’s something very comforting about pad thai. It’s either the noodles or the scent of coriander and lime, but whatever it is, I could eat a bucketful. If I’m not going for a Thai green chicken curry at a restaurant, pad thai is my alternative, with fish cakes to start. It’s not too hot, it’s incredibly fragrant, and the rice noodles don’t sit in my stomach like a lump of cement like wheat noodles. It’s also a celiac-friendly dish, for all you friendly celiacs.
I love prawns in my pad thai, but any meat works well – or no meat at all. The egg and peanuts make this dish fairly filling; the meat is just sort of an added bonus. It’s also a good way to use up leftover roast chicken. Some of the ingredients look a little exotic, but they should be fairly easy to find at most supermarkets. Tamarind usually comes in a little jar in paste form, but if you happen to live near an Asian supermarket (lucky you!), you can buy it in a block that you break up and soften in some water. Fish sauce shouldn’t be too difficult to get, but if you can’t find it or if you’re vegetarian, you can use light soy sauce (tamari if you need to be wheat-free) in its place. The flavour is completely different, but soy sauce will give you the saltiness you’ll need for the sauce.
As is the case with many dishes, go by your own taste. With pad thai (and most Thai foods), you’re going for a balance of sweet, salty, heat, and sour. If you find that one flavour is dominating, add a little more of the others to balance it out. You can serve this on its own, or with a Thai-inspired salad on the side.
(Serves 2 generously)
- 200g (thick) rice noodles
- 1 Tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
- 1 shallot finely diced, 1 small mild onion, or a small bunch of diced green onions
- 1 finely diced red chilli, de-seeded
- 200g raw shrimps, or cooked chicken, beef, or pork
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
- 1 Tbsp of chopped peanuts
Prepare the rice noodles as per the directions on the packaging. The type I use need to soak for 15 minutes in hot water, so I start the noodles off first before making the rest of the dish. In a small bowl, combine the tamarind paste, sugar, and fish sauce with a couple of tablespoons of water.
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Quickly fry off the shallots until they start to go translucent, then add the chilli. Add the shrimps and cook until they turn pink (or add the cooked meat and fry for 1-2 minutes.) Stir in the beaten egg and quickly stir it in it so that the eggs scramble.
Add the tamarind mixture and let the sauce reduce a little. By now, your noodles should be ready and drained. Add the noodles to the pan and stir together quickly. Garnish with a squeeze of lime (and extra lime wedges), cilantro, beansprouts, and sprinkle the peanuts on top. Serve immediately.