Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Your Pad (Thai) or Mine - S9E20

One of my favorite things about Good Eats was the exposure to recipes I would never imagine cooking at home. Case in point, Pad Thai. When we go out to eat at Thai restaurants Pad Thai is almost always on the table, with Panang Curry (Kaeng phanaeng), Three-Flavors Fish (Pla sam rot) and Crab Fried Rice (Khao phat pu). And what better to top off a spicy Thai feast than some sweet and creamy Thai Iced Tea (Cha yen), Thai Iced Coffee (Oliang) or an ice cold bottle of Chang Beer, but we'll cover making those another time.

So, what better for our first culinary experiment than Good Eats Pad Thai (Season 9, Episode 20).  Our resident Thai* pointed out that this was a very Americanized version of Pad Thai, but you've got to start somewhere!

Off to the market we went, in search of ingredients from a far off land!  We were mostly successful, but salted cabbage and dried shrimp eluded us, so we substituted fresh shrimp and left out cabbage altogether (the lack of these ingredients may have contributed to the final taste of this recipe).  You can find a breakdown of our costs and where we located our ingredients at the bottom of this post.

6 ounces extra-firm tofu, not silken
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1-ounce tamarind paste
3/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 ounces rice stick noodles
6 ounces Marinated Tofu, recipe follows
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup chopped scallions, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salted cabbage
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
3 ounces bean sprouts, divided
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped, divided
Freshly ground dried red chile peppers, to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges

Let's get cookin'!!!

Our first step was to boil a bit of hot water in the handy dandy electric kettle: Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp 1.7-Liter Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle***.  We poured a cup of this over the 1 oz. tamarind paste and the rest over the 4 oz. rice noodles.  Next we mixed the 2T fish sauce, 2T grated palm sugar and 1T rice wine vinegar in a small bowl.

Then, as AB** suggests, we did a bit of mise en place, which you can see below.  Pictured from left to right, top then bottom: rice noodles, tamarind paste in water, eggs, peanut oil (yellow), fish sauce/palm sugar/rice wine vinegar (green), green onions (red), garlic (blue), peanuts, marinating tofu, bean sprouts and limes.

Although Naris does own a wok, our kitchen is quite overloaded and we weren't able to locate it, so in place we use a saute pan with high sides.  In to that we added 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and heated it until shimmering, then in went the marinated tofu (which had been chopped in to 1" by 1/2" strips) and the shrimp.  Once the tofu and shrimp were done, out they went, to be added in later.

Another tablespoon of peanut oil went in to the hot pan, as did the green onions and garlic, which were cooked for 15 seconds until softened.  Then in went our beaten eggs.  Once the eggs setup (about 20 seconds), they were scrambled and it was time to begin building our glorious dinner.

Back in went the rice noodles, then the tamarind and fish sauces.  Since we weren't using a wok, it took a few minutes to get the sauce soaked in to the noodles.  Also, our noodles has been soaking for about 15 minutes before we added them, so they were almost mushy.  Note to self, next time drain noodles after 5 minutes!

Once the sauce was integrated with the noodles, the bean sprouts and peanuts went in to the pan.  AB's recipe doesn't specify the amount of bean sprouts to use, so we just went with a nice sized handful, and that worked nicely.  You can see Mr. Blurrycam's capture of our pan handling skills below:

Now that everything had come together, it was time to eat!  We plated up the Pad Thai and topped it off with some additional peanuts and a squirt of lime juice and dug in!

Our out of pocket for this recipe was $29.14, but we didn't use all of every ingredient so to repeat it we would only need to spend  about $9 for new ingredients.  We got 4 servings out of the recipe, if you served this as a side dish, you could certainly stretch this to 8 servings.

The verdict!

Jesse: Considering Pad Thai at our local restaurant is $9.95 and the taste is far superior, I would vote to leave this recipe to the professionals.  Our noodles were over cooked, the flavor was too muted and I missed the dryness of restaurant Pad Thai.

Tally: Restaurants 1, Home cooking 0

Naris: Now that we have a handle on how to make this, and if we can locate the wok, I think that this recipe would be better next go around.

Tally: Restaurants 0, Home cooking 1

À tout à l’heure!

Well, I know my inaugural post has been lengthy, so I will stop here.  I hope you had fun reading about our culinary adventures, tips, tricks and conclusions.  And I hope that we've inspired you to try your own culinary experiments.

Until we cook again,

99 Ranch (local Asian market):
1lb roasted peanuts - 1.79
24 fl ozFish Sauce - 1.29
2 limes - 0.87
green onion bunch - 0.49
palm sugar - 1.99
soy sauce - 3.69
med firm tofu - 0.99
bean sprouts - 0.99
peanut oil - 4.69
14 oz rice stick noodles - 1.49

Whole Foods:
tamarind paste - 4.99
shrimp (fresh) - 5.09

Had on hand:
garlic ~ 0.15
2 eggs ~ 0.63
rice wine vinegar - cost unknown
chinese five spice powder - cost unknown

Unable to locate/left out:
salted cabbage
dried shrimp
thai peppers (left out on purpose to keep this mild)

*Naris :)
**Alton Brown, host and creator of Good Eats --> Alton's Blog
***This kettle is one of the most utilized appliances in our kitchen, it features variable temperature control, perfect for tea, coffee or boiling water.  Saves us from turning on the stove just to make a cup of hot water, you wouldn't heat up the oven to make one piece of toast, so why waste energy heating up the stove for one cup of water?!?!  And heats up almost 2 liters of water to start a broth or pasta pot with.  It is highly recommended!


  1. It certainly looks pretty. The Blurry cam shot probably needs to come down on the resolution since it was the only shot to take a while to load.

  2. What a coincidence: Ian & I had pad thai last night! We usually make it ourselves, though after having pad thai delivered to our house for $10 per person (tax & tip in there too) ($7.50 at the restaurant) in under 30 minutes, it's definitely a recipe we're willing to pay the restaurants for. Especially since it's a lot of ingredients to corral for one dish. Except the times when I want chicken AND shrimp in my pad thai =)

  3. Wow, that is funny! I agree, there are a crazy number of ingredients for a weeknight dinner. If we try this again, it'll probably be a weekend or special occasion thing :)