When asked their favourite cuisine, many people choose Thai (with its rich, very spicy coconut curries, and stir fries with the fresh flavours of chilli, lemongrass, lime and coriander), as they reminisce about street food sellers serving banana pancakes with condensed milk and BBQ fish caught that morning eaten at beach front restaurants on one of the many islands.
For Ash, who spent about six weeks in Thailand, the most quintessential Thai meal is the eponymous noodle dish: Pad Thai. However, having arrived home from Thailand and tried to track down the dish (which when bought for about 50p from a street vendor – or 55p with an egg – is spicy, full flavoured and satisfying), he has generally been disappointed, as it appears that most restaurants in England serve a ‘safe’ and bland option suitable for those with more sensitive palates than those of the Thais. This led him to frequently mention that he wanted to learn how to make a really good stir fry, so (taking the hint) Miranda bought him a ‘Perfect Pad Thai’ lesson at the Angela Malik Cookery School in Acton, which is now sadly permanently closed.
At this time, we were still carrying on a long-distance relationship, with Ash living in London and Miranda in the East Midlands. It just so happened that Ash had booked in his Pad Thai lesson on a day that Miranda ended up in London for a job interview, so she decided to tag along, and we both experienced the expertise of the Angela Malik chefs. (Miranda didn’t get the job in the end – but got a better one a few weeks later, so we must still be able to consider this ‘lucky Pad Thai’!)
We’ve been saying, ‘We must make that Pad Thai again,’ for about four years now and finally dug out the recipe this weekend. We were a little bemused at first at the approximate nature of the ingredients list on the original recipe, but we made it a bit more specific (with a couple of twists of our own) as you can see below. Those who have read the ‘About’ section of this blog may remember the reference to Pad Thai seeming more authentic when eaten out of a takeaway container – hence the somewhat unconventional presentation…
Our ’Perfect’ Pad Thai
2 tbsp oil (we used groundnut)
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
200-300g raw king prawns
‘Handful’ of slightly undercooked rice noodles (for us, this meant three of the little nests in the packet we bought, but put in as much as you like)
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 medium onions, chopped
A couple of handfuls of bean sprouts
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/3-1/2 head of broccoli, cut into florets (you can also cut the stalk into matchsticks like the carrot)
2 birds eye chillies, finely sliced
About 30ml tamarind water
1 scant tsp shrimp paste
Handful (or two) of toasted peanuts
Lime wedges, to serve
1. Heat a wok to high temperature and add 1/2 tbsp oil. Add the meat and fry until cooked, then remove from the wok.
2. Heat another tbsp of oil and add the ‘hard to cook’ vegetables (e.g. broccoli and onions). Add the fish sauce and about half of the tamarind water. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the other vegetables and shrimp paste and allow to cook until vegetables are just about done. Remove from the wok.
4. Heat another 1/2 tbsp of oil. Break in the egg and lightly scramble it, stirring furiously! Add the noodles and soy sauce. Stir fry thoroughly until cooked, adding the rest of the tamarind water.
5. Return the vegetables and meat and combine with most of the peanuts, seasoning with sesame oil. Serve garnished with the lime wedges and remaining peanuts.
Serves 2 generously.
And it was warm enough to eat it outside!
Would we make this again? Yes – in fact, we just did, because it made sense to do so when we still had all the right vegetables and noodles. So it might have taken us four years to get around to it, but hopefully making it twice within the space of a week goes some way towards making up for it! And despite the fact that it creates way too many dirty dishes for such a simple meal, we’ve proven that it’s definitely workable as a mid-week dinner. As far as Ash is concerned, it still doesn’t taste quite like the real thing, and he still hasn’t eaten one alongside a ‘big Chang’ beer, but we still think it’s a passable at-home version.