By. Case D. Fischer
Have you ever traveled to another city and delved into the street food culture there? You will find that every city in every region in every country of the world has their own specialty. In New York it’s Hot Dogs and Gyros, in Mexico City it’s Tacos, in London on Portobello Road you can find street food from all over the world. We get a lot of inspiration from the street food of the world – it’s the ultimate comfort food from different cultures.
Pad Thai is a dish that has become very popular in restaurants and food trucks across the country. It originated in Thailand, and is a simple recipe made with rice noodles, chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. Pad Thai is a fairly modern dish that was purportedly created in the 1930’s to 40’s, and it started out as street food – now it is Thailand’s national dish. I have mentioned our good friend Dr. Foo Swasdee in this column before. She is a chef who also holds a PhD in Food Science from Texas A&M, and she is from Thailand and is a genius for flavors – her cooking philosophy is based on the perfect balance of flavors. Not too sweet, not too hot, not too salty, but a little bit of all of it. She taught us how to make Pad Thai and the secret is, of course, in the sauce.
Pad Thai is a dish based on salty flavors with sweet compliments from other ingredients like sugar or fish sauce. Our Pad Thai sauce is complimented by the sweet and sour flavor of tamarind – thanks to Dr. Foo looking for that perfect balance. It’s very easy to make – just a little bit of stir frying and then toss with noodles and sauce. There have been many adaptations to the original Pad Thai dish that include adding your own favorite toppings like cashews, or varying the spice level with different kinds of peppers. You can also change it by using spaghetti noodles, spiralized squash noodles, brown rice noodles, or kelp noodles instead of rice noodles. The most important thing is to make it your own – we are here simply to inspire you to try something new.
Now, don’t forget that we have our very own Thai chef right here in Fredericksburg at August E’s. August E’s has long been a favorite of our family and was a wonderful place to take our kids when they were little to expose them to different types of food. Chef Leu was always ready and willing to accommodate their requests, and now that they are grown, they love to go for Thai food and Sushi. So this recipe is definitely not recommended to replace a visit to that wonderful restaurant for some of Chef Leu’s delicious menu items on Thai Tuesday, but if you are staying in and fancy a quick and easy Pad Thai dinner – this week’s recipe is for you.
Dr. Foo’s Tamarind Pad Thai Sauce (or any pad thai substitute)
4 oz uncooked thick rice noodles (linguini style)
½ lb uncooked small/medium shrimp, peeled (or beef or chicken)
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
½ cup bean sprouts
2 tsp lime juice (optional)
Chopped peanuts/cashews (optional)
1. Cook noodles according to package directions
2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat sesame oil and add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turns pink. Add sliced onions and red bell peppers. Cook until onions and pepper soften. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in garlic. Stir for 25-30 seconds.
3. Reduce heat to low. Add in cooked rice noodles and toss with shrimp and vegetable mix. Add in pad thai sauce and bean sprouts and stir well until evenly coated.
4. Serve with lime slices, and top off with chopped peanuts, cashews, cilantro, or chives!