Last post, we learned how to make our own tamarind "water" or purée. This can be used to make tangy tamarind chutney, accented with ground cumin, perfect for dipping samosas, or any number of curries, from Ayam Sioh to Dhansak. My #1 thing to use it for, though, is Pad Thai. I have been using this recipe for years, although since having children, many of the ingredients have gone out the window. A word about Pad Thai. I have heard many unkind things about this dish over the years - that it's not "real Thai food", that it's just Chinese noodles with Thai seasonings, that it's use as a "yardstick dish" to judge a Thai restaurant is unfair. All of this may be at least partly true - but it tastes so good, I don't care!
Hate prep? Have children, and make them do it for you!
Although you may need to factor snacks into your quantities...
"Bare Bones" Pad Thai
1 pkt wide rice noodles (200g)
3 Tb tamarind purée
3 Tb fish sauce
2 Tb palm sugar, gratedOil e.g. peanut, rice bran
Prawns (about 12)
Garlic - to taste
Vegetables (one large bowlful)
Chopped peanuts, perhaps 1/3 cup?
Soak noodles in hot water until al dente. Drain and set aside. Mix tamarind, fish sauce and palm sugar in a small bowl.
Heat a wok to smoking point. Add oil, drizzling around the sides. Add prawns and cook over high heat until just pink. Remove and set aside.
Add another splash of oil and stir-fry garlic for 30 seconds.
Add veg and cook until just tender. (Note: These should really be julienned, but the kids' knife skills have a way to go.)
Add noodles. Mix well.
Push noodles up one side of the wok. Add a little oil in the base, crack the eggs in and scramble lightly. When just set, mix into the noodles and vegetables.
Add your sauce with your lovely home-made tamarind purée. Stir-fry until well combined. Very important: taste a noodle. There should be a balance between sweet, sour and salty flavours. If one predominates, correct with a little more of the others, to create a harmonious taste. If it needs more sweetness, I just add a bit of white sugar, rather than pausing to grate palm sugar. If you can't taste anything: add more of all three sauce elements.
Add prawns and most of chopped peanuts (reserving a little for garnish).
Serve, topped with peanuts (plus chopped coriander and a lime wedge if you have). Despite all the cut corners, the home-made tamarind really lifts the whole dish. If you rely on Thai restaurants to get your fix, or if you buy those "Pad Thai kits" from the supermarket, please give this a try - you won't look back!