In recent months, I have managed to rekindle my love for Asian food after a long period of lackluster experiences with cooking anything related to the Asian continent. For the most part, the success of cooking Asian dishes seems to be dependent on the specifics of local products and produce while the influence of a changing palate - dependent on locally available foods - is also most definitely undeniable.
While Asian dishes were truly a stand-out while we lived in Central America, it all came to a screeching halt when we moved to the US. The recipes that had tasted great before suddenly seemed dull. Some of the products we could readily procure before suddenly became either a challenge or were simply unavailable.
The same holds true for our experience in Europe. The first year of cooking Asian dishes here was marked by repeated failures - to the point where I abandoned my efforts altogether. Nothing - and I really mean nothing - ever turned out the way I was used to. Whatever Asian-inspired or Asian-rooted dish I cooked, it all tasted dull and as though the defining flavor was soy sauce.
Recently, though, I have had success again. Perhaps our palate has changed yet again or, perhaps, I have managed to adapt to the differing parameters imposed by locally available products. Whatever it may be, I finally made another Pad Thai. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite Pad Thai recipe, but it certainly is one of the easiest and quickest while still delivering a nice combination of flavors and textures. As such, it is most certainly deserving of a write-up. As can be expected, the dish is mostly beige in appearance.
1 package of firm tofu
4 Tbs. cornstarch
3 large scallions (or 5 small ones)
4 garlic gloves
½ lb. wide rice noodles (Pad Thai noodles)
1 Tbs tamarind paste
½ cup of hot water
6 Tbs. light soy sauce
2 Tbs. brown sugar
4 Tbs. Siracha
8 Tbs. peanut oil
4 Tbs. chopped cilantro
4 Tbs. roasted and salted peanuts, chopped
handful of mung bean sprouts
½ tsp. Salt
Let’s get started:
Cut the tofu into ¾ inch cubes and put them into a bowl.
Sprinkle the cornstarch over the tofu and toss until all cubes are covered.
In a large pan (large enough to hold ALL the ingredients - I prefer to use a non-stick pan), heat 4 Tbs. of the peanut oil to medium high.
Shake off excess cornstarch and add the tofu to the pan.
Fry until the tofu is a nice golden hue on all sides.
Remove the tofu from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Set aside for now.
Clean out the pan, you’ll need it again.
Clean the scallions and cut into thin slices.
Peel the shallots and also cut into thin slices.
Peel the garlic and chop.
Rinse the bean sprouts under water and drain.
Add salted water to a large pot and bring to a boil.
Once the water boils, add the rice noodles, turn the heat off, and put a lid on.
Let the noodles sit in the hot water for 8 minutes (or according to package directions).
Drain the noodles and immediately rinse with cold water until the noodles are cold.
Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine tamarind paste with the ½ cup of hot water.
Stir and let the tamarind paste dissolve and steep for five minutes.
Now add the soy sauce, sugar, and Siracha to the tamarind water. Stir and set aside.
Add Tbs. of the peanut oil to your pan and heat over medium heat.
Crack the eggs, scramble them, and add a good pinch of salt.
Slide the scrambled egg into the pan and let it turn into a nice flat omelette. Flip once to ensure that both sides are cooked.
Remove from the pan and cut into small pieces.
Set aside and clean the pan yet again.
Add the remaining peanut oil to the pan and heat over medium high.
Add the garlic and shallots.
Fry until translucent.
Now add the noodles, scallions, fried tofu, and bean sprouts.
Combine the ingredients and add the tamarind-Siracha mixture and the salt.
Make sure to stir enough to cover all the noodles with sauce while you heat all the ingredients back up.
Now add the fried eggs, chopped cilantro, and chopped peanuts.
And you’re done!