I love Thai food. I find it’s the kind of food that you get an instant, and very strong, craving for and you just won’t be satisfied until you’ve had jasmine rice topped with a luscious green curry or sticky satay skewers. One of my absolute favourite Thai dishes is Pad Thai, a noodle dish that perfectly combines sweet, salty and sour flavours. I had one of these Thai cravings a few weekends ago, coinciding with Ross trying to shake the tail end of a cold and hankering after some spice so that he could actually taste something. Pad Thai seemed like the perfect answer to both our needs, as you can customise your own bowl after cooking with extra chilli (for Ross) or whatever other flavour you’re craving on that day, or even in that mouthful. In a restaurant I would usually go for prawn Pad Thai, and if you’re the same then just substitute the chicken with a couple of hundred grams of raw prawns and reduce the cooking time slightly. Of course you could also make this a vegetarian dish by swapping the meat for tofu, or lots of colourful veggies.
As with a lot of Asian cuisine, I find it’s easiest to prepare everything before you begin cooking. It’s frantic enough in the last few minutes as it is, and life will be so much easier if all the ingredients are lying out, prepared and ready to be tossed in a hot pan. I know it seems like a lot of effort, but trust me it will be well worth it.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1-2 chicken breasts
200g rice noodles
2 limes, 1 cut into wedges for serving
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
¼ tsp chilli flakes, plus extra to serve
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tsp soy sauce
2 pak choi
4 spring onions
Large bunch of coriander
2-3 tbsp salted peanuts
1 tbsp sesame oil, or vegetable oil such as sunflower or groundnut
1. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces.
2. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Mine required five minutes in boiling water, a plunge into cold water and then drained, but other types will vary.
3. Mix the juice of one of the limes with the fish sauce, chilli flakes, tamarind paste and soy sauce and set aside for later.
4. Slice the spring onions and pak choi and finely chop the coriander, including the stalks. Reserve a few nice coriander leaves for a garnish if you’re feeling fancy.
5. Gently beat the egg and set aside.
6. Crush the peanuts in a mortar and pestle, or in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. Go for a mix of textures, with some very fine and some chunky pieces.
7. Heat the sesame oil in a wok until very hot – the trick here is to have a screaming hot wok to cook in. Add the chicken and brown on all sides.
8. Add the spring onion and pak choi and cook for 2 minutes.
At this point things are getting pretty heated in the kitchen so get someone to open a cold one of these for you…
…you deserve it.
9. Push the ingredients to one side of the wok and pour in the beaten egg. Allow to cook for about 30 seconds and then break into pieces and toss together with the rest of the stir fry.
9. Add the beansprouts, noodles and sauce and mix thoroughly. Cook for 2-3 more minutes and turn off the heat. Mix through the coriander.
10. Serve the Pad Thai in bowls topped with a spoonful of chopped peanuts and the saved coriander leaves.
A plate of optional extras (lime wedges, peanuts and chilli flakes) and a bottle of soy sauce on the table will let everyone enjoy their Pad Thai exactly to their own liking.
And there we go: cravings satisfied.
Until it comes to writing up the recipe…aaaaand now they’re back…