Friday, April 11, 2008

A Proustian Moment with Pad Thai

Food is nostalgia. After all, a stale madeleine cookie transported Proust back to his childhood. I believe we all have certain foods that trigger emotions. I believe we all long for food that reminds us of a happy, exquisite, unique moment in our existence. I also know, that for me, trying to recreate that perfect cinnamon roll or meatball or piece of fried chicken is not a frantic grasping for the unattainable. While trying to recreate memories through edible expriences can be a case of the grass is always greener elsewhere, the very act of cooking itself puts one in the moment, through the sensory sensations that explode with it.

For me, Pad Thai is one of those dishes. I fell in love with my husband over a plate of Pad Thai. (Of course the endorphin rush from the large amount of caspaicin in the chili peppers didn't hurt either!) When our favorite Thai restaurant was forced out of business so a new strip mall could be built, I had to find a way to recreate this revered dish.

While I know this isn't a truly authentic version of Pad Thai, I'm okay with that. It reminds me of that date when I first had Pad Thai. I love this dish because it comes together so quickly. I also think it hits every taste button in my mouth.

It looks homey with strands of tangled rice noodles nest cubes of deep-fried tofu, bean sprouts, and a confetti sprinkle of chopped peanut and cilantro. When I take a bite, heat from the dish’s chili flakes spread across the tongue to the upper reaches of my sinus cavities. Then, the sour pungency of fish sauce and lime juice show themselves on my palate, followed by a tiny whisper of sweetness.

Pad Thai

½ lb. rice noodles

¼ cup fish sauce

¼ cup + 1 T. white vinegar

¼ cup + 2 T. sugar

2 T. catsup

1 T. peanut oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 heaping t. dried red chili flakes (This is the equivalent of 4 out of 10 stars. For the true capsaicin addict though, at least a tablespoon of chili flakes is recommended.)

½ lb. peeled, raw shrimp

2 eggs

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

4 green onions, white and green parts chopped

For Garnish:

lime wedges

½ cup peanuts, chopped

fresh cilantro, minced.

Soak noodles in very hot tap water for about 20 minutes. Whisk together fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ketchup in a small bowl. Check noodles, they should be pliable, but not mushy. Drain noodles. Heat peanut oil in wok on high heat. Add garlic and chili flakes, and cook carefully (they can easily burn!) for only a minute or so. Add shrimp and cook until it begins to curl and turn pink. Add noodles. Push noodles to one side of wok, clearing a surface for the eggs. Crack the eggs directly into the wok, allow eggs to set for a few seconds, then scramble with cooking utensil and stir into the noodles. Add sauce to wok. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until most of sauce is absorbed by the noodles, stirring constantly. Add bean sprouts and green onions. Stir fry for one minute more. Sprinkle peanuts and cilantro over Pad Thai before serving. Serve with lime wedges. Makes two, restaurant-sized servings.


Renee and Jana said...

Oh my gosh that looks delicious! I love Thai food SO MUCH, and because I love it I have always been afraid to make it because I may ruin it. I'll let you know how this one turns out...

And thank you for complimenting my hair! You and Diane were the only ones... that makes me love you even more.

Diane said...

Your food styling is amazing in this photo.

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Looks delicious, and I also adore pad thai. It is too bad you weren't blogging in january when I ran the food nostalgia series. this would have been perfect!