Monday, February 21, 2011

Chicken Pad Thai

Featured Ingredient: Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts

As with any stir fry dish all the work is in the prep.  Composing the dish is rather easy. One of the key components to achieving authentic Pad Thai flavor is Tamarind Paste. That was my biggest challenge in the recipe.

Chicken Pad Thai

6 oz. package Thai rice noodles
4 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste or 2 or more tablespoons tamarind pulp mixed with flour - see below**
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp Thai sweet chili sauce
2 limes. 1 juiced; 1 cut into 6 wedges
12 oz. skinless boneless chicken breast thinly sliced
Vegetable oil as needed
2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and patted dry
3 tablespoons lightly salted peanuts chopped
1/2 cup scallions thinly sliced
1/8 cup fresh cilantro fine chopped

** For this recipe, I went to 4 stores including a large international market and could not find tamarind paste to save my life.  I found Tamarind drink, soda, pulp... no paste. Here is what it looks like in case you get lucky.

Given this hurdle, I compared other recipes for Pad Thai that use this ingredient. It mainly needs to be dissolved or watered down anyway to be incorporated into the sauce. You are really going for the sour element, not so much the texture.  I found tamarind pulp in the same type of boxes that you would find soy milk. I figured that would be the closest form. It is quite thin when it is poured out.  I heated about a 1/3 cup of juice wtih about two teaspoons of flour, to a boil in a smal saucepan, whiskly constantly until reduced and thickened to about the consistency of gravy. My goal was to make similar a looking and tasting mixture as a watered down the paste as well as flavor profile by reducing the pulp over heat thus concentrating the flavor.  It balanced well with the sweet from the brown sugar and chili sauce, salt from the fish sauce and tang from the lime. So my substitute was success.

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions.  Depending on how fast of a "prepper" you are, don't do this first.  The noodles only have to soak for about 8 minutes.  Soak them until just softened but not mushy. Some packages have you soak in cold water, others want you to soak in boiling water.  So keep this timeline in mind as you prepare your other ingredients.  Prep remaining ingredients as needed.

Whisk together 3 tbsps fish sauce, tamarind paste (or tamarind pulp mixture), brown sugar, sweet chili sauce and lime juice.  Taste and adjust flavorings to your liking

Sprinkle remaining fish sauce over chicken.  Heat wok or large stainless steel skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 tbsp oil (Hot wok, cold oil). Saute garlic cloves for 30 seconds until fragrant and lightly golden (so it doesn't burn). Remove from pan.  Add chicken, when cooked half way through add garlic back to pan. Finish cooking chicken.  Remove to plate.

Add more oil as needed and pour in eggs and let set for about 30 seconds. Lightly scramble but not totally cooked through.  Add chicken back to skillet, add noodles carefully back to pan.  Gently stir to noodles to minimize breakage. Add bean sprouts, half of peanuts, scallions and fish-sauce mixture. Cook 2 to 4 minutes until ingredients are coated and noodles are tender. Add a good pinch of cilantro and cook 1 more minute.

Garnish with remaining peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges.

Chicken Pad Thai

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