Pad Thai

Yes, I have finished with Thanksgiving. Hooray!  My lovely wife and I have had it with turkey and are seriously contemplating lobster for next Thanksgiving. Just so you know, we had this same conversation last Thanksgiving. Controversies fade and traditions continue.

I promised this dish last week and here it is. My great friend and colleague, the late Michael Kamen, loved this Thai dish. There was a woman in a trailer on the Portobello Road in London that made an amazing version and Michael had to have it every Saturday. He would wander down from his house, dog on a lead, and any of the friends and family that happened to be at the house in tow. He lived very near the road and knew everyone in the stalls at the market. It was quite a memorable scene, from the man on the corner selling Fabrashay Eggs to the busker playing klezmer music. Michael knew them all and they all knew and loved him.

Michael would long for the Thai noodles when we were not in London and would go to extremes to avail himself of the spicy/tangy noodle dish even when it was less than convenient. On more than one occasion we would be in a London recording studio on a Saturday, miles from the lovely Thai lady in her trailer, but Michael would insist on either driving or commandeering a Black Cab for a cross-town, round trip journey to bring back trays full of Pad Thai while the orchestra was on lunch break. Often this adventure stretched painfully near the amount of time allotted. On one session, I remember the wafting of the pungent noodles filling the control room of Abbey Road to such an extent that we finally had to remove the detritse of the field trip.

In his memory and honor, I have recreated the dish to the best of my ability. It turns out not to be difficult at all. There are a few steps, so patience is needed, but the process is not at all tricky and even the ingredients are available at most markets.

I miss Michael every day. I hope you all enjoy the tribute.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 8 Oz. Thai Rice Noodles
  • 1/4 Cup Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Palm or Raw Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Tamarind Paste
  • 1 Small Red or White Onion
  • 1 Cup Green Onions, sliced into 1/2″ pieces on the bias
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 8-12 Oz. Chicken, Shrimp, Pork or Beef (optional)
  • 3 Eggs
  • Bean Sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Peanut or Vegetable Oil
  • Red Chili Flakes
  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Peanuts
  • Handful of Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Lime, quartered

Tools

  • Small Sauce Pan
  • Large Pot
  • Large Colander
  • Large Sauté Pan or Wok
  • Chef’s Knife
  1. In a small sauce pan, combine the tamarind paste, fish sauce, 1/2 the garlic, sugar, and vinegar. Stir and simmer just until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Boil a pot full of water.
  3. Cook noodles in boiling water for about 3 minutes, until soft but still firm.
  4. Remove to colander and run under cold water to stop cooking.
  5. Add a couple of tablespoons peanut oil in the large pan and sauté the meat (if you choose to have some). The traditional dish is often served with both chicken and shrimp. I like it with a small amount of beef. Regardless, the amount of meat should be a condiment, not the main emphasis.
  6. When the meat is cooked, remove and set aside.
  7. Add a little more oil and sauté the rest of the garlic. Cook until fragrant, stirring to keep from burning.
  8. Add the onion and do the same.
  9. Add the noodles and combine.
  10. Pour the sauce over and thoroughly combine.
  11. Add back the meat.
  12. Move ingredients up the wok or to one side and add the eggs.
  13. Let the eggs cook for a minute until the start to firm up,
  14. Scramble then stir in.
  15. Add a handful of green onions and a handful of sprouts. Mix together and turn off heat.
  16. Serve in bowls with garnish of peanuts, remaining green onions, sprouts, cilantro and a wedge of lime.
  17. Sprinkle some chili flakes or thai chili paste, amount based on your desire for heat.
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