Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fair Stealing

Don't judge me.

Yes, I am one of those people who say, "I love Thai food," but really mean, "I love pad Thai (and I am not really sure about anything else)."

Also, I am becoming cheap. Cooking at home is supposed to be the economic way to eat, but sometimes when making a new or exotic recipe, buying all the ingredients can cost you more than a dinner for two at a nice restaurant. In an attempt to encourage you to try new recipes (or maybe just to allow me to afford the recipes I make), I have come up with a cost-effective scheme I would like to share with all of you: fair stealing.

If you know you will be making something like Pad Thai (or anything for which you lack many of the random ingredients) ahead of time, pay attention to sauces and packets at the places you dine. I am becoming way too cheap to buy the entire bottle of Thai hot sauce (e.g. sriracha) or red pepper flakes (I had never used them before) because of the small amounts of each required for this recipe. I swiped my sriracha from a chicken take-out restaurant I had ordered from that allows you to fill up tiny containers of different hot sauces with your to-go order. I believe I have my lifetime supply of red pepper flakes from our regular pizza joint (I asked the to-go guy to throw a couple packets of the hot stuff in the box). If I know I will be making something using artificial sweetener (like a salad dressing), I just grab a couple extra packets from the coffee shop since it is not something I keep around the kitchen. I happened to have most of the other ingredients for this recipe, but soy sauces and even sometimes fish sauce is freely available at any Chinese restaurant. I do not condone walking into a restaurant, making the grab, and bailing. However, if you are a customer at these sorts of establishments, it is fair game.

Pad Thai. I first tried this popular dish at a Thai restaurant in Orlando. Nutty, hearty, meaty, sweet, spicy, crunchy, dense, umami are words I would use to describe it. Wash it down with a rich glass of Thai iced tea and you are good to go (and by "go" I mean, "not eat for the next 24 hours because you have already used up all your allotted calories"... if you pay attention to that sort of thing). I live on the border of Thai Town and Little Armenia in Los Angeles so I really have my choice of Thai restaurants all the time. This does not serve to explain why I would try making it myself.

Thrifty Pad Thai

(recipe adapted from Recipezaar - makes about 5 servings)

1 (1/2 lb) package rice noodles
6 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons sriracha (Thai hot sauce)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined, tails removed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (hot)
2 eggs
2 cups bean sprouts
5 green onions
1 cup chopped cilantro
3 limes
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

Boil water in a medium-sized pot.
Place noodles in large bowl and cover with the boiling water (they should no longer be on the heat) for 10 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Mix together fish sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, Thai hot sauce and sugar, and set aside.
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Chop about half of the shrimp into small pieces, and leave the other half of them whole
Heat peanut oil in large frying pan or wok.
Add garlic, chicken, shrimp and red pepper flakes.
Cook just until chicken is cooked all the way through.
Add beaten eggs and stir constantly for one minute.
Add sauce mixture and stir for 3 more minutes.
Add drained rice noodles and toss until coated.
Stir in 1 C bean sprouts, onions, 1/2 C of the chopped peanuts and 1/2 cup cilantro.
Stir and toss for another minute.
Garnish each plate with remaining chopped peanuts, cilantro and bean sprouts.
Top with slices or wedges of lime, which will be used to squeeze over noodles upon serving.

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