Saturday, September 26, 2009

welcome fall, i forgot you were coming

It's nice to be getting back to normal after weeks of craziness. Somehow during that time, fall started. We've been having such a bout of Indian summer here in Seattle that I hardly noticed, but after a few visits to Pike Place, it was impossible not to get excited about the new crop of beautiful little brussels sprouts, the pink blushing apples and shyly seductive squash. Now I just need some cold weather so I can cozy up to a nice warming soup.

A new friend moved to town, so last week I showed him where to shop in China town (I got to Hau Hau on 12th and Jackson). While we were there, I picked up some rice noodles, and ever since have been wanting to make phad thai. Since Erika and I were to have dinner before hitting up the (fabulous!) sea wolf concert Wednesday, it was the perfect opportunity.

I went to Pike Place after work on Wednesday to get some things I needed: green onions, bean sprouts, shrimp. I looked around the market and finally asked one of the produce sellers if they had bean sprouts. He looked me like I was an idiot. No, he said, we have those in the spring. Sprouts? Spring? he repeated to me slowly. Oh, I said. This made sense. Suddenly phad thai didn't feel like the right dish to be making at all, but I had already promised Erika and furthermore, asked her to bring peanuts. I decided to improvise. I looked around for something that could emulate the crunchy sweetness of the sprouts, and finally I decided on some pretty pink radishes.

Alright, here's the down-low on this dish. I've made it once before, to only moderate success. I love getting phad thai at the numerous thai restaurants around seattle, but the recipe I use comes from a site call Thai Table, which offers this disturbing quote:

"Great Pad Thai is dry and light bodied, with a fresh, complex, balanced flavor. I've never actually seen the red, oily pad thai in Thailand that is common in many western Thai restaurants."

It's true that I've seen recipes that call for ketchup, I assume to produce the red coloring, but I decided to go with authenticity. I don't have tamarind readily available, so I use a combination of lime juice and vinegar instead. I also used sesame oil for peanut, and added a touch of siracha for spiciness.

The technique to this dish is relatively simple, and once I get it down pat, it will be a nice go-to to have in my repertoire, as it's quite fast. I would rate the success of this specific iteration on the low side, simply because I didn't soak the rice noodles long enough and they turned out a bit tough. But I've learned my lesson! So aside from user error, the recipe is a good one.

Homestyle Shrimp Phad Thai

Adapted from Thai Table
Serves two with left overs

10 oz. dry rice noodles (I bought a package that was 16 oz, and a little more than half)
1 egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, cut into strips
1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 lime
4 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound shrimp
bean sprouts (or radishes, cut into strips)
vegetable oil
sesame oil
1. Soak the rice noodles in warm water for (really) 10-15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare everything you will need, because once the wok starts, everything will go pretty fast. Chop the onions, garlice and vegetables and set aside. In a small bowl, mix sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Prep and peel shrimp, set aside.
3. In a wok (or a large pot/pan with raised edges), heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat. When hot, add garlic, onions and mushrooms. Stir fry until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
4. Add softened rice noodles to wok, and stir vigorously to prevent sticking. When the noodles have heated through and softened some more, about 3 minutes, add the fish sauce mixture and continue stirring, about five minutes. Add radishes and green onions, two minutes more, then add shrimp, and continue stirring until all shrimp have cooked through and turned pink. The noodles will be very tangled and messy (yummy) looking.
5. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of chopped peanutes, fresh green onions, and lime wedge.

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