Saturday, September 25, 2010


i have to be honest: I'm a novice when it comes to Thai cooking, but I know what I like to eat. I started enjoying Thai food a couple of years ago, and pad Thai noodles are a favorite. The dish's exotic taste is such a consistent treat, it has become one of my comfort foods.

The essentials for this dish can vary from garden-variety items available at any grocery store to hard-to-find Asian specialties. Traveling to several stores just to find the ingredients defeats our goal of making a quick and easy dish, so I decided to use those that could be easily found in most markets. I don't think the flavor was compromised. The rice noodles used in this recipe are widely available, or can be substituted with semolina linguine pasta. Rice noodles cook much more quickly and have a lighter consistency.

Pad Thai
Some pad Thai dishes use pickled garlic and tamarind, which may not be readily available; the tomato paste and paprika used here give the noodles the familiar red tint as well as seasoning. I used more garlic than is found in most recipes because of its powerful flavor and health benefits. The serrano chili also gives a nice flavor, without overpowering the other seasonings.

The protein source can vary, but it should be a combination unless you want the dish to be strictly vegetarian. For instance, you could use cubed firm tofu alone, or mixed with shrimp or turkey. Traditional recipes use 2-3 whole eggs, which add protein and flavor. I reduced the fat by using significantly less oil than other recipes, and by using egg whites instead of whole eggs.

I haven't seen any pad Thai noodles with asparagus, but I added it to increase the vegetable content. Asparagus is commonly found in other Thai dishes, so it seems like a good fit here. Green beans would be a good alternative if you don't care for asparagus or it isn't in season.

Although the monounsaturated fat found in peanuts is healthful, the calories can add up. I used just a small amount of peanuts, but still enough to provide the subtle flavor that's unique to Thai cooking.

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