We don’t get takeout very often, but if we do, it’s likely to be Thai food. And though I love a good curry, there’s something so comforting about a container of Pad Thai. Salty, savory, sweet, sour, crunchy–a little bit of everything, without any one flavor dominating the others. Now that our kids are past their toddler years (and Mr. Nine has declared himself Too Old for the kids’ menu), even takeout is no bargain–one meal can easily equal a week’s grocery bill.
But with a short trip down the Asian foods aisle of your local market, you can stock a few ingredients for a reasonable homemade Pad Thai whenever the mood strikes. You’ll need fish sauce (nam pla), rice sticks, and tamarind concentrate (but if you can’t find this your noodles will still be yummy–just add more lime juice). The rest are easily recognizable ingredients: brown sugar, green onions, limes, garlic, peanuts.
This recipe makes a large batch, enough to serve six as a main course. We ate a little more than half for dinner, and had several servings leftover for lunch. Sure beats another sandwich.
Weeknight Pad Thai
1 lb. Thai rice stick noodles
2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 lb. ground pork (or choose shrimp or thin strips of chicken)
1/2 lb. firm tofu, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
5 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. tamarind concentrate
5-6 green onions, sliced diagonally in 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup finely chopped peanuts
2 Tbsp. lime juice
Other additions: bean sprouts, chopped cilantro, scrambled egg, fresh or dried chilis
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add rice sticks and cook for 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind concentrate and lime juice.
Heat oil on medium-high in a wok or large sauté pan, and add the garlic. Stir fry for a few seconds, just until the garlic begins to color. Quickly add the ground pork, raise the heat to high, and fry until all pink is gone. Add the noodles and mix well. Pour in the fish sauce mixture, tofu, green onions and 1/2 cup of peanuts (and any of the other additions you might have–if using egg, just push the noodles to the sides of the pan and scramble the egg right in the well). Keep tossing mixture until all the noodles are coated and everything is heated through, 4-5 minutes.
Serve immediately with lime wedges and a sprinkling of peanuts.