25 April 2009

Attempting Asian food

Tonight I ventured into the great unknown called Asian cooking. I've made some chicken teriyaki before and not ruined it, along with some other pretty easy shortcut Asian recipes, but I've always been a little scared of Asian cuisine. Number one it requires the cook to use high heat and I have the tendency to shy away from anything involving oil and high heat. Back in my old apartment I used to practically give myself a heart attack anytime the smoke detector went off. I really did. I freaked out--totally unwarranted. After planning out our trip to New Seasons for our weekly grocery shopping, I decided that I would attempt Pad Thai. It's not necessarily the most difficult-sounding dish, but given my anxieties about Asian food overall, it was enough of a challenge.

First, my ingredients. The ingredients for the sauce are pretty simple: vegetable oil, lime juice, fish sauce (yes, I actually had it), and rice vinegar. I had already begun soaking my rice noodles and draining my tofu. I found the recipe in my forgotten Best 30 Minutes Recipes cookbook, by none other than the America's Test Kitchen. I swear I should rename this blog, "Carmel Cooks Everything from America's Test Kitchen." Because I do, but only because (almost) everything turns out perfectly. But I digress. The tofu preparation was very simple. No seasoning, just fried in vegetable oil. If this sounds gross, given the bland flavor of tofu, it was okay since the sauce was so rich. The recipe actually calls for shrimp, but tofu was on sale, so there. Money pretty much always trumps following the recipe in my world.

Twenty minutes later, the noodles were soft enough to get going on the rest of the dish. The recipe says to have all your ingredients prepped before the noodles are ready because everything comes together fast (another reason I shy away from cooking Asian food--my first try with a recipe is rarely fast as I practically memorize the recipe from reading it 30 times while cooking it). They weren't kidding. I threw the garlic and remaining oil together in a pan over medium heat for all of 30 seconds. Then threw the eggs in to scramble, turning the heat up to high, for another 20 seconds. Then it was go time for the noodles--mix those in with the eggs, then throw on the sauce. Now, it's finally at this time that I realize that I bought 14 oz. of noodles when the recipe called for 8. Didn't seem like a big deal when I bought them (who doesn't like a few extra noodles?), but it became a bigger deal when I realized that the noodles were going to be dry with nearly double the amount of noodles in the pan. I threw together a little more oil, lime juice, and fish sauce quickly and threw it in the pan. Then added my bean sprouts, scallions, some of the crushed peanuts, and tofu to mix up until the noodles were fully cooked.

To serve, more peanuts and scallions were added, and I threw on some shredded carrot, for color. Served with a wedge of lime, it turned out to be a quick and delicious dinner. Shawn and I barely talked for the 15 minutes it took to wolf down a whole plate.

I would call my first attempt at Pad Thai a triumph.

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