|Pad Thai courtesy of Man Cave Munchies|
While my Man Cave Munchies fans have yet to experience my ability to cook a number of Chinese favorites, such as General Tso's Chicken, Sweet & Sour Pork and Kung Pao Shrimp, just to name a few, today I thought I'd take the time to introduce you to my ability to cook Thai cuisine. While creating classic Thai dishes can take a bit more care and preparation than continental cuisine, it is far from the mission impossible that most people would have you believe. In fact, most everything you need to prepare Thai and Thai-fusion dishes can be had at your local Oriental grocery store. Even better is the fact that the prices at the typical Asian grocery store are far cheaper than those found at American supermarkets. And the selections of sauces, noodles and exotic vegetables at these mom and pop Asian groceries is phenomenal.
What's Best When East Meets West?
Unless you have found a recipe that requires a specific sauce, there are several that I can recommend. From the Chinese aisle, I would recommend Hoisin Sauce, which has a sweet and smoky flavor that goes great with pork and chicken. Toss in some snow peas and bamboo shoots and you have a Chinese delight that takes less than 10-minutes to make. From the Thai aisle you should procure Sweet Chili Sauce which goes great on chicken and fish. If you want to make Pad Thai, you will need to also get a bottle of Fish Sauce. Just makes sure it's the Thai variety and not the Vietnamese kind called Nuoc Mam, which doesn't taste the same.
If you like pasta, Chinese glass noodles (also labeled Rice Noodles) are easy to prepare. Just as there are different sizes of Italian pasta (Fettucini, Linguini, Spaghetti, Angel Hair), the same goes for rice noodles. Simply look at the bag to determine the proper sized noodle for the dish you intend to make.
Speaking of noodles, this classic Thai noodle dish takes all of about 5-minutes to cook. The secret is to have all the ingredients chopped in advance. Since this is a classic stir-fry dish, you don't have time to whop and chop. Take your eyes off the wok for more than 5-seconds and you will burn everything. If you don't own a wok, this dish can also be prepared in a saute pan, as you will see in the video below.
To start with you will need to soak the rice noodles in tap water for a half hour or so. I usually put them in my soup stockpot filled with enough water to submerge the noodles. Be careful with the way you handle rice noodles or you will wind up breaking them. After they have soaked a bit, light a fire under the pot and leave the noodles to cook with the lid open for 10-minutes. As soon as they start turning white, turn off the heat and let them sit in the water for an additional 5-minutes. Then strain. Do not overcook rice noodles or you will wind up with a pot full of goo. They are way more delicate than traditional supermarket dried pasta which you normally need to boil for 20-minutes to cook.
Next, you need to take a flat of chicken tenders and chop them into 1-inch bite-sized pieces. Then you'll need to chop some garlic (2 cloves) and green onions (scallions). You will also need to grind some peanuts (I suggest using either your blender or coffee grinder to do the deed). Along with that, you will also need some bean sprouts and 3-4 scrambled eggs. For the seasoning you will need soy sauce, fish sauce, white vinegar and white sugar.
The secret to success is to make sure you have a wok or pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, including up to a pound of rice noodles. In the video below I use half a pound of noodles.
Once you fire up the pan there is no stopping. Start off by sauteing the chicken and garlic with a teaspoon or so of soy sauce. Cook for a minute a side, then pour the chicken into a bowl. Next, scramble 3-4 eggs in the same wok or pan. You want these to be dry (do not add water), so that the eggs turn into tiny pieces. We're not talking omelet here, guys. Pour the cooked eggs into a bowl.
Next you will need to make the sauce in the hot pan by starting with 3 tablespoons of white vinegar, into which you will add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and 3 tablespoons of white sugar. Mix this around in the pan and add either vinegar or fish sauce if the mixture gets too thick.
Return the cooked chicken and eggs to the pan and toss to coat everything with the sauce. Then add the noodles and using a spoon and a spatula, toss the noodles the chicken and the eggs until everything is well blended and the white noodles begin to take on some color from absorbing the sauce.
Turn off the stove and top the dish with bean sprouts, then toss a few more times to warm them up, before garnishing the dish with the chopped green onion and crushed peanuts. Plate and serve immediately. If you let Pad Thai sit for more than a minute it will get cold. (Serves 3-6 depending on whether you use a 1/2 pound or full pound of the noodles.
There is something special that happens to pork when you marinate it in vinegar and Thai soy sauce infused with a dash of Chinese 5-Spice. What I did was start off with a whole pork tenderloin. Then I cut off 4 thin slices from one end, which I pounded thin between a folded sheet of wax paper (see video at right). Next, I took the meat and poured on the marinade described above, which I let sit in the fridge for an hour or so. Saute this in hot oil along with chopped onion, banana peppers and sliced mushrooms. Spoon the cooked mixture onto a hamburger bun and top with sprouts and a dash of sweet chili sauce. This sandwich is way more flavorful than a burger, guys. Trust me.
Take the rest of the pork roast and prick it all over with a meat fork. You want to do this so that the marinade will penetrate. Take the same sauce you used for the pork sandwich and pour it over the roast. Place in a covered pot and let sit for up to 24-hours to tenderize and flavor the meat. Then take the pot and add your choice of vegetables. I used Chinese (purple) eggplant, mushrooms, onion, zucchini and snap peas. Pour onto this a 1/2 bottle of beer and a few tablespoons of sweet chili sauce before baking for an hour i at 400 degrees. Once you remove the roast from the pot you can add some butter and flour to the drippings to make a gravy.
If you like fish, you will love what Thai sweet chili sauce can do to it. I have been known to glaze salmon or red fish with the stuff. The combination of sweet and spicy makes fish taste anything but fishy. For my final White Guy Thai recipe, I decided to do a fusion dish that started with fish, bean sprouts and sweet chili sauce, then added chopped tomatoes, coleslaw and taco shells. The fish I had on hand was cod, which I prepared with a beer batter (see recipe here). After draining the hot fish on a paper towel, I chopped it into 1-inch pieces. Then I spooned the pieces into a taco shell, to which I then added chopped tomatoes, coleslaw infused with chili sauce, and sprouts. You can make each taco different from the last depending on which ingredients you use. It's like a party on a plate. (see video below)
If you would like to share your favorite Thai or Asian dish with me, email firstname.lastname@example.org For more recipes, check out the Man Cave Munchies website.