Pad Thai by Schpyder
Hey, time to contribute!
Pad Thai, a play in three parts.
Act One: Hardware (being the things needed to cook in)
Okay, to make this dish, you'll need a bit of an array of cooking stuff. You'll need a couple wooden/bamboo/plastic non-nonstick-scratching utensils (at least two, and at least one preferably plastic), and a small non-stick pan.
You'll also need a good-sized wok, a small bowl, measuring spoons, a mug/high-sided small bowl and fork, and an optional mortar and pestle. A food processor or small food chopper wouldn't hurt if you have one either.
You'll need two cutting boards (or one and one of those handy disposable Saran cutting surface things), another small bowl, and a small something to put stuff in (I like these little wooden condiment cups you can get from BB&B).
Finally, you'll need a large mixing bowl of some sort and a colander.
Act Two: Software (being the things you cook)
Okay, you're going to need a few ingredients here. To begin with, you'll need a good sized bunch or two of green onions, about 3 cloves of fresh garlic, some chopped peanuts (I get a whole container and chop them all at once in the food processor - saves time and cleanup later), FRESH chinese (mung) bean sprouts (NOT CANNED, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD), fresh cilantro, cayenne pepper, a lime (not pictured), and your choice of meat. I use a large chicken breast, although shrimp is a more traditional choice (use about 6-8 oz of shrimp, pre-cooked weight).
You're also going to need some peanut oil, sugar, rice vinegar, thai fish sauce (check an asian market or larger good-quality supermarkets), and if you can find them, dried thai (bird) chiles.
And of course, you're going to need rice noodles. Trader Joe's has the cheapest (and best) ones I've found.
Act Three: Thermal Loading (being the cooking of the things)
Okay, you'll want to start off by taking about 8oz of the noodles (2/3 of one of the TJ's packages), placing them in the mixing bowl, and covering with hot tap water. Set these aside. They need to soak for a while.
Now, head back over to prep most of the stuff that's getting cooked. Chop the green onions into 1/2" chunks, favoring the white ends (this is pretty much the only vegetable matter in the dish, you need some meat to it), peel and dice the garlic, chop a handful cilantro, and cut the chicken into chunks (ignore if you're using shrimp). Grind the peanuts if you haven't already. If you don't have a food processor or a chopper, you can put them in a bowl and then lightly hammer them with a glass filled with coins, although it takes a bit longer. Season the meat LIBERALLY with cayenne pepper.
If you've got the thai chiles, grind them up in the mortar & pestle.
Now we need to make the sauce. In the mug/tall bowl combine 2Tbs sugar, 2Tbs rice vinegar, and 3Tbs fish sauce. If you've got the chiles ground, add them in as well. If not, add a few dashes of cayenne instead. Now take this, the meat, the chopped onions, and the garlic over next to the wok, along with the second small bowl. Put a layer of chopped peanuts in the bottom of the bowl (save about half of them for later, though).
About now, you'll want to start on the eggs. Heat the small pan on a secondary burner to medium-low and break them in. No butter or anything.
You want to get the eggs pretty well done (so they'll survive stir-frying later), so scramble them until they come together well and aren't sloppy. When they're about halfway done, you should put the wok on medium high heat (depending on your stove) with a few Tbs of peanut oil. If the eggs get done before you're ready for them with the wok, no big, just take them off the heat and set aside until you need them.
When the wok is hot, add the garlic and stir in the oil until it only just starts to brown. For the love of god, don't let it overbrown or burn. There's nothing worse in the world than burnt garlic. Anyway, when it just starts browning, add the chicken to the wok and start stirfrying it.
This will probably take a few minutes on a normal stove, so while it's cooking, now would be a good time to drain the noodles and give them a quick rinse under hot water.
The chicken is done when it's firm with absolutely no pink showing whatsoever. If it's sliced small enough, this shouldn't take too long. To avoid over/undercooking some pieces, you should try to get them close to uniformly thick. Anyway, when they're done, take them out of the wok, and put them in the bowl with the peanut layer in the bottom.
Okay, time to start putting it all together. With the wok back on the heat, add a few Tbs more oil, and add in the noodles, eggs, and sauce mixture.
Stirfry this for a couple minutes until the noodles start to soften a bit and absorb some of the sauce. When they have, add the chopped onions.
Stirfry this for about a minute to heat the onions and try to incorporate them into the noodles (this is harder than it sounds). Then add in the chicken and peanut bits it was resting on.
Stirfry this for about another minute to combine and heat through (add a little more oil if the noodles start to stick), and then take off the heat. The cooking part is done!
Now it's time to plate and garnish. Take a good portion of the stuff (make sure to get plenty of chicken and onions), and put it on a plate. Then sprinkle on some more ground peanuts (yeah, bad picture, I know, I was in a hurry to eat at this point).
Then top with some fresh bean sprouts.
Sprinkle on some chopped cilantro, and squeeze on some fresh lime juice (1/4 of a large lime, 1/2 a smaller one), and you're ready to eat!
serves 2 or 4 depending on appetite.