This weekend, my coworker took me and another coworker shopping up on the Rockville Pike. My family sold my car when I moved to DC, so my coworker took me to all of the stores I can't access on public transportation. It was a wonderful day! My absolute favorite of these stops was an Asian market called H-Mart.
H-Mart is AMAZING. It has every ingredient I couldn't find anywhere else, and with great prices! One of the hardest things to find in average grocery stores was tamarind paste - but they had it at H-Mart! And it was only about $2. And Squid fish sauce is the best kind. A huge bottle was about $2 as well - a tiny bottle of a much less authentic brand costs me twice as much at my local grocery store.
H-Mart also had the most gorgeous produce I've seen in a long time. And again, AMAZING prices. These gorgeous scallions were wide and bright and crisp and only $0.25/bunch. This is only HALF a bunch. Unbelievable.
The tamarind paste is an absolute necessity in this recipe. It give it the "pad thai flavor" from the takeout version. Look for it in your local Asian market, or order it online. (and if you do take a trip to the Asian market, pick up some gochujang too; you just might need it for one of my next recipes! hint hint)
I did adapt the recipe a little to make it chicken instead of shrimp pad thai. I picked up this Thai Spice Blend on my spice shopping spree at World Market and used it to season the chicken.
I'm obsessed with this spice. It's warm from the cinnamon but also has an interesting Thai flavor from dried shrimp, along with several other spices. Even though it has cilantro (ick!) in it, I can't wait to keep using this spice. If you have a World Market near you, you should pick this up - totally worth $2.99!
The rest of the recipe comes together pretty easily. Like with other Thai noodle recipes, there are a couple scrambled eggs and some scallions, and of course garlic.
Also, I had green cabbage in the fridge from my cabbage, potato, and leek soup, so I used that instead of Nappa cabbage. It wilted down a lot and worked out great! Still, if you were going to make this and didn't happen to have green cabbage lying around, Nappa would be the right cabbage to use.
The hardest part of this recipe was stirring all the ingredients together. It made a total mess of my stove. I used a spaghetti fork and tongs to get the job done, but it definitely took some careful maneuvering and some time. And some Lysol wipes when all was said and done.
The final product was delicious! I thought it tasted the closest to restaurant pad thai of any homemade recipe I've ever used. Plus I used barely any oil, so I feel like it was way healthier than getting takeout. I topped it with lots of lime juice and peanuts, which added the extra zing to put it over the top. It definitely isn't a simple one pot meal, but I think it was worth doing the dishes for!
Chicken Pad Thai
Slightly adapted from the New York Times
4 ounces medium-width rice stick noodles
2-4 tablespoons peanut oil
2-4 tablespoons peanut oil
2 to 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders
1 tablespoon Thai Spice Blend (from World Market)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups) (or half a large head of green cabbage)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
2 limes, quartered.
1. Put noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let sit until noodles are just tender; check every 5 minutes or so to make sure they do not get too soft. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon peanut oil to keep from sticking and set aside. Meanwhile, put tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
2. Season chicken with Thai Spice Blend. Put remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when oil shimmers, add the chicken and cook over medium high heat until no longer pink in the center. Remove the chicken to a plate, but leave the oil in the pan.
3. Add scallions and garlic to the pan and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan; once they begin to set, scramble them until just done. Add cabbage and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage begins to wilt, then add the chicken and any juices on the plate.
4. Add drained noodles to pan along with sauce. Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with lime wedges.