Posts Tagged ‘stir-fry’

Pad Thai

They say that every Thai cook has his/her own version of Pad Thai, leading to countless recipes and variations. In reading the online reviews of Alton’s Pad Thai recipe, some reviewers are critical of his recipe, questioning its authenticity. I am not personally enough of a Pad Thai expert to evaluate the authenticity of Alton’s version, but I sure can give my opinion on how much I did/did not like it. Many of the ingredients in this recipe are not available in a regular supermarket, so a trip to an Asian grocery store is most likely necessary. 

The night before you plan to eat your Pad Thai, you will want to begin prepping some tofu. To do this, slice 12 ounces of extra firm tofu into four slices. Line a baking pan with a tea towel, placing the tofu slices on top of the towel. Fold the towel over the tofu and place a second baking pan on top. Place a five pound weight on top of the second baking dish and place the tofu in the refrigerator overnight.

The following day, a half hour before you are going to cook, unwrap your tofu and soak it for 30 minutes in a mixture of 1 1/2 C soy sauce with 1 t Chinese five spice powder.

While your tofu marinates, pour 3/4 C boiling water over an ounce of seedless tamarind paste and set it aside; I accidentally got tamarind concentrate instead of tamarind paste (paste is much thicker).

Remove half of the tofu from the marinade and thinly slice it.

Next, to make the sauce, combine in a bowl:  2 T palm sugar, 2 T fish sauce, and 1 T rice wine vinegar. Strain the tamarind paste into this bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all liquid. Discard the solids.

In a separate large bowl, place 4 ounces of fine rice stick noodles and cover them with hot water for 10 minutes.

Fine rice stick noodles soaking in hot water for 10 minutes.

Before cooking you will want to also prep the following ingredients:  2 scallions cut on the bias, 2 t minced garlic, 2 whisked eggs, 2 t salted cabbage (comes in a jar), 1 T chopped dried shrimp, 3 oz bean sprouts, 1/2 C chopped salted peanuts, 6-8 dried red chilies ground to a powder, and 1 lime cut in wedges.

If you want to stir-fry Alton’s way, you’ll want to use your wok on a charcoal grill; you can purchase a wok ring to hold your wok. I don’t have a charcoal grill or a wok ring, so I just went with the good ol’ stovetop. Heat 1 T peanut oil in a wok over high heat and add your sliced marinated tofu. Cook the tofu until it is golden around the edges, and then remove the tofu from the pan.

Add some more peanut oil to the wok, along with 2/3 of the scallions and all of the garlic. Next, pour in your whisked eggs, scrambling them once they start to solidify.

Once the eggs have been scrambled, add your drained rice noodles and the sauce.

Soaked/drained noodles and sauce added to wok.

Add 2/3 of the bean sprouts, 2/3 of the peanuts, all of the cabbage, and all of the shrimp. Toss everything together until heated through.

2/3 of sprouts, 2/3 of peanuts, salted cabbage, and shrimp added to the pan.

To finish, add the tofu back to the pan and toss again until the tofu is heated through.

Transfer the Pad Thai to a large serving plate and garnish it with the remaining sprouts, scallions, and peanuts. Sprinkle the top with the powdered chiles and serve with lime wedges.

Alton’s Pad Thai.

As I said before, I’m not a Pad Thai pro, but I really enjoyed making and eating this dinner. It was fun to utilize some new-to-me ingredients and the method of stir-frying is always kind of fun. I actually prepped this dinner for us two nights in a row since the recipe yields enough marinated tofu to double the recipe; the tofu was really very salty the second day, so I would not marinate the tofu for longer than the recipe states. We also did both find that the dried shrimp overpowered the dish, as they have a very strong seafood-like flavor. Personally, I would decrease or omit the dried shrimp, but that’s just me. Otherwise, it’s easy to see why Pad Thai is such a popular Thai dish because it has such a wide variety of textures and flavors. I will absolutely be making this again, especially now that we have all of the Asian ingredients in our pantry.

If you’re like me, you haven’t had a lot of experience with eating squid. Sure, I’ve had fried calamari numerous times, but that’s about the extent of my squid exploration. Really, if you think about it, squid is not something you see regularly on restaurant menus. It also is not the easiest ingredient to find, but Ted finally found some for me at an Asian market.

Squid typically come frozen and in two sizes:  10/20 squid (which means you get 10-20 squid per pound) or smaller ones. Ideally, the 10/20 squid are the ones to get because they have a larger tube, but their tentacles are about the same length as those on the smaller ones. One Asian market we went to had a single frozen squid that weighed nearly two pounds; I opted not to get that one. You can thaw frozen squid in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours, or in a tub of cool water with a constant slow stream of cold water.

Squid Vicious

Alton’s squid recipe in this episode is for a squid stir-fry, and you will need 1/2 pound of thawed, prepared squid.


My package of frozen squid.

To prepare your squid, reach into the tube of the squid on the head end of the squid. Pull the head/tentacle piece to separate it from the tube portion of the squid. Next, cut between the tentacles and the head, discarding the head. The tentacles can be cooked, though Alton really never showed them being used in this recipe; for this reason, I discarded the tentacles also. My squid came already cleaned, so I just had to prep the tubes of the squid.


My squid were already cleaned, so they just had the tubes and tentacles.

For the tube pieces, pull the rudder fins off and discard them, as they are extremely chewy. Next, split the tubes open with a sharp knife and scrape the thin membrane off of the inside of the tube, holding your knife at an angle. Using a utility knife on the shallowest setting (I just used a knife), score the surface of each tube in a crosshatch pattern; this will keep the squid from curling when cooked.

Finally, cut each tube into four equal pieces.


Each squid tube was then cut into four pieces.

In addition to the prepped squid, for this recipe you will need 2 t sesame oil, 1 t garlic, 1 t ginger, 2 dried chilies, 1/3 c diced onion, 1/3 c diced red bell pepper, and 1/4 c oyster mushroom strips. For a sauce, combine 1 t balsamic vinegar, 1 t cornstarch, and 1/2 c miso broth.


Ingredients for Alton’s squid recipe: sesame oil, garlic, ginger, dried chilies, squid, onion, red bell pepper, and oyster mushrooms. Also, a combination of balsamic vinegar, cornstarch, and miso broth.

When ready to cook, heat your wok over high heat and add the sesame oil. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilies to the wok and stir to cook. Next, add your prepared squid.

Follow this with the onion, bell pepper, and oyster mushrooms.

Finally, add the sauce to the wok and toss to coat everything, allowing the cornstarch to thicken the sauce.


Finally, the liquid mixture was added.

As Alton said in the episode, squid cook on a bell curve – they are tender when cooked 1-3 minutes, tough when cooked for 5-6 minutes, and tender again once cooked for 10 minutes. As with any stir-fry, this recipe should come together extremely quickly, so your squid should only be in the pan for a couple minutes. Serve the squid mixture over rice.


Alton’s squid stir-fry served over rice.

We weren’t sure what to expect from this recipe, but it was pretty underwhelming. Really, this was just a very under-seasoned recipe and it was very bland. Once we added some salt and soy sauce to this, it was significantly better, but I still would not make this one again. I am sort of bummed that I did not like this better because I wanted the recipe to showcase squid for me. Instead, it was just OK. Ted makes really good stir-fries, so maybe we’ll have to add squid to one of his. Still, I am happy to have gotten to play with a new-to-me ingredient!