Shrimp Pad Thai

I fell in love with Pad Thai sometime last year.  I had never known what it was, but after my first experience was just blown away the flavor.  Traditionally, my family was big on Chinese restaurants while I was growing up, so Thai style meals are still new to me.  We hit up Chinese buffets like they were going out of style (3 kids are easy to feed when there's a unlimited supply and a ton of dishes to pick from).  I did try Thai Turkey and Noodles a while back, but even this was an attempt at cooking it before really trying an authentic Thai dish.  So after that first try, I was pretty set on making it myself.


My best friend's mom gave me a package of these sweet potato starch noodles to try out after picking them up from an Asian market.  She has, like me, been a devoted fan of spaghetti squash noodles as an alternative to pasta, however said that after trying these she wouldn't go back. These are gluten free and just as quick and easy to make as plain pasta.


Up close, they were clear looking and came in the package as extra long noodles.


The critical component of pad thai that I have seen in every variety of the recipe is fish sauce.  It's made from fermented fish (there is a fascinating series called Inside the Mind of a Chef that featured an episode digging into the details), and on its own has a very strong, putrid scent.  Just a dash in a meal, though, takes the flavor to this perfect level--it's a hint of this unique, salty flavor that makes Pad Thai so good.  This is also at the Asian market, but luckily my friends mom was also kind enough to share some of her is supply, as using it in small doses also means a jar lasts forever.


I got the sauce mixed together in a skillet by first adding some butter, garlic, and the shallots together in the pan and sautéing them on medium heat until the garlic became slightly browned and fragrant.  I stirred in the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper and heated it to a simmer.  Then, I added in the shrimp and let them cook in the sauce.  I may not be a shrimp professional, but I would presume that those bad boys could soak up some flavor when cooked in the sauce.


The noodles cooked quickly, and looked even more clear when they were done.  I used a freshly cleaned pair of kitchen shears to cut them up.  I was warned against trying to break them up before boiling--they apparently shatter.


I just mixed some of the noodles in with the shrimp and tossed it around to coat the pasta.


Once it was thoroughly combined the Pad Thai was ready to eat:


This was awesome!  I was surely intimidated when making this dish, but loved the result.  It tasted different than the one I tried at the restaurant (I am certain the variety of fish sauce matters as I have seen a few different ones myself), but I also had skipped out on the sprouts and peanuts.  I was excited to have leftovers the next day and even let my mom try some...she's mentioned it a few times since (and she is a picky lady).  Go out on a limb and try something new!  You might just find you love it.

Shrimp Pad Thai Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup raw shrimp, peeled but with tails on
1/2 package potato starch noodles (12 ounce package)
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Instructions:

Boil pasta according to package directions.  Melt butter in a large skillet and add garlic and shallots.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes, until garlic is slightly browned. Stirr in the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper and heat it to a simmer.  Add shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, then flip and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes until shrimp is no longer a pink translucent color, but is white.  Stir in cooked pasta and serve.

inspired by: pad thai

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