Sunday, 12 June 2011

More than just egg fried noodles

I've received alot of comments about my pad thai.  Mostly good I think.  So thought I'd have a little blog about one of the greatest streetfoods ever (in my humble opinion of course).  It's funny, because it's actually a relatively new dish in Thai food culture and yet it's become one of the most popular.  Perhaps even to the detriment of  vendors bringing other regional dishes to the cities' streets, especially tourist areas. 

That aside, it is a fantastic dish and my children both fell in love with it on their first trip to Thailand when they were four.  My son has never overcome his love affair with this dish, and considers himself a pad thai connoisseur, having sampled it pretty much everywhere he goes.  His opinion is that no-one makes pad thai like they do on the streets of Bangkok.  Except maybe his mum (or perhaps he's just being nice). 

I've watched this dish being made so many times, and eaten it as many, so I like to think I've learnt it well over the years.  I think some people think we have just been on the odd family trip to Thailand.  As a family, we've probably spent 7 or 8 months there in total.  That's a mighty lot of pad thai we've consumed!

Personally I find most pad thai in the UK to lack the true balance of flavours, that elevates it from just being stir fried noodles.  There are the odd exceptions of course, and I would say that Rice in Manchester is one of them.

The dish does vary regionally in Thailand, but never too far from the balancing of sweet and salty (palm or brown sugar, and fish or soy sauce), and hot and sour (chillies and tamarind or/and lime).  The UK stuff is often sickly sweet, and rarely holds any sour or hot notes.  And while soy sauce is not a total failure as a substitute for fish sauce, I highly recommend using veggie worcester sauce mixed with soy sauce and a little salt.  The other bug bear I have with UK pad thai are egg and wheat noodles.  It's not meant to be pasta!  Rice noodles work so better, and should always have plenty of bite after blanching.  They always cook a bit more in the liquid mixture.  

So there you go, that's my advice for a great pad thai.  Sorry no recipe this time but there are so many for this dish.  The key is the balancing of the flavours.  It's as simple or as difficult as that.   

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