Simple Thai Food: Pad Thai with Shrimp and book review

I have been looking forward to making this dish all month. My favorite noodle dish of all time: Pad Thai. And this did not disappoint. We don’t buy seafood that often so our first impression of this recipe was that it was rather expensive to feed our family, but that did not deter us because we don’t do this sort of thing much – usually our meals are very budget friendly.

The first thing you need to do is soak the noodles. This takes around 30-40 minutes which gives you plenty of time to prep the rest of the dish so that it all comes together in about 15 minutes. If only we’d noticed that ahead of time, dinner would have been ready much earlier. Once the noodles have soaked you fry them in some oil and then you add a sauce consisting of fish sauce, tamarind and brown sugar. While the noodles cook in this you shift it over to one side of the pan and put shallot, garlic and tofu on the other and cook it. Then you add the raw shrimp and continue to cook, make a well in the centre of the pan and scramble some eggs. Once all the elements are cooked you stir it together and add some bean sprouts and green onion. Then it’s time to plate up by finishing it off with some more bean sprouts, a lime wedge and some chopped peanuts.

Hectic while in the throws of cooking and multitasking but quite amazing for one pan on the cooktop. I really enjoyed this dish, but like most Pad Thai recipes I prefer it without the “meat” – whether it be chicken or fish. I let Aaron eat all but 3 of my prawns but happily devoured every last piece of tofu. Next time we’re going to try to find a better firmer tofu – that’s my only real disappointment – by the end it kind of scrambled into non existence. The dish still tasted fabulous, but I did miss getting a bite of tofu on its own.

I’m going to leave this book review short and sweet: it has been a fun month cooking through  Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu with Food52 Cookbook Club – the recipes have been relatively simple compared to what I expected from a Thai cookbook and all of them have been delicious. I didn’t feel compelled to buy ingredients that were unfamiliar as many were listed as optional and each meal we’ve made we would make again. I’m glad I stumbled across this book on sale for Kindle because it is definitely worth owning.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Simple Thai Food: Beef Matsaman Curry

This is certainly the closest I’ve come to recreating my favorite Thai curry at home and a second big hit from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu – the book of the month for the Food52 Cookbook Club. It does take a long time (about 4 hours in total), but most of that is hands off.

To make the dish you cook off some mussaman curry paste with some coconut cream and a little vegetable oil and when it’s fragrant you add the diced beef, some coconut milk and enough water to cover the meat. Once it comes to a boil, you drop it down to a simmer and set it on the back burner for 3 hours. Seriously.

When it was 2 hours into the simmering time, I put the rice in the rice cooker and started it (we used brown jasmine rice so it takes about that long) and then I diced the potatoes and boiled them for 10 minutes. I also prepared the tamarind pulp and quartered 3 small onions and toasted some spices – cinnamon, cardamon and star anise. Then at the 3 hour mark we checked to see if the beef was done and added the onions, tamarind, the spices, a couple of bay leaves, some brown sugar and some fish sauce and let it simmer until the onions were cooked. Then we added the drained potatoes and some chopped peanuts, stirred them through and when the rice was done I fished out the spices and the bay leaves and we dished up.

It was so delicious and I actually never connected it before with Japanese Nikujaga (beef and potato stew) but this was very reminiscent of that with a few different flavor differences. Some of us (I’m not naming names, ahem Aaron) wanted to go back for 4ths! We have plenty of leftovers and I can’t believe the serving suggestion was for 4-6 people – they mustn’t be serving it with rice is the only explanation I have for that.

With two meals under my belt, I can’t wait to try our 3rd recipe for the month which is my absolute favorite Thai dish – Pad Thai!

Simple Thai Food: Curry Noodles with Chicken

We are in for a month of awesome eating if tonight’s dinner was any indication of what’s to come. During the month of April, Food52 Cookbook Club is going through Leela Punyaratabandhu’s book Simple Thai Food and one flick through the book and I’ve already dog-eared several recipes (on my kindle version).

I knew I wanted to cook from it at least once this week but due to the busyness of the weekend I didn’t properly menu plan and do a grocery list at home, so I came up with making this recipe as we drove to Woolies while I was madly writing what I could remember we needed to buy on a scratch sheet of paper. This meal appealed to me because it said it could be ready in 30 minutes and it has similar ingredients to Pad Thai (and I will definitely be making that recipe this month). When I looked at the long list of ingredients it didn’t seem too daunting…curry pastes, curry powder, coconut milk/cream, fish sauce, brown sugar, chicken stock, tofu, chicken, rice noodles, peanuts, fried shallots (I’m still working through the humongous bag I bought before Thanksgiving), bean sprouts, coriander, limes and eggs. I opted not to buy the preserved radish because I didn’t have the time to go to a specialty store and Woolies didn’t seem to sell it.

We got home from parent teacher interviews and Aaron and I teamed up to knock out dinner in record time (especially for a first go at a recipe). I put the coconut cream, some vegetable oil and the curry paste in our big skillet and once it started smelling nice and was mixed together I chucked in the chicken that Aaron had diced up to stir fry for a few minutes. Then I added the stock, the coconut milk, the brown sugar and the fish sauce and cooked the chicken through.  Lastly I added the tofu (again diced by Aaron) and the curry powder and set it to simmer while Aaron was boiling a couple of eggs and slicing lime wedges and chopping coriander. I blanched the bean sprouts and then boiled the rice noodles for 15 minutes and we were ready to assemble the dish.

Isn’t it beautiful?!! The book says it serves 4 but they were very generous portions and we still had leftovers. I liken the dish to a Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, it is warm and comforting and delicious. Aaron’s already asking when we’re making this dish again and while our littlest two weren’t that keen to eat it they did sample some and loved sucking on the limes. To each their own…