“Tick, tick, tick”- that sound was my first encounter with Pad Thai.
It was a few lifetimes ago, on one of my first holidays outside Europe. I had been in the country only a few hours and was waking up from a jet lagged coma in a tiny Bangkok hotel room.
At first I wasn’t sure whether the “tick, tick, tick” belonged to the world of my dreams or this exotic foreign land. I lifted a dream heavy hand to pull back the curtains (not too hard to do, as the room was only a few centimetres wider than the bed). The world outside had changed whilst I had been napping: night had fallen and the day’s desolate street had tuned into a bright and buzzing stage.
There was a crowd in a circle on the street below. At the heart of all, there was a little aluminium cart. Blue flames licking a wok. A man industriously working a stir-fry.
“Tick, tick, tick” and moments later I was holding a little square plastic tub. At first I was a little disappointed, that all this anticipation delivered no more than a few noodles, some bits of chicken and a few diced veg. But then I used my flimsy chopsticks to slide a bite into my mouth; an amazing flavour explosion hit me: sweet first, followed by spicy- salty and then the lightest touch of sour.
I experimented for a while with different recipes to get as close as I could to the memory of that taste. This time I combined the traditional flavours of Pad Thai with one of my newer discoveries: zucchini noodles. I was amazed how well they worked in this dish. If you do not feel inclined to take a julienne cutter – even better a spiral cutter – to a zucchini, this recipe works just as well with the customary rice noodles.
A plate of Pad Thai always takes me down memory lane for a few moments. But then it mainly makes me smile at all those new discoveries and adventures that lie ahead.
1-2 zucchini (or rice noodles)
150g raw prawns
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of dried chilli
optional: 2 level tbsp dried shrimp
1/2 red onion or 1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli
100g bean sprouts
- If making zucchini noodles: Use a spiral- or julienne cutter to cut the zucchini into noodles. When using a spiral cutter, break the strands about three times as they are too hard to eat when they are too long.
- If using rice noodles: bring water to the boil and prepare the noodles according to packet instruction.
- Peel and devein the prawns.
- In a small pan combine the lime juice, fish sauce and tamarind sauce and brown sugar. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and taste – add more of any of the ingredients as you wish. Season with dried chilli to taste. Set aside.
- If using dried shrimp: Pour some of the boiling water on the shrimp. Allow to sit 10 minutes.
- Thinly slice the spring onion.
- Chop the coriander.
- Slice onion into very thin half moon slices.
- Deseed and chop the chilli.
- Fry onion, chilli, garlic on a high heat until just soft.
- Drain the dried pawns and add, keeping the heat high.
- Add the noodles to the hot pan. Heat until the zucchini wilts (You are looking for the texture of al dente pasta.)
- Add the sauce.
- Push the noodles to the side. Add the prawns and black pepper. Cook until the prawns are just pink.
- Toss in the bean sprouts. Move all to the side again.
- Add the eggs. Pierce the yolks and, when they start to set on the bottom, scramble. Stir vigorously until almost set and then mix into the noodles.
- Add half spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
- Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with remaining spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
- Cut the lime in the wedges and serve on the side.
- this is a dish of its own right, but you can add
- steamed bok choy
- Thai fish cakes
Replace the prawns with a combination of chicken and tofu