Lest my readers think it’s all pastries, chocolate, and berries, all the time at Chez Rural Victorianist, I offer this recipe for Shrimp Pad Thai.
OK, fine, I lie. It’s all blueberries, all the time over here. Blooooooo. Beeeeeeries. All the time. North Carolina, if you can’t find any blueberries, pleaaase don’t blame me. I have a condition. That can only be healed through blueberries. Or something. Yeah.
But I digress. Back to the Shrimp Pad Thai. My interest/obsession with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai food is pretty well documented on this here website. (See this soup, this cauliflower, and this chicken as evidence.) This obsession owes in equal parts to my love of anything rice noodle/stir fry and my failed attempts at Indian cuisine. Granted, I’ve only ever tried naan and a cashew chicken dish (I attribute the naan-fiasco to bad yeast, and the cashew chicken dish was just…wrong.) For anyone out there who can offer any advice/recipes/will come down and just cook the damn thing for me, I’m dying for some Saag Paneer, though.
Wait, where was I? Right, Thai stir-fry, not Indian spinach and cheese. I had previously attempted my hand at Pad Thai a year or so ago. But failing at the tamarind-procurement process–which all the recipes I consulted assured me was necessary for an authentic-tasting Pad Thai–I somehow felt the results were underwhelming, and I never bothered with it again.
If you follow the publishing business news, you already know about the fight between Amazon and Hatchette to gain a monopoly on the book buying business. (See Sherman Alexie and Stephen Colbert discuss Amazon’s bid for a monopoly on the book publishing business and recommendation to boycott Amazon altogether here). Nevertheless, I recently managed to lay my hands on some tamarind paste, which lends the distinctly sour bite to the best of all Pad Thai dishes, courtesy of the evil genius/dickish monstrosity of Amazon’s website. With a few pangs of conscience because no, Amazon, it is not fair to undermine the serious, legitimate talent of first-time writers just so you can claim more of the literary marketplace for your bottom line, it was back to the Pad Thai races for me.
This time around, I went with Aida Mollenkamp’s recipe for Shrimp and Tofu Pad Thai. I liked that the recipe called for more vegetables than the other recipes I checked out, and I also liked that Mollenkamp admitted to adding still others in when the mood struck. And I was also interested to see her preparing all of the ingredients ahead of time but then stir-frying individual portions, rather than the whole shebang at one time.
As with most stir-fries, it helps to have all the ingredients ready to go before you start cooking.This was my first time to use tamarind, which I found in concentrate form. Since it had already been turned into a paste, I didn’t have to soften the pulp in water. Texture/consistency-wise, it was thick, a little thicker than molasses. Taste-wise, the concentrate packed a seriously sour punch.
My apologies for the lack of pictures demonstrating the cooking process. Once the garlic, onions, and pepper hits the skillet, things move quickly! I couldn’t manage to keep everything going and wield a camera at the same time.
I served mine pretty traditionally, with chopped peanuts, parsley (I dislike cilantro with a passion), a squeeze of lime, and a drizzle of Sriracha.The end result was well worth the guilt over acquiring tamarind from the evil empire, aka, Amazon. The sweet/sour/salty/punchy sauce is simple to put together and infinitely better than any pre-jarred sauce in the supermarket, and the ability to control the kinds and amounts of vegetables and proteins is a definite plus. Ultimately, being able to make a tasty Pad Thai at any time of the morning, day, or night that I might want it–and not just when Thai restaurants are open–can’t be beat.Now who wants to come make me some Saag Paneer?