Saturday, October 11, 2008

Authentic Pad Thai: A Process Blog- Part 1

I've been wanting to learn how to make authentic pad thai for quite awhile now. It is, although becoming somewhat of a cliche in Toronto food, my favourite Thai dish. However, the takeout versions I've had, while often very good, aren't particularly authentic. I best love the Green Mango street style pad thai; as pad thai is a street food, the name points to its authenticity. Their regular pad thai is definitely not authentic, however, as it includes tomato.

Off I went on a web search for a good pad thai recipe. I started with Recipezaar, Food Network, and All Recipes; however, none had an authentic recipe. I knew that pad thai had tamarind and fish sauce in it, but these all had ketchup and soy. So, to Google I turned, and very soon, I came across Chez Pim. Pim Techamuanvivit is a food blogger originally from Bangkok, which made me excited in two ways: one, she's Thai; two, she knows food. I had my source. Her recipe for pad thai isn't really a recipe, but a very detailed instruction manual. Fantastic! I'm in the process of working through it right now.

Morning: off to the St. Lawrence market to pick up the ingredients for pad thai sauce from Lively Life Fine Food, which is my go-to location for any exotic or hard to find ingredients. I needed tamarind paste (check!), palm sugar (check!), and chili (check!). The other ingredient, fish sauce, I already had.

Afternoon: time to make my sauce. Soak the block of tamarind paste in three cups of hot water (Pim suggests four, but my block of tamarind was much smaller than hers, and three ended up being just right). Once the water is cool enough to put your hands into, wash your hands well, and go to work mushing the tamarind paste with the water to break up the pulp and separate the membranes and the seeds. Once you've broken up the paste as much as possible, push the mixture through a strainer to get out all of the membranes and seeds. You're left with a mixture the consistency of thinned out ketchup. Your hands will be quite sour and sticky. Have a taste of the pure tamarind. I love sour foods (as does the hubby), so I quite enjoy the taste of it plain.

Then, it was on to making the sauce. I grated my palm sugar, which comes in blocks, using a microplane; a food processor would also work well. In flavour, it is somewhere between brown sugar and maple sugar-delicious! I started out by mixing 1/2 c. of tamarind, 1/2 c. of palm sugar, and 1/2 c. of fish sauce in a small pot over low heat. This was more sour than salty, so I added more sugar and fish sauce, which tasted better. Then, I began adding the chili, little by little, tasting as I went, until the flavours came in this order: salty, sour, sweet, and lightly hot. Yum. I've kept the sauce fairly sharp, in terms of sourness, as that's something that the hubby loves, but the best way to make your sauce is to taste it as you go and play with it until you like it. By this point the sauce was simmering nicely; I'm off for a walk, so I've turned it off, and I'll continue the recipe from this point when I get back and it's time to eat. There was lots of tamarind left over, so it's now in the fridge, ready for my next pad thai craving.


Mariecel said...

If you're looking for more authentic Asian recipes, try It's the only site I could find proper Filipino recipes on, and I assume the authenticity stretches to the other countries on the site as well.