Monday, February 9, 2009
My love of Thai food started during my sophomore year in college, when I would eschew cafeteria food in favor of take-out pad thai. Little did I realize then that the dish I dearly loved was not an entirely authentic experience. When I went to Thailand a couple of years later, the first thing I did after checking into my hostel was stop at a street food vendor. Since then, I've been to a lot of restaurants in order to relive this street food experience - while New York is one of the best places to find a good plate of plate of pad thai, they haven't come close to what I got while I was there. It's hard to put a finger on what's different - the best way I can explain it is that the food is less intense here - the essence of what makes something pad thai as opposed to something else has been diluted somehow. Being DIY type of person, I started to look for my own recipes. I found a very good one here. Buying everything (ingredients, supplies) to make it was pretty cheap, given my proximity to Chinatown - Kam Man, Bangkok Center Grocery, and Hong Kong Supermarket come to mind. I even ended up investing in an iron wok, as well as a pair of tongs (makes serving much easier). While I've used oyster sauce before, I have never worked with fish or tamarind sauce. Let me just say that fish sauce lives up to its name. Actually, it's pretty unbearable, really. I almost lost my appetite while making the base sauce, but when you take the finished sauce and mix it in with the noodles and meat, it miraculously transforms into something magical and delicious. Hard to explain. I imagine it's like making cheese (not that I ever would in a million years, not in my Brooklyn apartment anyway) - very smelly in the making, but with addictive results. The picture above was my clumsy first attempt. I've done it at least 10 times since then - once you get the hang of it, it's really simple to do. Much recommended.