Daily Archives: November 28, 2008

How to cook… Pad Thai

Today we are going to show you how to cook one of the most popular Thai dishes for foreigners. It is called “pad thai” or Thai Fried Noodles. It is not that difficult to cook but it involves a bit of an effort to prepare the ingredients. To be honest with you, we cheated a bit today. Our local pad thai food stall kindly gave us all the ingredients and also allowed us to make notes on her method of cooking. However, she wouldn’t tell us the secret ingredients for the sauce. This is what makes her stall more popular than others around this area. She actually admitted that even she doesn’t know the recipe as it is made by her mother in a back room. The ingredients you can see below are, from top and going clockwise, roasted peanuts, fresh rice noodles (sen jan), salted Chinese radish, fried tofu, red shallots, dried shrimp, fresh shrimp and two eggs in the middle. Normally it is one egg per dish. On the left, you can see Chinese chives, beansprouts and sliced lime. Some people use garlic instead of red shallots. I have also sometimes seen chicken instead of the more popular shrimp.

Heat the oil up in a wok. Add red shallots and cook until fragrant. Then add the fresh shrimp, salted radish, tofu and dried shrimp. Give a good stir all the time. Move the ingredients to one side and then break two eggs into the pan. Cook for about a minute and then mix in with the other ingredients. Move to one side again. Add the fresh rice noodles. If you are using dried noodles you must soak in water for about 10 minutes. Then add tamarind paste and the secret sauce. Adjust the taste to your liking by adding soy sauce or fish sauce and sugar. Stir slowly until the noodles become dry. Now mix all the ingredients together. Finally, add the Chinese chives and beansprouts. Stir this in but there is no need to cook it. Serve with fresh vegetables, ground roasted peanuts and a slice of lime. I think ours tasted just as good as the real thing! Looks good too.

You will find the archives for my Thai Street Food blogs over at our new site www.ThaiStreetFood.com. You will also find there cooking videos that I shot at our local food vendors. You can download these for free. Some of the more popular videos have already been download more than 25,000 times!

A House Divided

There is only one rule I go by during my current trip home.

Do NOT bring up politics with family or friends.

Nowadays in Thailand, for some people, you are either the Yellow Shirt (PAD-People’s Alliance for Democracy) or Red Shirt (Anti-PAD).

I have talked to many friends from both sides of the fences. The Yellow Shirts are out and about, strutting proudly while all the “Red Shirts” I know are closeted ones.

Everywhere you go, at some point it will come up. As much as everyone seems to avoid talking about politics, you really just can’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Sometimes people would just make a few jokes about their side just to ease the tension, and the conversation moves on to something else.

I’ve made conversation with chartered van driver in Phuket who would come up to Bangkok to join PAD mob in a heartbeat if he doesn’t have a family to worry about. I’ve talked to a Red Shirt cabby who wouldn’t take any Yellow Shirt passengers. I’ve heard of the uncles and aunties getting dropped off at PAD rally by their Mercedes’ and BMW’s. I’ve listened to a daughter fighting with her mother trying to explain what democracy really means.

I have heard from both sides and I nodded in agreement to both sides. Not because I agree with what they said entirely, but just to keep the peace.

A friend told me her PAD aunt is so adamant that she takes a side because neutral is unacceptable. So she only takes her side in her presence. I found myself doing the same thing.

I usually just wait to see which side the person I’m talking to is taking. Then I would nod and simply go along with what they said.

When being neutral is not an option, but being a fake Red/Yellow to be civil.

Once in a while, my defense was, “I live in America. I have no idea what to think. What do YOU think about Obama?” Subject changed. No problem!

It seems we Thais know exactly how to keep peace in our households and circles of friends.

We just can’t seem to keep the same peace in our nation.

P.S. I am still in Bangkok through December 4. Brandon is supposed to leave tomorrow but airport is still closed. Stay tuned for updates from us two (kind of) lost souls!