Homey Asian Food

Pad Thai

For some reason I have been craving Thai food recently. Even when I was in Taiwan I went to a Thai restaurant with my mom. I don't care much for the Thai spiciness that lingers forever on the tongue. What I love is the interesting dance by very different flavors imparted by a variety of ingredients: basil, coconut milk, lime, mint, and fish sauce, just to name a few. In fact, I remember Nigella Lawson once said that it is easy to go on a low-calorie or low-fat diet with southeast Asian food because there are many layers of flavors, and the food tastes good without the help of high amounts of fat.
I love the dish Pad Thai because it is just like that – layers of flavors and textures – you get the sweet and sour, not just the typical vinegary sour, but the tanginess from tamarind seeds; you also smell the intoxicating fish sauce fragrance, too much of which is murderous, but the right amount gives the sophisticated savory sense, not unlike the use of anchovies. Texture-wise, the smooth and silky noodles are mixed with crunchy peanuts and daikon, juicy sprouts, plump scrambled eggs, and chewy dried shrimp. Of course, to many people this is the very reason they don't like to cook asian food. Many flavors and textures mean many ingredients, and many ingredients translate to a lot of prep work. Most people may want to avoid such a recipe because they feel it is "difficult." But difficult it is not. It is quite easy. There may be a lot of busy work, but that is not hard. It is not like baking salmon filets or cooking custard where it is difficult to judge the perfect cooking time. A lot of Asian food is quite easy to make. You just need patience to do the prep work. The actual cooking time for this Pad Thai dish is less than 10 minutes! The prep work sounds daunting, but really, it can be done with absolutely no brain work involved: roasting peanuts; soaking rice noodles; cleaning bean sprouts (I don't like eating the heads and tails of bean sprouts so I pinch them off); chopping scallions, cilantro, garlic, and shallots; soaking tamarind and extracting its pulp; mixing sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce, peanut oil, and tamarind pulp; scramble some eggs; scooping out some dried shrimp and pickled daikon; cutting up chicken. After this is all done, you fire up the pan/wok, it takes only minutes to cook!

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