I love watching my mother cook.
There's something mesmerising about the way she moves swiftly through the kichen that keeps me standing there, watching her for hours. I love the unique way she cooks, the way she manoeuvres the spatula and her clever tricks -for instance, the way she loads up the wok with raw veggies and scoops them with the wok lid before they start to wilt, to cook them all without them falling out. I love how effortless she makes cooking seem, simply tossing all the ingredients in our tiny wok, so that each an every piece is cooked equally.
It isn't as easy as it seems- I would know. Everytime I try cooking in a wok, I feel more like I'm folding the ingredients roughly rather than cooking, and I can't seem to cook everything evenly, no matter how hard I try to mimic my mother's movements. The first time I tried to cook vegetables, my mum told me to add oyster sauce, and copying the way she adds wine, I poured it around the vegetables, straight onto the flaming hot wok. Of course, it immediately sizzled fiercely and burnt, creating a mess, much to my mother's annoyance. I stayed away from cooking for a while.
I think one of the reasons why I have more of an interest in baking than cooking is because no one else in this household already does it well. There isn't anyone to constantly tell me what I'm doing wrong- I can do whatever I want, learn from my mistakes and figure things out myself. And importantly, there's a slightly greater sense of satisfaction in succeeeding where no one else you know has succeeded before.
So it'll come to no surprise that my cooking hardly ever features on this blog- I rarely 'cook'. And when I do, you'll most likely find my cooking up something new and different to what my mother would usually cook, like this pad thai- one of the few dishes I regularly cook. At first I was a little scared of stir frying, especially as the noodles could possibly stick to the work and cause a mess. Luckily they didn't and the recipe really couldn't be any simpler- it's just a matter of mixing up a sauce which consists of 4 ingredients, and then stir frying it with rice noodles and whatever else you feel like throwing in =)
We were also quite skeptical of the recipe at first because of the one strange ingredient we'd never even heard of before- tamarind. It is extremely pungent as other blogger had me warned, infact so stinky, the first time we made it, we were almost sure that it wouldn't work out. But we were pleasantly surprised when it did and it was so good, that I could immediately think of plenty of pad thai dishes I'd had at restaurants that were inferior to this.
This pad thai has since become our go to dish whenever we're looking for something different for dinner. We usually make a huge pot of sauce and keep the remainder in the freezer (which led to a really cool discovery- it doesn't actually become solid in the freeer!) and then stir fry it with the noodles whenever we feel like a pad thai.
And thanks very much to this recipe, I've had plenty of practice with stir frying- I think I'll soon be able to cook like my mum!! (or...maybe not.......)
from Chez Pim via Use Real Butter
vegetable oil (for frying)
12 oz. chicken (2 oz. per serving)
4 cloves (10g) minced garlic (about 1/2+ clove per serving) sauce (see below) (about 1/4 cup per serving)
1 lb. (500g) rice noodles, soaked in warm water to soften (but not too soft)
6 eggs (1 egg per serving)
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (4-6 shrimp per serving)
1 cup (155g) ground peanuts (1-2 tbsps per serving)
3-4 cups bean sprouts (1/2 cup per serving)
1/2 cup (75g) pickled turnips, chopped (1+ tbsp per serving)
1 cup garlic chives or green onions, chopped (2 tbsps per serving)
fresh limes (garnish)
1/2 cup (130g) tamarind paste
1/2 cup (120g) fish sauce
1/3 cup (75g) brown sugar
1 tbsp (9g) chili powder (to taste- I omit this)
Make the sauce: Over a low flame, heat the tamarind, fish sauce, and brown sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the chili powder a teaspoon at a time to desired spiciness. (I sometimes add a teaspoon or two of dark soy sauce to deepen the colour- the colour of the sauce will depend on the colour of your ingredients) Bring the sauce to a simmer. Turn off the heat (keep sauce warm).
Make the pad thai: [The key is to cook up 1-2 servings at a time!] Heat 2-3 tablespoons ofoil in wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add 2 ounces of chicken andstir-fry until it is half cooked. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sauce, and a pinch of
garlic. Stir around and add about 2 cups of loosely packed (for me, a big handful)of rice noodles plus 1/4 cup of sauce to the pan and stir vigorously until the noodles soften. If it dries out, you can add some water. Push the noodles to the side and crack an egg into the pan. Let the egg cook for 10 seconds and then toss the noodles and egg together in the pan. Drop 4-6 shrimp, a couple of tablespoons of ground peanuts, a heaping tablespoon of turnip, and 1/2 cup of sprouts into the pan. Stir fry until the shrimp are just cooked (very fast – about a minute). Toss in the green onions or garlic chives and remove from heat. Serve hot with more sprouts, ground peanuts, and lime wedges for garnish.