I’ve been known to judge Thai restaurants by the quality of their pad thai and I don’t think I’m alone. Of all the Thai dishes we Westerners enjoy, pad thai is probably the best known (i.e., most ordered). Variations run the gamut, from peanut butter-based sauces to super spicy chili-flecked noodles. I’ve tried making pad thai in the past with disappointing results. It seemed almost too hard to wade through all the variations to find a good recipe. A few things seem to be universal (rice noodles, peanuts, lime), but the true taste of pad thai, or what I wanted pad thai to be, eluded me until Reuben found this Alton Brown version. The small quantities of some of the hard-to-find ingredients may lead you to believe you don’t really need them, but trust me, you do. Somehow a couple tablespoons of dried shrimp or a few shreds of salted cabbage really make the dish what it is. And these odd ingredients all freeze or refrigerate well for several months, so they won’t go to waste.
I’ve been making the banana walnut muffins for years. They’re moist and not too sweet, with a nearly crisp top thanks to all the butter. These freeze well too. To freeze, simply cool the muffins, then drop them into a Ziploc bag. They’ll keep for up to two months. I grab a couple frozen muffins when I wake up in the morning, then by the time the kids are dropped off at school, I can leisurely enjoy the now-defrosted muffins in the car on my way to work.
adapted from Alton Brown
1 oz (30 g) tamarind paste
3/4 cup (180 ml) boiling water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 oz (110 g) rice stick noodles
8 oz (225 g) tofu, pressed and then cut into 1/2‑inch-wide strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon salted cabbage
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
3 oz (90 g) bean sprouts, divided
1/2 cup (75 g) roasted salted peanuts, chopped, divided
freshly ground dried red chili peppers, to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges
Place the tamarind paste in the boiling water and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Combine the fish sauce, sugar, and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the rice stick noodles in a mixing bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Once the other ingredients are measured out into separate bowls, drain the water from the noodles and set them aside.
In a small bowl, toss the tofu with the soy sauce and let it marinate.
Press the tamarind paste through a fine mesh strainer and add to the sauce. Stir to combine.
Place a wok over a high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. Heat the oil until it shimmers, then add the tofu. Cook the tofu until golden brown, moving constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the tofu from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.
If necessary, add some more peanut oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add two-thirds of the scallions and then the garlic. Cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the eggs to the pan; once the eggs begin to set up, about 15 to 20 seconds, stir to scramble. Add the remaining ingredients in the following order and toss after each addition: noodles, sauce, cabbage, shrimp, and two-thirds of the bean sprouts and peanuts. Toss everything until heated through, but no longer than 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining scallions, bean sprouts, and peanuts. Serve immediately with the ground chili peppers and lime wedges.
The Palace Cafe’s Banana Walnut Muffins
adapted from The Palace Cafe
Makes 1 dozen
1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
3/4 cup (about 3 oz/90 g) chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup (1 stick/110 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease 12 (1/2 cup) muffin cups or line with paper or silicone muffin liners. Mix together the flour, sugar, chopped walnuts, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Combine the bananas, butter, egg and milk in a medium bowl. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.