One of my favorite cookbooks that I own (though I don't use it nearly as much as I'd like) is The New Best Recipe by America's Test Kitchen. Not only does it run the gamut from salsa to pizza dough to soft-shell crab and cover basics, like fresh pasta, chicken stock, and chocolate chip cookies, it has a detailed explanation about the choice of ingredients, cooking times, substitutions, best brands to buy, etc. Each recipe is taken through a rigorous testing process, and it shows.
After making our Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup, we had left over rice noodles, so I decided to try Pad Thai. Oh. Wow. This Pad Thai recipe is seriously amazing. I made a full batch thinking I would take some for lunch, but we ate it all. Even the husband ate it and he didn't think he liked Pad Thai or most Thai food in general. Little did he know. It's got the right balance of sweet and tang, a little heat, the noodles tender, but not too mushy, and of course, the delicious nuttiness from the ground peanuts.
I used chicken instead of shrimp. I also used oyster sauce instead of fish sauce (so sue me, it's what we had!) and it tasted just fine. The store was out of bean sprouts, so alas, none of that, and I used the books recommended substitute for "tamarind paste" which, er, I didn't even know where to begin to look for in my not-always-well-stocked-but-painfully-convenient Shaws market. And I forgot to get scallions. So actually, I made a lot of changes. But it was still delicious!
Please make this and savor it. You'll thank me.
adapted from The New Best Recipe
Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people!)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
3 TBS fish (or oyster) sauce
1 TBS rice vinegar
3 TBS brown sugar
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 TBS vegetable or peanut oil
8 oz dried rice stick noodles
2 large eggs
1 large chicken breast, halved lengthwise and cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small onion, diced (or 1 med. shallot)
6 TBS chopped unsalted, roasted peanuts
3 cups bean sprouts
5 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on diagonal
lime wedges for serving
1) Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in a large bowl. Soak until softened and pliable, but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.
2) Whisk together lime juice, water, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, red pepper, and 2 TBS of oil. Set aside.
3) Beat eggs and 1/8 tsp of salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
4) Heat 1 TBS of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the chicken with 1/8 tsp of salt. Sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
5) Lower heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add garlic and onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add beaten egg to the pan and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon and scramble until barely moist. Add the rice noodles. Toss with tongs (or two wooden spoons) to combine.
6) Pour oyster sauce mixture over noodles and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated. Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, chicken, and all but 1/4 cup scallions. Continue to cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are tender (about 2 1/2 minutes). If not yet tender, at 2 TBS water to the pan and continue to cook until tender (I found I had to do this).
7) Transfer noodles to serving plates. Top with scallions, peanuts, and lime wedges to garnish.