It’s almost eleven on a Sunday night and I’m sitting, exhausted, in front of the computer with no other lights on. The room is slightly chilly because Montreal spring doesn’t come till May. The skin on my hands is brittle and dry from washing so many dishes, and the smell of fish sauce hangs faintly in the air. I am tired, but thinking of the assignment I have to turn in tomorrow that I haven’t yet finished and the interviews I have to transcribe this week, as well as the rest of the interviews I need to schedule and do as soon as I possibly can, lest I never finish this project in time. These days are focused on just getting through this project.
I made this tonight, and fell in love. I think this is how pad thai is supposed to taste: light, fresh, flavourful, with a hint of tangy bitterness from the tamarind.
5 ounces pad thai rice noodles, preferably the thin kind
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg, room temperature
6 medium shrimp, peeled
1/2 cup small cubes of pressed tofu
1 tablespoon sweet preserved shredded radish, rinsed, chopped into 1″ pieces (didn’t use and was fine)
1 cup bean sprouts
2 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste mixed with 2 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin
4 garlic chives, 2 cut into 1″ pieces (I used scallions)
1/2 teaspoon ground dried Thai chiles, divided
2 tablespoons crushed roasted, unsalted peanuts, divided
2 lime wedges
Place noodles in a large bowl; pour hot water over to cover. Let soak until tender but not mushy, 5-10 minutes. Don’t oversoak. Drain; set aside.
Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add egg; stir until barely set, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp, if using. Cook, stirring, until shrimp and egg are almost cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Add tofu and radish; cook for 30 seconds. Add noodles and cook for 1 minute. Stir in sprouts. Add tamarind water, fish sauce, and simple syrup and stir-fry until sauce is absorbed by noodles and noodles are well coated, about 1 minute. Stir in chopped garlic chives. Add 1/4 teaspoon ground chiles and 1 tablespoon peanuts and toss well. Transfer to serving plates.
Garnish with remaining 1/4 teaspoon ground chiles, 1 tablespoon peanuts, and lime wedges.