In the downtown area of where I live, there are a countless number of small restaurants and shoppes (yes shop-pes) which speckle the streets with their small town charm. Driving up the main street at night is one of my favorite things to do; there are lights in the trees, and the whole city is buzzing with life. Among these gems is my favorite Thai restaurant ever. It’s a small Mom and Pop style run place, with one waiter, and kitsch galore. Of course, it’s all Thai themed, so it’s not reminiscent of a 50’s diner, but the food is the main attraction.
I try to get something different every time we go, and have been successful thus far. When I do go with my friends, we all get something different, which I enjoy. Since we’re like family, there are lots of, “Hey, can I steal a bite?”s and “Oh my god, you guys need to try this. IT’S SO GOOD!!”s. All in all, I’ve had 8 different things off their menu of over 250 different things (the upside in Asian style restaurants).
Wanting to spread the love, without spreading my wallet too thin, I thought it would be a good idea to try to imitate my most recent favorite dish, Pad Kee Mao. Also known as Drunken noodles, this dish has absolutely no (or I suppose, very little) alcohol in it. At the restaurant it comes with your choice of protein (my favorite being Tofu), served over a bed of wide rice noodles, and wonderfully stir-fried vegetables, smothered in the house spicy bean sauce (it sounds gross, but it’s the best thing in the WORLD). They also have the most tantilizing cucumber water; it kills the heat like none other.
So how does a college kid approach the unknown? : Google. I found so many different recipes, and each one of them had a few different ingredients, or different methods; I was over-stimulated with all my options. I took all of the common threads in the recipes, and linked them to this recipe. Living in the central Midwest also has its down side; do you have any idea how hard it is to find “Golden Mountain Sauce” or “Mirin” is to find here?? Not only did I not even know what to look for, but once I found the Mirin sauce, I got to the register and was stopped by the attendant.
“Sir may I see your I.D.?”
“Why? I’m not buying alcohol…”
“The red light went off, which means alcohol. *inspects Mirin bottle* Sir, this is 8% alcohol, I can’t sell this to you.”
“It’s vinegar!! Do you think I’m going to drink it in my car on the way home?!”
“Sir, it has alcohol in it. You aren’t 21. I’m sorry. *walks away*”
There aren’t words for the anger I felt at that moment. I stalked out of the store, and came home, all in a tiff about how Meijer wouldn’t sell me vinegar. Only 10 more months, and I’ll be old enough. Then they’ll see….
Alas, I’m rambling again. Here’s what I could salvage of a Pad Kee Mao recipe. You can Google search for one like this, or this, but if you don’t recognize the ingredients, you might want to ask for a field trip to the International aisle of your local market.
Pad Kee Mao
2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
2 Tbsp Fish sauce
2 Tbsp Brown sugar
4 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tbsp Sriracha, or chili sauce
1 Tbsp Thai Garlic chili paste
Juice of two limes
2 Jalapenos, seeds and ribs included, diced (or Thai chilies if you can find them)
(these are ingredients I couldn’t find, but were in all the recipes I saw)
2 Tbsp Golden Mountain Sauce (light colored soy sauce)
2 Tbsp Mirin (Sake vinegar, which I learned after some post-store-scene research)
I, again, failed at finding the correct noodles.
1 pack of Maifun Rice sticks, or cellophane noodles (these SHOULD be wide rice noodles)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 package of extra firm tofu
½ pound snow peas, washed and pat dry
½ yellow onion, diced small
1 Tbsp minced Garlic
2 bell peppers, seeded and diced (preferably colorful ones)
Boil water in a saucepan. Once boiling, pour over dry noodles in a heat-proof bowl. Let stand for about 15-20 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the ingredients of the sauce, and mix well. Set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, add the sesame oil, and heat until the oil is smoking. Once hot, add the onion and bell peppers. Cook until soft, about 4-6 minutes. Open the Tofu, and pat it dry with a paper towel. Cut it into planks, then into equal sized cubes, about ½”x ½”x ½”. Add the Tofu in, and cook until slightly brown. Stir in the garlic and snow peas and cook until the snow peas are warmed through. Add the sauce and noodles. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce is evenly distributed and everything is hot. Serve with LOTS of cucumber and dairy products, as this is a VERY spicy dish.