Pad Thai was something I tried for the first time in college... and instantly fell in love with. The combination of sweet and savory flavors, plus the fact that it's a noodle-based dish, had me at the first bite. Luckily, there are a great many Thai restaurants in the Chicago area... two that I frequented in college (in Evanston) were Joy Yee's and Cozy Noodle (which was also byob... triple plus). I've actually only been to one Thai restaurant "downtown" (read: south of Evanston) so far, but I hope to visit more. If anyone has suggestions of good places to go, let me know!
The REASON I've only been to one Chicago Thai restaurant is that since I moved down here in September, I've been making the stuff myself, out of boxes. Thai Kitchen is my favorite brand: the box comes with dry rice stick noodles and a packet of sauce, and you provide the veggies and protein of your choice.
Tonight, however, Ted and I decided to leave the box behind and try to make pad thai "from scratch". Except that it wasn't reeeeally "from scratch" because the pad thai sauce came out of a jar. But we bought & cooked everything else individually.
These are the ingredients we used:
2 Chicken Breasts
1 Jar of Thai Kitchen Pad Thai Sauce
Curry Powder (to kick it up)
Dry Rice Stick Noodles (available at your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe's)
Lime Wedges, Crushed Peanuts & Pickled Cabbage for garnish
And this is what you do with those ingredients:
First, bring a small pan of water to a boil, then turn off the burner and let the rice noodles soak in the hot water for about ten minutes. Then take them out, strain them, ran them under cold water, toss them with a little oil (so they don't stick together), and set them aside.
[PICTURE: CHOPPED VEGGIES]
Then chop the veggies (beautifully) and set aside.
[PICTURE: VEGGIES & CHICKEN IN THE WOK]
Cut the raw chicken into strips and fry over sesame oil (or peanut oil or vegetable oil) on high heat. Once chicken is almost done, add your bok choi, carrots, and half of your scallions to the wok. Add two tablespoons of the pad thai sauce and stir fry.
[PICTURE: HAND COOKING PAD THAI]
After a few minutes (when veggies are pretty much cooked through) add the noodles you have set aside. Add the rest of the jar of pad thai sauce and chili powder to taste, and fry until the noodles are heated through and have absorbed some of the liquid in the wok. It helps to have tongs.
[PICTURE: PAD THAI ON PLATE]
Take off heat and divide onto serving plates; garnish with crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, the remaining scallions, pickled cabbage and a lime wedge. [I usually eat mine with chopsticks but all Ted had was a fork. Sigh.]
And that's all there is to it! I'll have to go to Thailand someday and see how their stuff compares.