Of course, this is understandable because to do otherwise would ensure they go out of business in a tiny minute. Most diners wouldn't recognize authentic ethnic cuisine if it stepped upon their taste receptors, and they probably would reject it if they did. As a for-instance, I came across a diner review the other day stating that Taco Bell was a super-duper Mexican restaurant. Conyo!
Last night my taste buds were in the mood for some authentic home cooked Thai food, so I pulled out one of my Thai grandmother's recipes that was a favorite dish after a night of heavy drinking. I don't really think my Thai grandmother was a heavy drinker, but this might have been her favorite recipe if she had been, especially if she was from Thailand. Actually, my grandmother was German, in which case she might have been a heavy drinker and would have appreciated this recipe.
The recipe is Pad Kee Mao, otherwise known as Drunken Noodles. It is not that the noodles are drunken since there is no alcohol in this recipe. As I indicated before, this is something you feed to a bunch of drunken people to help sober them up. I should stress at this point that if you are one of those drunken people, you should let someone else do the cooking.
With that said, let us proceed with my Thai Grannie's recipe, or my Grannie's Thai recipe. Whatever!
The first step is to visit a local Oriental market. You will not find all of the right ingredients at Publix, where shopping is an adventure.
Here, then, are Grannie's Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
8 ounces rice noodles - I prefer the 3 mm size
4 tablespoons sea salt -- added to noodle water
1 tablespoon black bean garlic sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar -- white or brown
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 kaffir lime leaves -- ribs removed and very thinly sliced
2 green onions -- thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic -- minced
1 ounce ginger root -- peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups bok choy -- cut in 1" strips
3 medium tomatoes -- cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup fresh cilantro -- chopped
1 cup fresh basil -- chopped (preferably Thai)
Heat a large pot of salted water to near boiling. Remove from heat and add rice noodles. Let them soak for about 5 minutes. Test for doneness - al dente. Then drain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking process. Set aside.
Place all sauce ingredients in a cup and stir well. Do a taste test - this stir-fry sauce will be very strong at this point, but will be diluted later when added to the noodles. If too sour, add a little more sugar. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce.
Here is my mise en place - the bok choy in the large bowl, the lime leaves, onions, garlic, and ginger in the small bowl, the sauce in the cup, and the chopped herbs and tomatoes on the board. Everything is ready for the stove.
In a wok or large frying pan over medium to high heat, add the peanut oil. When up to temp, add the lime leaves, onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir fry 1 minute, or until fragrant.
Add the bok choy and stir fry another 30 seconds, or until the bok choy leaves have turned bright green. Then add the stir-fry sauce plus the tomatoes, cilantro, and basil. Stir fry for an additional minute to incorporate the sauce and soften the tomatoes a bit.
Remove from heat and do a taste test for salty and sweet. Adjust, if need be, to your taste.
In an individual serving bowl, plate a portion of noodles and top with sauce and vegetable mixture.
I am showing chop sticks only for effect. I have never been presented with chop sticks in a Thai restaurant, just forks and spoons.
Provide extra fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and Viet garlic paste for your diners to adjust noodles to their liking.
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Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 746 Calories; 23g Fat (26.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 136g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 12022mg Sodium. Exchanges: 6 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 4 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.
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Here is most of what you will need from the Oriental market. It helps to have a kaffir lime tree growing out in the yard. Missing is the black bean sauce. I used the last of what I had last night and the empty jar went out with this morning's garbage.
This reminds me that I need to go back to the market. I'm almost out of cock sauce (so-called because of the rooster on the label) and I use that in many recipes from all over the world.
Before your next night on the town, whip up a wok-full of Grannie's Drunken Noodles. Stick'em in the fridge and nuke them when you get home. You will thank yourself for being so thoughty.