Thursday, November 18, 2010

November Project: Saturation Point, Brief Respite

 A few years ago, I spent several weeks traveling in India on my own. After my very first parantha breakfast, my first thali dinner, I was smittenly blissed out. Why have I not been eating only Indian all my life!?!? I thought to myself. The cardamon-scented biryanis, the rich butter sauces, the ubiquitous lentils, the spicy pickles. And a thali was the perfect way to try a little of everything. I ate at street stands (having been thoroughly warned not to), local hole-in-the-walls, and more upscale Indian-for-tourist type restaurants. But something happened around day ten: I wanted a pizza. I wanted pasta. I wanted a cheeseburger. I wanted anything that did not have a trace of cardamon, garam masala or nutmeg and for God's sake, NO LENTILS. 

Yesterday, exactly 17 days in to the November Project, I hit my no lentil point. No more squash, in any of it's lovely variations. No stuffing, no gravy, no root vegetables, nothing gratin. I needed something so completely different, Gegenteil, 180 degrees, several thousand miles and many different languages away from foods that are associated with a cornecopia. And hence, this simple but delicious pad thai recipe, for a change of pace.

(Make no mistake, the November Project will continue apace tomorrow - still have to share the world's best stuffing recipe, port cranberry chutney and spicy harissa carrots with you. And Smash has got a few tricks up her sleeve as well.) 

Shrimp Pad Thai by Mtlabor, courtesy of (who else?) Food 52
Serves 2
  • 1-2 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces thick rice noodles
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • small handful honey roasted peanuts, chopped
  • small handful cilantro, chopped
In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, 2 tablespoons oil, and tamarind concentrate. Stir until sugar is dissolved and set aside. (Jiff's note: mmmm Tamarind! So fragrant!)

Soak the rice noodles in hot tap water for about 20 minutes, or until they start to soften but not fully tender. Drain and set aside. (Jiff's note: I thought these noodles were too think. I will look for thinner ones next time. Also, make sure they are thoroughly cooked; mine were a little too al dente, which works better with Italian pasta that Thai - in my opinion.)
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a small bowl and set aside. (There's lots of things to set aside, aren't there? Makes it easier in the end because the cooking of this dish is fairly quick).
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil under high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the shrimp start to turn pink with browned edges. Remove shrimp and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet. Add garlic, shallot, and jalapeno. Cook over medium heat and stir continuously for about 1 minute. Add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until scrambled, about 30 seconds. Add the egg noodles and toss with tongs to combine. Pour the tamarind/fish sauce mixture over the noodles and increase the heat to high, continuing to toss the ingredients with the sauce.
Add 1/2 of the chopped peanuts and cooked shrimp. Toss noodles for about 2 more minutes. Dish out onto hot plates and top with remaining peanuts and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy! (But remember, it's back to (Thanksgiving) tomorrow!)


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