Sunday Night Special: Pad Thai
I’ve never understood why bean sprouts are so scarce. I got it when I lived in Ridgewood: Polish = no bean sprouts. I almost even resorted to canned La Choy once. In Sunset Park/Greenwood Heights the nearest source was about half a mile away at a South Slope deli. I didn’t think bean sprouts were a specialty or “ethnic” ingredient but I’m starting to wonder. They don’t even carry them at Rossman Farms, my favorite cheapo, all-purpose produce store that sometimes surprises. A full handcart never ends up being over ten bucks.
Bean sprouts aren’t worth the hassle of going out your way for them. Currently, the closest grocery store to me is the so-so Henry Street Met. And I’ll occasionally stop by after work for a handful of things but I’m not going to walk sixteen blocks home and back to come away empty-handed.
I thought for sure the healthy Korean deli with packaged vegan sandwiches and loose tofu would have them, but no. They did have enoki mushrooms, and I considered them for similar shape and crunch but it didn’t seem right. So, no bean sprouts appear in this semi-impromptu pad thai.
I had been writing about Thai restaurants and strangely, I was bitten by the pad thai bug. I don’t think I’ve had the noodles in at least a year. Ordering them at restaurants seems like a waste of a dish. Kasma Loha-unchit is reliable for recipes and I followed hers almost faithfully and adjusted to what I had around the house. That meant chicken thigh instead of tofu and shrimp and using two eggs instead of three because I was already going protein heavier than the original. I used hot radish rather than sweet because I have a perishable little jar in the fridge that needs to be used up. I also considered this foil packaged radish because I tend to buy pickled things without knowing how to use them and I need to pare down my pantry contents. I do like this sentiment on the label, “It is not only an idea food at home or journey but also a best gift to your friends.”
And I like chopping and sprinkling the cilantro rather than sticking a few sprigs on top. Urgh, and then my limes that I’d bought the day before disappeared. I’m not sure if they got left at Stop & Shop or if I accidentally threw them out with a plastic bag. Ok, so this was a sproutless, limeless rendition (luckily, the corner produce cart guy near my office had a few limes so my evening leftovers will be tarter) and it was still better than average.
Soaking the noodles in warm water for nearly an hour instead of cooking for a few minutes made a big difference. I wasn’t sold on the idea. They seemed way too stiff after their water bath but I tossed them into the wok anyway. And then after adding the sauce, everything seemed too wet. But miraculously, it all came together and the noodles were nearly perfect. I usually have issues with rice sticks, well, sticking. If I only had those damn bean sprouts, this would be a high-ranking rendition. But that’s a reflection of NYC’s vegetable lameness, not the recipe’s fault.
As an earlier lazy snack, I peeled open a tin can of fried fish with chile and consumed it simply with a small bowl of rice. It’s possibly the equivalent of canned sardines with crackers. A cheap treat with crunchy, edible bones but sweet and spicy. The only thing is that the cartoon fish logo looks like he’s drooling. And the fish used in the cans are downright scary. I didn’t know what grinner or clarias were until I looked them up. One is borderline monstrous, the other walks, yes, walks. Though I like munching on their flesh, I have an aversion to sea creatures (whales, while majestic to many, give me the creeps. And these timely things, sweet jesus). It’s not always a good idea to know what your food looks like.