For my second installment of Transport Your Taste Buds, Eytan of 20 Liter Adventure has volunteered to share his recipe for the Thai dish Pad See Ew. If you are interested in contributing a recipe you learned on your travels, or recreated upon your arrival home, let me know, so you too can share it for this series.
So a while back I made it my personal mission to learn how to make my favorite Thai dish in the universe, the illustrious and magnificent Pad See Ew. It’s the only thing I ever get when I go to a Thai restaurant, because it’s absolutely spectacular and anyone who orders anything else is an idiot.
I’m looking at you, you damn Pad Thai morons.
So I went through a ridiculously stupid ordeal that involved me going to every specialty Asian grocery store I was aware existed, and encountering oceans of confusingly labelled bottles and inexplicably unavailable ingredients. But I soldiered ever onward, demanding more of myself with each passing day. No longer would I look upon the happily dining patrons of the local Thai establishment, yearning for such exquisite cuisine to be within my autonomous grasp. No longer I say!
It took me months to finally do it. Months. Learn from my mistakes! Succeed where I have failed! Accomplish what I yearned for months to achieve! Look several orders of magnitude less stupid than I.
Secret Pad See Ew ingredients:
You’ll need two super-secret ingredients to make Pad See Ew, and, annoyingly, they’re incredibly difficult to find and often dumbly labeled. It’s almost as though the industry is run by a Thai Mafia crime family that won’t let anyone break free from the chains of the restaurant business.
- Wide rice noodles. Not the skinny Pad Thai kind, but the wide, flat rice noodles that for some stupid reason I’ve only ever been able to find in two stores, despite living in a city with a massive Asian population and Thai food all over the place. It’ll probably be in the refrigerated section (I’ve never seen them dry), and you’ll want to use them pretty quickly, as they’re rather awkward to store and use again. But we’ll get to that later.
- Dark soy sauce. Yes, there’s actually a kind of soy sauce called dark soy sauce, which is completely different from regular soy sauce, which is just #!&%@$ing stupid because all soy sauce is black. You will literally need to go to the biggest Asian store you can find and go to the soy sauce aisle, find the one bottle that says dark, and somehow this is how society has chosen to solve this problem. Pro tip: It’s also known as sweet soy sauce, which is a far more sensible title, so if you see it, go for it.
Once you’ve got the black market materials from your dealer, you’ll need some ordinary ingredients as well. These are pretty easy to find all over the place, so it won’t be much of a problem. There are a million recipes out there, and many of these ingredients are optional, so I’ll try to point out the ingredients you don’t really need:
Necessary, or nearly so:
- Soy sauce. Yes, after all the effort it took to find dark soy sauce, you’ll need regular soy sauce too.
- Vegetable oil. You’ll be stir-frying, so a high-heat cooking oil is best, but I’ve used all sorts and I don’t care.
- Meat (or tofu). Chicken breasts are the most common, and should be thinly cut.
- Vegetables. Broccoli, bok choy, and carrots are common.
Optional, but helpful:
- Garlic. It’s the greatest thing ever. There’s no point in eating anything that isn’t made with garlic, or being friends with people who don’t like it.
- 1 egg. Preferably from a chicken.
- Oyster sauce. If you don’t have any, just add more of the dark soy sauce.
- Brown sugar. Or you can just use more dark soy sauce, since it’s sweet anyway.
- White pepper. It’s a nice touch.
- Red pepper. If you like it spicy.
- Rice. Rice is nice.
- Thai iced tea. Mmmm.
And here we are:
Portions: I generally try to use equal amounts (by size) of meat, vegetables, and noodles. I’ll use one entire chicken breast, and I’ll end up with 3 medium-sized bowls. If you want to make more, just do the recipe twice. Don’t put twice as much a single pan, since it won’t be hot enough with everything in there to cook nicely.
Before we begin!
A couple quick pointers before we get started. Some easy, some incredibly annoying.
- If you don’t have a wok: You can use a regular pan, but if it’s small, you might want to use two. Vigorous stir frying tends to fling things all over the place, and splitting it up will make things easier.
- Prepping the noodles: Okay, here’s where things get tricky. This is by far the most annoying part of the process, even more so than finding the damn noodles in the first place. As mentioned, rice noodles don’t store easily. If you leave them in the refrigerator they’ll clump into a solid block of ricey goodness. You’ll need to cut the block into pieces, microwave them for several minutes so they’re soft and pliable, then individually separate the noodles by hand. Since they just came out of the microwave, they’ll be incredibly burning hot and impossible to touch. Wait for a while, try pulling them apart, burn your fingers, wait a while longer, and try again. It’s going to suck.
- When in doubt, add more dark soy sauce. It is a magical potion of pixie dust and unicorns and rainbows and sunshine that makes everything better.
Finally, the Pad See Ew recipe
Okay, here we go. It’s gonna be great.
- Cut the meat (I use 1 entire chicken breast) into thin strips.
- Marinate the meat in a pot with 2 tablespoons of regular soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (if you have no oyster sauce or sugar, use a tablespoon or two of dark soy sauce).
- Prep the noodles as described above, if necessary. They must be soft and pliable and separated from each other, and it will take a while.
- Get a wok (or large pan) and place it over the highest heat you’ve got, and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and some garlic. Wait until it’s fragrant and then…
- Dump the meat into the wok and stir until it’s cooked evenly.
- Stir in the vegetables. I usually add some more soy sauce (both kinds) if it looks too dry.
- Crack an egg and scramble it in the wok, but off to the side. Move the food out of the way to do this, and pull the wok to the side, so it’s just heating the egg. Scramble until it’s completely done scrambling, with no moist areas visible. Then stir everything together. You can also scramble it in the center of the wok, but I think the side is easier.
- Add the noodles, along with 2 tablespoons of regular soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Add white pepper and cayenne pepper (1 teaspoon per star of spiciness is about right), and stir for a while, until everything is evenly colored. No whiteness on the noodles at all. Feel free to add more dark soy sauce until it’s the color you like when you order it at a restaurant.
- Serve. Garnish with some (optional) coriander, some ground chili peppers if some guests want it spicier than others, and some rice. You should get about 3 servings out of this recipe, and you should totally act like you’re cooler than everyone else for knowing how to do it.
Now you’re all ready to
impress that lady friend of yours delight your friends and loved ones with your magnificent cooking skills. I certainly enjoy it quite thoroughly. I can’t promise this is the perfect method, as there are a million variations out there, and I’m still experimenting with getting it just right (in addition to building the general skill of not sucking at it), but it’s enough to make me happy. Mmm, Thai food. I have conquered thee.
- Beverage accompaniment: Thai ice tea. It’ll take a day full of horrific tragedy and transport you to a sea of tranquility the likes of which would make the Buddha throw a jealousy-induced hissy fit.
- Musical accompaniment: Eye of the Tiger. Once everything starts sizzling it’ll feel like an extreme sport.
And if you’re wondering, yes, this is the only Thai dish I can make. It is, in fact, pretty much the only dish I can make, yet I have no regrets. No regrets at all!
Now go away. I’m eating. And I like you less than I like Pad See Ew.
Eytan is a pretentious English major whose frequently rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other fun international nonsense. You can find more of his work at 20 Liter Adventure, or devour his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.