Student food blog: Pad Thai

Sophie EdmondsGood morning to you all.

I love Thai food. It's the best. Although, to be fair, I am a bit boring in my ordering when I go out. I always, always get pad Thai.

When my family and I go out for Thai we order lots of dishes then share them, but I make sure there is always a good chicken and prawn pad Thai on the table.

I recommend getting all the components together before throwing everything in the wok. This cooks really fast and can be quite stressful if you are trying to drain noodles while trying to stop the chicken from overcooking.

I used a combination of two published recipes, then added a bit more of this and that here and there until it tasted about right.

You can buy the flat rice noodles needed for this in either the international section or the noodle/pasta section of your supermarket. Asian supermarkets will definitely have flat rice noodles too.

They come in a few sizes, I used large here. A whole packet (375g) was enough to feed four people.

When I was trying this recipe out last week (I had to do a test run just in case I failed big time) we added a few prawns into the mix. When you buy them from the seafood section of the supermarket in small quantities (like two dozen) they only cost about $3.

There are a few not-so-common ingredients found in this recipe. Tamarind and palm sugar are the least likely to be chilling out in your pantry.

"What is tamarind?" you ask. Tamarinds are a pod-like fruit indigenous to tropical Africa (thanks Wikipedia).

Although it has African origins, tamarind has a strong footing in Southeast Asian cuisine. It adds a sour tone to many dishes that helps to balance the saltiness found in many of the sauces. You can buy tamarind from your local Asian supermarket or the international section of your supermarket.

Palm sugar can also be found in the international section. I managed to get a 500g slab for only $1.99. Palm sugar was traditionally made from the sap of the date palm. Nowadays it is also made using the sap of the sago palm and sugar palm.

It adds sweetness to many Thai dishes and has a flavour that is quite distinct from normal sugars. The palm sugar I bought is quite a soft slab. I have been cutting off wee chunks and eating it straight. It almost has the consistency of a very sweet fudge.

Chicken pad Thai
(serves 4-5)

2 chicken breasts, sliced into bite-sized cubes
1 packet (375g) large flat rice noodles
3 eggs
2 cups mung bean spouts
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small red chillis, chopped (or two tsp of crushed chillies from a jar)
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1½ Tbsp lime or lemon juice
70g palm sugar
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1½ Tbsp tamarind pulp
sesame oil
coriander, chopped peanuts and lemon wedges to garnish

In a small saucepan, heat the peanut butter, palm sugar, tamarind, fish sauce and lime juice until melted and combined. Put to one side.

Cook the rice noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water. Cook until only just al dente. They will be thrown back into the wok so will continue to cook then.

You don't want them turning into a stodgy mush. Drain and put to one side.

Beat the eggs with a fork in a separate bowl. Put to one side.

In a wok or a very hot frying pan, fry the garlic and chillies in some sesame oil for about 1 minute. Throw in the diced chicken and cook until brown and cooked all the way through.

Then add the drained noodles and sauce. Toss these around in the pan, making sure everything is coated.

Move the mass of noodles to one side of the wok. Pour the egg into the gap that has just been made. Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg quickly so it doesn't form large cooked egg blobs.

Stir the half-cooked egg mixture through the noodles and keep tossing until the egg looks about done. You know what it should look like.

Mix through the mung beans.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts, a few leaves of coriander and a good squeeze of lemon juice over the top.

Enjoy!

It takes about half an hour from start to finish and tastes great - perfect for a quick and easy dinner solution during exam time. Your flatties will love you for it.

It also packs nicely into little containers for lunch the next day.