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Pad Thai Noodles
With such an ancient and varied history, Thailand has experienced a myriad of culinary influences over the centuries, all of which converged to create the unique flavors we recognize today as Thai. One of the most important influences came from the north. When Chinese immigrants first started coming to Thailand, they brought with them three important culinary items: chopsticks, the steel wok, and noodles. Of these three, two remained indispensable to Thai cuisine: noodles, and a wok in which to fry them. (Eventually most Thais dispensed with chopsticks in favor of a fork and spoon.)
But there are several differences between Chinese noodles and "Pad Thai" (literally "Thai noodles"). The main difference is that while most Chinese noodles are made of wheat and/or egg-similar to their Italian cousin-Thai noodles are made with rice flour, which makes them lighter in calories, lower in fat, plus gluten-free, making them an excellent choice for gluten-free diets.
Thai noodles are usually thin, similar to Italian linguini. But because they are made of rice, Thai noodles are
cooked differently than Italian or Chinese wheat noodles. Instead of boiling them, Thai cooks soak their rice noodles in large containers of cool water for up to 2 hours. The soaking process softens the noodles and makes them slippery (while boiling them makes them sticky and hard to work with). The noodles are then stir-fried a number of ways, depending on the recipe. For "Pad Thai", the most famous of all Thai noodle dishes, the rice noodles are stir-fried in a special spicy sauce together with fresh prawns, pieces of chicken or tofu, egg, and bean sprouts. Finally, Pad Thai can be recognized by its signature toppings: a sprinkling of ground peanuts, a squeeze of lime juice, and a scattering of fresh basil and/or coriander. Hot chilli sauce is usually served on the side, for those who like it extra spicy.
To Make Restaurant-style Pad Thai: Cooking Tips
# Always soak rice noodles, never boil them. However, this takes time (up to 2 hours). If you're in a hurry, warm some water in a large pot on the stove. Before the water reaches a full boil, slide the pot off the burner, then add the noodles. Using a wooden spoon, press the noodles down into the hot water and cover with a lid. Allow the noodles to soak while you prepare the other ingredients (10-20 minutes).
# Don't over-soften or overcook rice noodles. Think like the Italians do: pasta "al dente", meaning "to the tooth". In other words, you want your noodles to turn out chewy, not soggy.
# How do you know when it's time to drain the noodles? Fish a noodle out of the pot. If it's soft enough to eat but still firm, slippery, and a little chewy, your noodles are ready to be stir-fried. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water to keep them from sticking together.
# Use oil when stir-frying rice noodles. Adding water or broth at this point will only make the noodles soft and cause them to stick to the bottom of the pan.
# Stir-fry the noodles with two large wooden spoons or Asian-style "shovels". Use a gentle "tossing" motion, as though you were tossing salad. This will prevent the noodles from breaking.
# To make perfect Pad Thai every time, order our special Pad Thai Sauce from CurrySimple. It's fragrant, delicious, and easy to use, taking all the work out of making Pad Thai, but none of the pleasure!