As you know, I grew up in Green Bay where eating exotic meant trying that new lasagna-flavored Hamburger Helper. Eating Chinese meant La Choy chop suey in a can, I’m telling you, Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1982 was WHITE.
When I went to art school in Minneapolis, my gal friends BLEW MY MIND when they took me out for Thai food. It was the first dish I tried from Thailand, and the last dish I tried from Thailand. It was cheap and delicious and went well with beer.
(How funny, I did a search for “Thai Beer” and a Wisconsin newspaper site is the second listing. How times have changed.)
Tried this recipe straight out of the Gourmet Cookbook a few times now and each time I make it even better.
A kettle’s worth of boiling water
2 tablespoons tamarind (comes off what they call a “pliable block” but look in your grocery hole near the asian cuisine, it’s usually there)
3 tablespoons fish sauce (super cheap, super stinky, find it near the Asian section)
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
pinches of salt
1 package rice noodles
Canola/vegetable/any kind but olive oil for the pan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 shallots (or half an onion) chopped
1/2 pound peeled medium shrimp cut in half
1/2 pound plain extra firm tofu, cut into cubes roughly the same size as the shrimp (1/2 inch?)
2 1/2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and dried
8 scallions cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Ready? Steady? Rock.
Put the kettle on to boil the water. Break off 2 tablespoonsish of tamarind from that block I told you about. Put it in one of those Pyrex measuring cups.
When the water is boiling, pour it over those gloppy two tablespoons of tamarind and mush with a fork. Let it sit for three minutes.
During those three minutes, put the fish sauce and sugars into a small saucepan, heat on low.
Pour the tamarind mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the small saucepan. Push on the gunk to make sure all the tamarindy goodness gets through. Stir until the sugars dissolve and remove from heat.
Those beaten eggs?
Put 1/2 that oil in a giant wok or frying/saute pan and cook the eggs until firm.
Take them out of the pan and chop into thinnish pieces. Put those pieces into a big bowl.
Cut everything else.
Finely chop the garlic.
Chop the shallots.
Cut up the shrimp.
Cut the tofu.
Wash and dry the bean sprouts.
Cut the green onions.
Crush the peanuts.
Pull the red pepper flakes from the cupboard.
Place the rice noodles in a bowl and pour the rest of hot water from the kettle over the noodles. The noodles should sit in this for about 5 minutes.
Heat up the oil in the now empty giant pan, add the garlic and shallots, give ‘em a good toss. Add the tofu and don’t touch it while it gets a nice brown on it. Add the shrimp. Once the shrimp is barely cooked through, take it out of the pan and add it to the eggs in the big bowl.
Heat the now empty giant pan to high heat until hot. Hott.
Add tamarind mixture and bring it to a boil.
Add noodles and let them absorb some of that tamarindy goodness for about two minutes.
Add the egg/shrimp/tofu/shallot/garlic mixture,
add the scallions, add most of the bean sprouts,
add all the red pepper flakes,
add most of the peanut smashings and
toss toss toss
like the Steve Miller Band itself was directing you to do so.
Mound it on a platter, top with the rest of the bean sprouts, peanuts and lime wedges.
And it’s even better the next day.