Remember the first time you tried pad Thai? If you're not, you know, Thai, it was probably a moment of genuine discovery, one great step towards discovering the noodles of Asia. But which restaurant in Chicago serves the best version? Well, that's a question that turned out to be a lot harder than we first imagined.
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This recipe from Mark Bittman's Minimalist column in the New York Times is by far the best quick version of pad Thai I have been able to find. It's incredibly flavorful and balanced—not too sweet or heavy, plus the cabbage helps bulk things out.
Whether it's takeout or you've made it yourself, pad thai provides a symphony of flavors. There are fresh, green flavors from scallion, sweetness from sugar and tamarind, and umami from fish sauce, meat, egg, and/or tofu. Peanuts add a nutty inflection, while lime juice brings a bit of balancing acidity. And let's face it, there's some oil to cope with, too. That's a lot to consider when searching for a delicious beverage pairing.
My first foray into the world of Bittman's new take on responsible eating was this Spicy Fried Rice with Bean Sprouts, Chicken, and Peanuts, a spin on (not that great for you) pad thai and fried rice. Bittman uses a few simple rules to turn takeout go-tos into an inexpensive, simple to make, easy to enjoy one-plate meal that is far more enjoyable than anything that comes in a styrofoam container.
Pad thai is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, but I never quite know what to pair with those complex, spicy dishes. I asked Todd Knoll, the executive estate chef at Jordan Vineyard & Winery for his take on wine pairings with three Thai dishes. Knoll was raised in Hawaii and draws upon flavors from his home state, as well as Asia.
Chez Pim's Pad Thai for Beginners: "I could easily write a very short description and make everything looks and sounds easy -but that means I'd be leaving you to figure out the details on your own. Or I could explain every step of the way so that you understand what goes into a Pad Thai and what distinguishes a great one from the usual blah. The piece might look a little intimidating, but I think it will in fact be easier than any easy-looking recipe. And, I promise you, if you read through the entire thing, you'll never have to look at another Pad Thai recipe."...