Flavor Spectrum: Thai Pad See-Ew

Getting to know and correctly using Thai sauces captures all flavors of the spectrum in this classic Thai stir-fried noodle dish, done in only 30 minutes.

thai-flag-small Thailand

THE RAMBLE: WINNER FOR TEAM KOREA!

LET’S TALK ABOUT Thai food. As I praised her before in my post From the Ground Up: Tamarind Pulp, Pad Thai Sauce, and Pad Thai, Leela from She Simmers will completely enlighten you on what you thought you knew about Thai food. Most of us think of red curry with chicken, some of us Pad Thai, and maybe sticky rice with mango. Her site will blow you away with the most amazing Thai recipes from her books Simple Thai Food and her newest Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand. Once I found her recipes, my cooking life completely changed. I read her info on the different soy sauces and condiments in Thai food, I found them all at my little Asian market, and then I made Thai food at home that was just as amazing, if not better, than any Thai restaurant I had been to (a ton, by the way). I could now make delicious Asian food at home, which lead me to be confident in other Asian cuisines including Korean Bapsang‘s Korean food,  Rasa Malaysia‘s Chinese food, Just One Cookbook‘s Japanese food, and a list of others (check out my Pinterest for allll the great world-food bloggers I trust). The thing that I agree with her most on and the only thing I can’t replicate in my common kitchen is what she calls the wok smell, you know, the incomparable seared, caramelized, seasoned flavor of the who-knows-how-hot wok in a legit Asian restaurant. When I actually go out and pay for Thai food now, that’s what I pay for. That WOK SMELL.

LET’S TALK ABOUT soy sauces. Each country/cuisine has their own soy sauces, which, for me, was an epiphany that is so dang obvious. Of course they do! That’s why when we make Asian food at home that just calls for “soy sauce”, it’s just not very good. At all. It’s one-dimensional and fuels our addiction to our favorite Asian restaurants and our wondering what they do differently to make their food so much better. Well, Leela answers that for us. This dish embodies the importance of knowing about different soy sauces. I love Leela’s above the several other versions of this recipes I’ve tried because its flavor comes from using a combo of great Thai sauces. I couldn’t explain it better than Leela in her post on Soy Sauces Used in Modern Thai Cooking, so I demand you go and read all about it, but basically in this dish, we have two very important Thai soy sauces: Thin, or light, or white soy sauce, which has less body but still has all the salt, and then sweet dark soy sauce, which gives this dish it’s signature sweet, caramelized, almost burnt molasses-y flavor. Oyster sauce, sugar, garlic, slightly bitter gai lan (Chinese broccoli), vinegar, and pickled red chilies also make up the rest of the flavors. Like all great Asian dishes, we hit all flavors of the spectrum: bitter (gai lan, sweet dark soy, and caramelization/wok smell), sweet (sweet soy and sugar), salt (thin soy sauce), umami (oyster sauce and garlic), spicy (garlic and pickled chilies), and sour (vinegar and pickled chilies).  Theoretically, this is a perfect dish.

THE REVIEW:

My favorite brand on Sweet Dark Soy Sauce is Kwong Hung Seng Dragonfly brand. I’ve tried Healthy Boy brand and it wasn’t sweet enough for me! I don’t really have a sweet tooth or anything, I just loved the flavor of KHS the best. BY FAR. It makes or breaks this dish for me. I usually use Healthy Boy Thin Soy Sauce though, and preferred that over KHS’s thin (go fig). So, did we get that? KWS for Sweet and HB for Thin, not the other way around!

If you can find fresh rice noodles*** at your market, then go for it! Fresh are so much better because of the amazing texture they have. I can only find dry, therefore my recipe calls for dry, but fresh is always better, be it squares or ribbons. Read my post for best prep for dried noodle stir fries From the Ground Up: Tamarind Pulp, Pad Thai Sauce, and Pad Thai or Leela’s tips and video on the best way to prepare fresh noodles or dried noodles and her tips for getting the best quality possible for at-home stir-fries (i.e. no 1,000+ degree flame under a wok).

WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Thai food: My vlogging crush Mark and Ying Wiens and Dwight @eatingthaifood from Eating Thai FoodMigrationology.com, and on YouTube (A MUST!); Natty, Peter, and team @thaitable of Thai Table; Leela @SheSimmers from the great SheSimmers and her cookbooks, Simple Thai Food and Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand; and family blog The Woks of Life @woksoflife.

THE RECIPE:

Flavor Spectrum: Thai Pad See-Ew

Flavor Spectrum: Thai Pad See-Ew. Winner for Team Korea!

Thai Pad See-Ew

Adapted from shesimmers.com, serves 2-3, medium fuss, about 30 mins to make. Only do this much at a time, or ingredients will get soggy and not caramelize in the stir-fry process.

Noodles:

6 TBS neutral oil, divided

8 oz flat “XL” dried ribbon rice noodles (about ⅔ of a 14 oz pkg) (see above note***)

2 large eggs, beaten

3 TBS of sweet dark soy sauce (Kwong Hung Seng brand).

Sauce:

2 TBS oyster sauce

2 tsp thin/light/white soy sauce (Healthy Boy brand)

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp white vinegar

2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and minced/grated/pressed

About 6 oz thinly sliced meat of choice, such as chicken, marinated in 2 tsp light soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp of baking soda*

About 6 stalks of of Gai-Lan (Chinese broccoli), sliced lengthwise, then cut into thirds crosswise, or about 1 ½ cups other greens such as spinach, kale, bok choi, broccoli, or broccolini, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Black pepper, to taste

Leela’s easy Vinegar with Pickled Chilies or thinly sliced red chili/red jalapeño/fresno chili

sweet dark soy sauce, to serve

*(We usually use chicken, but our favorite is leftover steak just grilled with s+p or garlic salt. No need for the marinade or precooking if using leftover steak.)

  1. Marinate sliced meat while preparing everything else. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Mix sauce ingredients together, then once water is boiling, drop in your rice noodles. Turn off the heat and let them become pliable but still slightly chewy, about 2-3 minutes. They should be chewier than al dente. Drain, rinse off in cold water, and let sit in your drainer/colander to allow any water to drain.
  2. Place your largest nonstick skillet/pan (at least 12”) over medium heat. Add 2 TBS of your oil, then add marinated meat, while pan is warming up. Coat meat in oil, then cook through, about 2-3 mins. Dish out onto a clean plate/bowl, set aside.
  3. Wash out your skillet, dry, then place over highest heat. Add 2 TBS oil, then when almost smoking, add the eggs. Swirl around in the pan to make a flat omelette. Cook through and break into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Add your noodles to the pan (if they’re in a clump, give them a light rinse), the remaining 2 TBS of oil, then shake the pan back and forth and stir-fry everything with a spatula. Add sweet soy sauce all over the noodles; they will turn dark brown. Stir-fry until evenly coated, then let sit about 1 minute for the bottom to caramelize. Add cooked meat, veg, and mixed Sauce. Stir fry together, making sure everything is evenly coated in sauce, and once the veg is crisp-tender (about 30 sec-1 min), it is done. Dish onto a serving platter and finish with a sprinkle of black pepper on top. Serve with Vinegar with Pickled Chilies/fresh sliced red chili and extra sweet dark soy on the side.

Try this out and let me know how it went for you in the comments! Good? Confusing? Clear? I’d love to hear from you so I can present the best form of these recipes!

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