Thursday, August 19, 2010

Memories of Chiang Mai

Two of my most favourite people in the world have just spent a couple of days eating and drinking their way around Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. They seemed to find it amusing to keep me up to date with the occasional message or photo here and there to torture me in my obvious absence. Clearly unable to join them I was thrown into the mood for a good Pad Thai last night, and as I'm yet to discover a source of really good Thai food in DC yet (suggestions most welcome) I decided the best bet was to chuck one together at home. It's been more than 12 months since I was last in Thailand, but it has a smell you'll never forget. The fragrances attached to the food there is instantly recognisable and utterly forgettable, and I do recall the best Pad Thai I had was in Chiang Mai. If I had a bottle of Thai whisky I'd have rounded it off with a glass as they did (!) but anyway, this rather lengthy but totally worth it recipe is for Randal and Paula...

Pad Thai

Serves 2

25g tamarind paste
3/4 cup boiling water
2 tblsp fish sauce
2 tblsp palm sugar
1 tblsp rice wine vinegar
100g rice stick noodles
150g marinated tofu, recipe follows
1 to 2 tblsp peanut oil
1 cup chopped spring onions
2 tsp minced garlic
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 tsps salted cabbage
1 tblsp dried shrimp
75g bean sprouts, divided
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped, divided
Freshly ground dried red chilli peppers, to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges

Place the tamarind paste in the boiling water and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.

Combine the fish sauce, palm sugar, and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the rice stick noodles in a mixing bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Once the other ingredients are measured out into separate bowls, drain the water from the noodles and set them aside. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch wide strips.

Add the tamarind paste to the sauce and stir to combine.

Place a wok over high heat. Once hot, add 1 tblsp of the peanut oil. Heat until it shimmers, then add the tofu. Cook the tofu until golden brown, moving constantly, for no longer than 1 minute. Remove the tofu from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

If necessary, add some more peanut oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add 2/3 of the spring onions and then the garlic, cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the eggs to the pan; once the eggs begin to set up, about 15 to 20 seconds, stir to scramble. Add the remaining ingredients in the following order and toss after each addition: noodles, sauce, cabbage, shrimp, and 2/3 of the bean sprouts and peanuts. Toss everything until heated through, but no longer than 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining spring onions, bean sprouts, and peanuts. Serve immediately with the ground chilli peppers and lime wedges.

Marinated tofu

150g extra firm tofu
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder

Wrap the tofu firmly in a tea towel. Place the wrapped tofu into an 8-inch cake pan. Top with another cake pan and weigh down with a 5-pound weight. (Bags of dried beans or grains work well.) Place in refrigerator and press for 12 to 15 hours.

Place pressed tofu in a 2-cup container. Combine soy sauce and five-spice powder and pour over tofu. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, turning once. Remove the tofu from the marinade and use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days.


  1. gorgeous. when are you cooking for us? x shayma

  2. Fabulous recipe & photo. Haven't been to Chiang Mai but adore everything about Thailand - the food; the people. You just can't beat Bangkok street food - so fresh and aromatic. (Also had the best hotdogs imaginable from a swedish joint on Koh Samui, strangely). C.

  3. Pad Thai is one of my favorites! You should check out Banana Leaves on Florida Ave (in my neck of the woods). Their "miracle shrimp" makes me swoon every time, and I've heard their Pad Thai is great, too.

  4. I love this! Where and when can I get some of this guys food???

  5. Paula and Randal, you are a lucky couple!