Thailand was such a time of discovery – both personally and for my taste buds. We spent 11 days in Thailand tantalized by the chillies and fish sauce of Thai dishes, trying every form of massage, soaking in the sun, embracing the culture, and eating as much Pad Thai as our bellies could accommodate. If I could wake up at Rantee Bay on Ko Phi Phi tomorrow, I would be the happiest girl alive.
Thailand – heaven on earth
I sang this song for about a week before landing in Thailand.
You immediately “get” this song if you land in Bangkok well after dark. Bangkok is sexy – in a forbidden, slightly scary way. It magically transforms by daylight into fantasy world where the smell of banana pancakes tempts every thought that is not already debating an unbelievably cheap massage. Then, you journey to Phucket and Ko Phi Phi and you wonder why we don’t all just quit our jobs and live at the beach eating Thai food for the rest of our lives.
You wouldn’t think sitting on a beach would be a great pivotal life moment, but something clicked during my sweltering, sandy toed, sunburned days in Thailand. I made a choice – I chose to be the girl that you can put in any situation. Even if that situation was a hut with a mosquito net and the world’s largest spider. Few people capture a video of these pivotal moments, but see the video below. A bit of a disclaimer (as I’m a little embarrassed as I sound like a spoiled brat) – the girl in the video is me, but I barely recognize her. She was fearful and that blinded her to the enchantment ready to surround her. Good news, though. About two hours after I shot that video, that timid girl learned that just when you think you’re at your limit, your boundaries will expand and bring you a freedom that you never dreamed possible. Some of my favorite days of on planet earth started immediately after I shot that video. Simply put, I sucked it up and decided to enjoy the present for its unique gifts rather than focusing on what I viewed as lacking. Thankfully, Meg and Kevin didn’t boot me from the island for my whiney girl ways or I might not be the adventurer that I am today. If you’re really interested in my Thai travel musings, visit my original blog.
Why pad Thai, pomelo salad, and Thai chicken soup?
Because they are absolutely amazing. And because we ate them at essentially every single meal. Between the three of us, we rarely had less than 8 dishes at each meal and we never spent more than $15 USD. With the freshest seafood possible, our feet firmly planted in the sand, a gorgeous sunset, and a bucket of Singha, we were the most joyful, grateful people imaginable. Pomelos are not the easiest thing to find, so know that you can substitute grapefruit as well.
An Austin pad Thai Experience
One of these days, I will write a book. In that book, I will tell you about the absolute hell that surrounded me at this point. You know when you reach that point that you really just want to stay in bed and wake up about six months later? My story involves the death of one of the most amazing souls I’ve ever known, the biggest professional challenge that I had ever faced, and a journey back to the proverbial romantic square one. This dinner was the only solace I had experienced in weeks. I spent hours temporarily distracted while making a disaster of my kitchen. Then, Diana came over and listened – yet again – to all of the horribleness. After weeks of very little sleep, I finally had a decent night sleep.
Winston Churchill- “if you’re going through hell, keep going. ”
My version – “If you’re going through hell, feed your friend something delicious”
Inspirational recipe and resources
Tweaks and cautionary tales
I increased the spices quite a bit over the Epicurious recommendation. It’s a bit tricky to make sure you don’t over cook the shrimp, so cook it until just barely pink, then add the sauce and the cabbage. If not, you will end up with chewy shrimp. Also, don’t overcook the cabbage. Just cook it to the point that it loses a bit of volume. The sauce was a bit too much for my taste. Add it a little at a time to ensure you don’t over do it.
How to make Pad Thai healthier
This is relatively healthy already. You can make it vegetarian by replacing the shrimp with tofu
- Learning Curve: none
- Pre-work: none,
- Vegetarian: optionally
- Healthy: Yes
- Freezes well: no – eat it for lunch over the week
- 4 ounces rice stick noodles
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (NOT wine)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup chopped scallions
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- ½ pound peeled shrimp
- ½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 limes, quartered.
- Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 5 minutes or until noodles are just tender. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon peanut oil to keep from sticking and set aside.
- Combine tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
- Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add scallions and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan and let sit still until the eggs whites are solid. Then scramble them until just done. Add cabbage and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage cooks down just a bit, then add shrimp.
- When shrimp turns pink, add drained noodles to pan along with sauce (add a little at a time to ensure you don't add too much for your taste preferences). Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro and lime wedges.