Wednesday, May 19, 2010



I always call it chocolate frosting and vanilla icing.

Doesn't matter if it is buttercream or ganache or glaze... if it is chocolate it is frosting, if it is vanilla it is icing.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ramen Revelation: Pad Thai



My first ramen revelation is my version of Pad Thai. If you make the sauce ahead of time or get bottled sauce, this meal will take about 5-10 minutes to make maximum. It looks (and is) pretty simple, but the taste is absolutely fantastic!

2 packs ramen noodles (save the flavor packets for later, you won't need them for this one)
6-8 big shrimp or twice as many small ones
Pad Thai sauce (enough to color the noodles and season the shrimp, usually a few tbsp)
lemon juice
salt if desired
chopped cilantro or parsley
toasted peanuts

1. Soak the ramen in warm water until flexible, but not all the way squishy (think pliable but still pretty firm) should take about 5 minutes or so. (this is a good time to thaw your shrimp in cold water)
2. heat a wok or heavy skillet to medium high or high with a little vegetable oil (you can add a little sesame oil if you have it)
3. throw in noodles and start stirring
4. when noodles are almost cooked, add pad thai sauce, a squirt of lemon juice, salt if you want it (depending on what your pad thai sauce tastes like) and shrimp. make sure to get sauce on the shrimp while they cook
5. as soon as the shrimp is opaque and pink on the outside, remove and plate
6. add cilantro and peanuts to the top

This is a good way to explain the Pad Thai sauce:

There are four ingredients in the Pad Thai sauce, Tamarind pulp (for the sour flavor), Fish Sauce (for the salty part), Palm Sugar (for a slight sweetness), and Paprika or Thai chilli powder (for the spice). Two cups of sauce will make about 6-8 portions of Pad Thai. You can make your Pad Thai sauce vegetarian by using this sauce instead of fish sauce.

To make about two cups of sauce, you should begin with about ½ cup each of Tamarind (*see the note below for how to prepare tamarind pulp), Fish Sauce, and Palm Sugar. If you substitute white and/or brown sugar for the Palm Sugar, you should use only about 1/3 cup. Melt all these together in a small pot over a low flame. Taste and adjust the flavor balance until it suits you. Then add the chilli powder, begin with a teaspoon or two, depending on your taste, and keep adding until it tastes the way you like it. By the time you're done flavoring the pot should be simmering happily. Turn off the heat and let the sauce rest while you get to the other ingredients.

At this point in the game I like my sauce to lead with a salty flavor, follow by a mild sourness, then just a gentle sweetness and a soft caress from the chilli at the back of my throat at the very end. A finished plate of Pad Thai will be served with a sliver of lime and extra chilli powder to be mixed in at the table, so you could keep these two flavors in the sauce mild for now. I don't know about you but there is nothing I hate more than a cloying sweet Pad Thai. If your sauce starts out super sweet now it will be very tough to correct later.

Those of you with a scientific mind might want more precise measurements or proportion or whatnot. I'd do it if I could, but the problem is most Thai ingredients are not standardized in the way that a Western ingredient, say, white granulated sugar, is. A cup of granulated sugar is always the same, but a cup of your Palm Sugar or Fish Sauce might not have the same intensity as mine. So the easiest thing to do is just to taste. And herein lies another beauty of preparing the sauce ahead of time. You can take your time to taste and adjust the sauce precisely to your liking, which would be hard to do à la minute in the wok.

My Cooking Past



I wanted to let you all in on a little secret. I never really cooked until about two years ago.

My family was one of those families that didn't believe in "sit-down" meals. Very rarely would we all eat a meal together. Usually someone made a big pot of spaghetti or hamburger helper and we helped ourselves when we felt hungry.

In mosts cases we referred to ourselves as "grazers," just eating whatever was around.

I grew up being not very picky about food since I would have to eat what there was or not eat. Also, I learned how to eat on a budget since my family didn't have a lot of money. (my parents are both public school teachers)

Because of this, I learned a great deal about a few kinds of food.
1. boxed dinners: Macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, etc.
2. sandwiches: there was a time in my life when my two favorite sandwich fillings were butter and katchup (but not on the same sandwich). I now consider myself to be a master of the grilled cheese
3. Ramen: I can't tell you how many things I made up with ramen. I loved it. I still love it. Alhamdulillah it is so cheap because I don't know what I would do if it were expensive.

So I thought that, along with my cultural forays into food, I would include some cheap/easy/fast foods as well. They will mostly center around ramen because that is the quintessential cheap, easy, fast food.

I promise you wont be able to look at ramen in the same way again.