A Thai Dish That Ties One On

I had Thai food for the first time when I was 16 years old and it took me almost 10 years to realize that drunken noodles were not relegated to Typhoon! in Portland, OR. I’m happy to say that it only took me two additional years to realize that I could easily replicate the dish at home.

I decided to experiment with drunken noodles when I saw Thai basil in the produce section of the grocery store. Since I didn’t have a recipe with me (or an iPhone), I went to the Asian food aisle and used the process of elimination to select a jar of roasted red chili paste to flavor the sauce.

The sauce I made was a pretty close approximation of the restaurant dish, even without the noodles. It wasn’t perfect, but this stir fry will definitely satisfy my cravings for drunken noodles until I make it back to Typhoon!

Drunken Stir Fry
Serves 3-4
¼ cup roasted red chili paste
¼ cup fish sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. water
Sriracha sauce to taste
peanut oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. minced ginger
1 pkg. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 green onion, sliced
Thai basil, stemmed and whole
cilantro, chopped
lime wedges

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Add a the Sriracha sauce one small squirt at a time until the sauce is as spicy as you like it.

Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat until it smokes. Pour in enough peanut oil to coat the sides of the wok, about 2 Tbs. Add the garlic and ginger to the oil and stir until brown, less than 1 minute. Remove the garlic and ginger from the oil and set aside.

Add the tofu to the wok and let stand over high heat until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Stir and repeat until browned on all sides. Remove tofu and set aside.

Add the onion and red pepper to the wok and stir until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Return the garlic, ginger, and tofu to the wok. Stir in the carrot, green onion, and Thai basil. Turn off the heat, pour in the sauce, and stir to coat. Serve with rice or stir-fried noodles. Garnish with cilantro and lime.

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Back to Basics

After packing up our kitchen in June, driving across five states, spending a four-month stint in my brother’s guest room, jaunting up to Lake Michigan, down to the Atlantic, and back to the Great Plains, our food processor is finally at home in its very own cabinet.

We drove 4,700 miles this summer and ate two dozen meals on the road. All of these burgers and subs and chicken nuggets were contrasted with smoked ribs and boiled shrimp and all the other wonderful things our families made to celebrate our travels. Now that we’re in our own home, we feel full.

It makes sense that, once we were settled in our own kitchen, we would seek inspiration in our vegetable crisper. A stir fry is always an easy way to pull together a meal using the items you have on hand, which is exactly what we did.

While Glenn peeled and minced ginger and julienned carrots and broccoli stems, I whipped up a simple sauce with smashed garlic cloves, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, and a little beer (just to thin it out). We stir fried the ginger and vegetables in peanut oil, tossed them with the sauce, and dumped them over a little white rice. Voila! A truly home-made meal!

Improvised Veggie Stir Fry

Veggie Stir Fry

I’m still skeptical of the whole stir fry thing. What makes it a stir fry and not just sauteed vegetables? Is the wok the only difference? Probably not, if you’re doing things right.

After some limited research, these are the major differences I have found between sauteing and stir frying:

  1. When sauteing, you heat the pan with the fat in it. When stir frying, you heat the pan dry.
  2. When sauteing, you can use fat with a low flash point, such as butter or extra virgin olive oil. When stir frying, you need a fat with a very high flash point, such as peanut or canola oil.
  3. When sauteing, you should pretty much flip the items one time. When stir frying, you should pretty much stir constantly.

For whatever that’s worth. For this “stir fry” we used onions and green beans (leftover from porcupine meatballs) and bell peppers (leftover from pizza). We served it over a combination of wild and jasmine rice that had been sitting in our pantry for six months. The point is that this was a completely found meal, no trip to the grocery store necessary. We fried up all the veggies along with some garlic in peanut oil, added some white wine vinegar, and finished it off by covering the wok and steaming it. It was sweet and sour and the veggies were perfectly crisp tender.