This friend, whom we will call Olga for the purpose of this post, is Russian. Now I know you may find the following statement to be a generalization but, believe me, my friend won’t mind. There are certain characteristics that Russians possess as part of their DNA and Olga is no exception.
1) She is brutally honest, whether you want her to be or not.
2) She does not hand out compliments easily (related, I suppose, to her honesty).
3) She is a cynic. Her world is a giant glass, half empty.
She also happens to be one of the funniest and most loving people I know. (Only to the people whom she loves. Everyone else beware.)
Olga, a cynical Russian, and I, an optimistic and overly cheery American, are definitely an odd couple to become friends but life is full of surprises.
Olga and I worked together for years in the yachting industry, she as a chief stewardess and I as the chef. She once told me, about a year into our friendship, that she had been skeptical to take the job because the chef (me) was:
1) a woman
2) American (did I mention she’s Russian?) and
Based on her complete and whole-hearted belief in stereotypes there was no way that a skinny American girl could cook. Boy, did I prove her wrong.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is though his belly. The same is true of Olga. Within weeks she was eating butter from my hand and I was constantly having to swat her away from my pots and pans as she tried to steal bites from unfinished dishes. Our friendship was born.
Olga and I are both mums now and since we live in different countries it has been a long time since I made her Pad Thai. It was one of her favorite dishes of mine. In fact, she refers to it as “The Best F@$%ing Pad Thai Ever .” (Russians also swear – A LOT)
Did I mention she doesn’t hand out compliments easily????
But, don’t take Olga’s word for it, try it yourself!
- 1 lb/450g Pad Thai Noodles (flat rice noodles that resemble linguine)
For the Sauce:
- ⅓ cup/80 ml vegetable oil
- 1½ Tablespoons minced garlic
- 1½ Tablespoon sweet paprika (not spicy paprika)
- 3 Tablespoons/30 ml Fish Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons/30 ml white vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons sugar or palm sugar
For the Noodles:
- A glug of oil
- 1 large leek
- 8-12 oz oz/225-280g tofu, shrimp or chicken (OPTIONAL - if making Pad Thai as a side dish you do not need a protein)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 2 large scallions/spring onions, thinly sliced
- 250 g/8 oz bean sprouts
- ½ cup chopped peanuts
- Juice of 1 lime plus 1 lime cut into wedges
- Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with warm (not hot) water. After 1 hour drain the noodles and set them aside. They will still be quite firm, don't worry! As you stir-fry them they will soften up. If you soak them until they are soft then they will become mushy when you stir-fry them.
To make the Sauce:
- Heat the oil in a small frying pan until hot.
- When hot, add the garlic and paprika and sauté until just fragrant, being careful not to burn. This should be less than a minute.
- Add the fish sauce and vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Immediately when the vinegar mixture simmers add the sugar and stir just until dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.
For the Noodles:
- Heat a glug of oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. Add the leek and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the tofu/shrimp/chicken if using and sauté until just cooked.
- Add the reserved noodles to the wok and stir-fry a minute. They may still be firm.Don't worry!
- Add the sauce and continue to toss until the noodles are well coated in the sauce and the sauce and heat have softened the noodles.
- If you have room in your wok/pan you can push the noodles aside and add the egg and scramble the egg until cooked before stirring it into the noodles. if you don't have a large enough pan then scramble the eggs in a separate small frying pan and then add to the noodle mixture. Remove from the heat.
- Add the bean sprouts, most of the scallions and most of the peanuts and toss well to combine. Add the juice of one lime and continue to toss.
- Tip the noodles onto a serving platter and garnish with the remaining peanuts, scallions and lime wedges.
- Serve on its own or alongside a nice curry and enjoy!!