easy pad thai sauce
First of all I want to welcome all of you who found your way here through my op-ed in the LA Times, and to say a special thank you for your wonderful comments. It was a bit frantic last week, sitting with my laptop across from the chicken pasture at twilight to work on my edits and prepare girl farm kitchen, but I have been so encouraged by the thoughtful responses and kind wishes I received. Here’s to books, reading and writing! (And eating, while we’re at it.)
I’ve written a good number of unfortunate essays, not the least of which was an ode to packing and unpacking the dishwasher. (It began “Every Friday night I unpack the dishwasher,” which should give you an idea of how exciting I was in college.) But as terrible as the essay was, I stand by my love of the dishwasher, and of washing dishes, sponging counter tops, and wiping stains out of teacups. I could say there’s something wonderfully therapeutic about cleaning, and there is, but really I’ll do anything to be in the kitchen.
The fact that I’m happiest with dishtowel in hand means that one of my favorite parts of the week is assisting in Love Apple cooking classes. Starting at 8:00 I vacuum, wipe, sweep, and wash until the kitchen classroom looks fit for a Food Network special. Shortly after 11:00 Pim (of the wonderful blog Chez Pim) glides in, and the counters are suddenly covered with all manner of delicious looking ingredients, macerated apricots or spiced strips of pork for satays. In her perforated red slip-ons and pretty printed tops she is cheerful and friendly, but Pim is no lightweight—she commands the kitchen with a hand that knows the exact amount of sugar needed for a jam, or the perfect pour of oil for a red-hot wok. At least several times each class (usually when I’m furtively tasting leftovers) I’m tempted to cry out “teach me your ways!” but fortunately self-discipline prevails.
This Sunday the class was on Thai cooking, and the ingredients set out in the classroom kitchen included six sauces, an array of exotic vegetables, and about 10 pounds of noodles. Eager to try my hand at what I’d seen between bouts of pot scrubbing, I hurried up to our apprentices’ cottage lugging a generous selection of leftover ingredients, and it was there that we stir fried everything from Chinese broccoli to an old bag of peas. And of course the seven farm eggs per meal we’ve been averaging to keep up with the hens… but more on that next time.
Easy Pad Thai Sauce
Pim’s version—which can be found in her wonderful book The Foodie Handbook—is the real deal, but adapting her recipe to the ingredients I had I came up with something that serves as a tasty and simple version for everyday use in the wok (or pan).
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ cup fish sauce
½ cup palm sugar (a bit less if you use regular sugar)
In a small saucepan, heat rice vinegar and fish sauce over medium heat until gently bubbling. Add palm sugar and dissolve, tasting for your desired balance of salty, sour, and sweet. Turn off the heat and add paprika to taste (as Pim says, it’s good to have just enough to feel at the back of your throat). Use sauce in stir fries with noodles, veggies, or meat.