Friday, December 2, 2011

Pad Thai-ish Stir Fry

You never think that after graduating from college you'll miss anything, but I often think about how much I miss The College of Wooster's Stir Fry station in the cafeteria. Let me just say, it was probably one of the best ideas, when it comes to cafeteria style food. You could stir fry just about anything! Pasta with veggies, rice with chicken, and they had sauces galore to add even more variety! I'm not sure if it's been done, but I bet that you could create a different stir fry every day for a month.

One of my favorites to make, thanks to a good friend of mine, was Pad Thai, or noodles with chicken, peas, shallots and peanut sauce. During my senior year, I came home on break and was craving the delicious stir fry and decided to give it a try. I attempted two or three different recipes before realizing it was much easier to add, mix and taste the ingredients, no recipe needed. I googled a few recipes, found the common ingredients and just dove in. Here's what I sort of came up with (but I suggest you add, mix and taste to get what tingles your tastebuds)!

Peanut Sauce: 

Peanut Butter
Soy Sauce
Brown Sugar
Chili Powder
Ginger Powder
Lime (juice)
Greek Yogurt

I start with about 1/2 c of Peanut Butter, 1/4 c Brown Sugar, 1/8 c of soy sauce and allow it to melt and simmer in a small sauce pan on low. You must keep your eyes on this, because of the sugars in the recipe, it will stick and burn to the bottom. Stir frequently. Then I add a few shakes of Chili Powder and Ginger Powder (my guess is probably 2 T Chili, 1 T Ginger). Stir together and taste. A dash of vinegar next, and some water to thin it out (maybe about 1/4-1/2 c). You want the sauce thin but not watery, so it sticks and coats the pasta but doesn't congeal to it. Remember you can always add more but you can never take it away. So add small amounts. Add some lime juice, a few dashes at a time so you get a hint of it when you taste the sauce. Stir it all together, never allowing it to boil, only simmer (small little bubbles). When you taste the sauce it should have the taste of peanut butter, but only slightly. If it is overwhelmingly peanut buttery, add a bit more soy sauce. It should have a soft sweet taste (from the brown sugar) but not overly sweet. I have found that this recipe is a science of taste. Taste as you go! Lastly, when you have a peanut sauce you like, add a little bit of greek yogurt (or any PLAIN yogurt). This will ease the strong taste of the sauce and help give it a bit of thickness. Give it a taste. It shouldn't taste too much like one ingredient. You should get a mixture of flavors with every taste.

To make this into stir fry, I cook up some chicken and pasta, throw them all into the frying pan used for the chicken (if you're not using left over chicken), add frozen peas, chopped shallots, and then drizzle in the sauce. The stir fry just needs to be heated up a bit, be careful not to burn it! Serve with a wedge of lime and crushed peanuts on the top. This is a great meal when you're craving exotic food and want to have some fun experimenting in the kitchen.

I encourage you to look up recipes and give it a try. Some recipes call for hot sauce or garlic, others cilantro and fish sauce. Do what you like and let me know what you've found to taste the best. Enjoy!

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