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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Pad See Ew

I have developed a fondness for pad see ew since I moved to Ithaca.  It's sort of an iffy dish, but Taste of Thai Express does it pretty well, some of the time, and we order lunch from them every Friday.  Much to my delight, Cook's Illustrated published their version of it recently.  You can find the recipe here
While I was looking for the recipe online, I also found a NYT article about CI, and its publisher, Christopher Kimball.  It was an interesting read and described the history of the magazine.  I recommend it if you're a foodie or a CI fan. I hadn't really thought about it too much since until recently I didn't subscribe to any high brow cooking magazines, but it does point out how CI's precise yet middle-brow approach is quite different from a lot of other cooking magazines.  They won't show you food porn pictures of a banquet for 16 people, or even pair recipes for a meal, and, as I've mentioned, it's usually all about the secret technique or ingredient.  In all my years cooking recipes from them, I've only had one turn out badly.  (Admittedly, I do alter ingredients and cut corners, but I like to think that their recipes are overengineered and can withstand a few tweaks, as long as you don't mess with the secret technique or ingredient.)  Although they are often fussy with their tricks or secret ingredients, they don't go over the top with hard to find ingredients.  This particular recipe relied on soy sauce, fish sauce,* oyster sauce and brown sugar.  Compared to some Thai recipes I've seen, that was pretty minimal.  It explained why CI is finally doing more international recipes (answer - readers want them) as well as why they don't call them by their common names, e.g. pad see ew rather than Thai stir fried noodles with chicken and broccolini (answer - even though the readers want them they're not sure the real names will go over well with the readers who are less familiar).
I didn't take pictures this time around.  I substituted broccoli for broccolini, and boneless lean pork for chicken.  I cut up the broccoli, cut up the pork and gave it a quick soak in a bit of water with baking soda (the CI magic trick worked!  The pork was very tender even though it was lean and had previously been frozen), soaked the noodles in hot water, made the sauce, and then commenced with stir frying everything in batches, with a little sauce each time  The garlic and pork went in first, followed by three eggs.  Then I dumped it into a bowl, stir fried the broccoli with some sauce, and then did the same with the noodles.  At the end everything was dumped back into the pan and warmed up. 
Anyway, it was really good.  I'm not sure how authentic it was - I've had it so many different ways that I don't really know what is normal.  The noodles were narrower than the ones used in Thai restaurants, but that is a minor detail.  It was still better than most restaurant versions, including Taste of Thai Express on a bad or mediocre day.  I liked that there was enough sauce - sometimes there is too little, and the noodles are bland.  The only thing I would tweak is to add some of those fermented garlic black beans that I sometimes find in there, and possibly a bit of garlic chile sauce.  I will definitely make it again.

*  Molly the cat was obsessed with the fish sauce.  Now I know what to use if I ever need to give her medicine. 

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