easy A(zn)

Umami, starch, and loads of leftovers. These are a few of my favorite things. And when you add the fact that the following meals are both easy to make and fairly cheap, well, shit.

Pad Thai

These photos are from when I was back at the Oakland house. The recipe is from Mark Bittman with a few modifications. The ingredients list is really quite simple and doesn’t really necessitate a trip to the asian supermarket, though how could you pass up frozen shrimp for $4.50 a lb at Koreana Plaza? Oh Koreana, it’s been too long. You need dried flat rice noodles (aka “rice stick”), a few eggs (Bittman says 3 for 4 servings), peeled deveined shrimp, some minced garlic to cook with the shrimp, a package of extra-firm tofu, a few green onions, some bean sprouts, fish sauce, tamarind paste or ketchup (I opted for the latter since I had it on hand, but I feel like many Thai places do anyway), white granulated sugar, and then chopped peanuts, cilantro, green chiles and lime for garnish.

Ryan and I were feeling a bit more cheap-o than usual, so we decided to pick peanuts out of his TJ’s trail mix instead of buying them. THAT’S HOW WE DO IT IN OAKTOWN.

Now I think the trick to keeping the noodles from getting too soggy is to prepare them the way MB recommends: putting the noodles into a bowl and then adding boiling water to cover them. Soaking them in this manner (for at least 15 minutes) cooks them just the right amount.

This is perhaps the most annoying step of the process — patting the tofu dry. As you can see, I was feeling a little artistic at the time. When you’ve sufficiently dried the tofu (I tend to half-ass it), cut the tofu into small cubes.

Making the egg crepe is perhaps the trickiest part, though I didn’t really find it to be tricky at all. Basically you beat 3-4 eggs (depending on the egg to noodle ratio you’re aiming for) and then add them to a pan that is coated with hot oil (canola, peanut, or other neutral). Then you swirl it as if you were Julia Child making an omelette (zomg have you ever actually seen a video clip of Julia Child? Meryl Streep really nailed it..) but you want the egg to coat the pan in a thin layer. Use a spatula to gently scrape off the white curd that forms on the top of crepe. I’d say the main thing is making sure the surface area of your pan is large enough to get a thin spread. I used a wok.

When it’s just set remove the crepe and cut it into strips. Technique-wise I’d say it’s easiest to cut the crepe in half and chiffonade that bitch.

Clean off the wok and then saute the shrimp over high heat with some oil and the garlic. Season with s&p. Cook for about two minutes or until the shrimp turns pink. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Add the tofu, chopped green onion and bean sprouts to the wok and saute for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside.

Add your drained rice stick, sliced egg crepe, a few tablespoons of fish sauce (I’d start off with less rather than more as you can add to taste) and equal parts ketchup and sugar, a few teaspoons each. Saute, stirring occasionally, until heated through and mixed well. Taste the noodles so you can adjust the fish sauce, sugar and ketchup components for flavor. I ended up having to add more of everything, for a still very subtly-flavored end product. Remove from the heat.

The secret ingredient. :D

Don’t forget the garnishes!

The resulting dish was very light and paired excellently with chili garlic paste and beer.

Fried Rice with Leeks, Brown Mushrooms, Zucchini and Fried Tofu
This is more of a suggestion than a recipe. I often use leeks in lieu of scallions in fried rice because I so often have one leftover from some other pasta or egg dish I made earlier in the week. Fried rice is just such an awesome “leftover ingredient” dish, and way easier to execute than a frittata.

I’m by no means an expert at deep-frying, but deep frying tofu is pretty straightforward: no battering required; just heat a saucepan filled a quarter inch deep with frying oil and then fry the tofu on both sides, seasoning each side with salt. (For another tyte fried tofu recipe, go here.) Just don’t be a retard like me and use a shallow pan with no lid, because then scalding hot oil will spray at you constantly while the tofu is frying! In retrospect I would’ve used my le creuset round french oven for this part of the process.

While I was deep-frying the tofu, I sauteed the leek, minced garlic, brown mushrooms (I can’t remember if I used cremini or shiitake last time), and zucchini in some oil. I seasoned it with soy sauce, black pepper and crushed red chili flakes. When the vegetables were cooked through I transferred them to a plate and set them aside. Then I heated up some canola oil flavored with a bit of sesame oil until it was pretty hot, and then added cooked jasmine rice which I fried on high heat, flipping and stirring occasionally, for like 4-5 minutes (you know, just to get the rice kind of crispy) and seasoned the rice with soy sauce and Maggi.
Multiple white people (a dad and a housemate) have expressed difficulties with executing the scrambled egg part of fried rice to me, so I guess it’s worth noting here. My friend L-T from Cambridge would scramble the eggs separately and then add them back to the fried rice at the end. I prefer the method that doesn’t require dirtying another dish: push the rice to one side of the pan and then add a few beaten eggs, then scramble the eggs until just cooked through before combining them with the rice.

Then I added back the tofu and vegetables back to the egg and rice mixture and cooked the fried rice for another few minutes just to heat through, seasoning with more Maggi to taste. Mmmmm, msg.

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