Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another Worth the Work: Peking Pork and Easy Pad Thai

My kids had a serious Asian food craving this past week. So I spent a whole lot of time in the kitchen ;-).
First up was Peking Pork. This recipe came from Rachael Ray (and you know, I can never tell which issue it is, because I tear out the recipes I want to use before I recycle or pass on my magazines, and they don't print the month on the pages...kind of stupid, if you ask me). Anyway, this has a lot of steps, BUT I can tell you that both the dredging in rice wine vinegar and the cornstarch/flour mixture, plus the double frying (and I used peanut oil, which I found in bulk at my local Kroger, but you can buy MUCH cheaper in bulk at Asian stores) makes this JUST like what you get in a Chinese restaurant.
And the sauce...I can't even begin to tell you how yummy the sauce was. It made WAY too much and that was so awesome. I had bought vegetable dumplings at the Asian store and I've been making a few here and there for lunch or a snack, and using that sauce as a dipping sauce. It's beyond yummy :-). You can get the recipe here, and I did it (for once ) exactly as it was written. Mine, as you can tell from my photos, came out in thicker chunks, but but I think it was because I used boneless chops instead (hey, that's what was on sale ;-).
Along with this, I served Pad Thai, my own version, adapted from the Everything Thai Cookbook and Alton Brown's version on Good Eats. In my opinion, it's better with brown sugar (the Everything Thai ingredient) than Palm Sugar (the Alton Brown version). Plus a little I've learned from a Laotian cook I know. I recommend going to Google Images and looking at SEVERAL images of the ingredients you've never heard of, like Tamarind Paste, before going to an Asian store to buy them. The Tamarind paste that I bought came in a brick, not a jar, but it works just the same (FYI, I keep the excess in the freezer).

Other than that, I usually add some cooked chicken to my Pad Thai, instead of shrimp, since my daughter, who is the biggest Pad Thai fan in my house, doesn't like shrimp.
If you are feeling daunted by the thought of Chinese/Asian food cooking, let me tell you that it's not nearly as hard as it looks. Be sure to A.) have all your ingredients assembled and ready ahead of time. When I'm making two dishes like this at the same time, I set up two different "stations," with the ingredients. One cutting board with all the Pad Thai ingredients, including the bottles of wet ingredients, and a second for the Peking Pork. If there are shared ingredients, those go between the two cutting boards. I have a really small kitchen, so this kind of organization is essential for cooking Asian food. Once you get food into the wok, it all goes pretty quickly.
B.) everything you need for Asian food is MUCH cheaper at an Asian market. Don't be nervous about going into one. Most of the proprietors also speak English, or at least enough English to help you, and if you bring your ingredients list, they can help you find what you need. Most of the ingredients have Enlish directions, too. I'm continually amazed at how the ingredients are at least half the cost of my local grocery. I buy rice in bulk at the Asian market, buy things like dumplings and won tons, sometimes vegetables and garlic, and soy sauce (SO much cheaper) there.
C.) Taste as you go along, and feel free to season. I find that many of these recipes are guidelines. I taste and season, and add a little more soy sauce or fish sauce (which is a staple in Asian cooking. It does smell fishy, LOL, but it cooks wonderfully), or lime juice, or whatever it seems to need. I never add MSG and go for MSG free seasonings. So you don't have to have that seasoning if you don't want it.
D.) Start with something easy -- Fried Rice, for example, and move on from there. Do a simple stir-fry. Then work your way up to something like Spicy Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup (which is really easy BTW) and Pad Thai. Before you know it, you'll be cooking at home instead of ordering out ;-).

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:26 AM

    I like your blog! I also love making Thai food and like using interesting ingredients such as tamarind. I found this you might be interested in


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