Pad thai at home

I learned to love pad thai during frequent trips to Bangkok for work over the past few years.  My husband loves pad thai as well, and will order it whenever he sees it on the menu.  We’ve tried the versions in People’s Palace and Benjarong (both expensive but worth it), Silk in the Fort (pretty good, with beautiful presentation), Som’s (seriously, seriously overrated and cloyingly sweet), and Chariya’s (good and reasonably priced).  Recently, I’ve been ordering it from the Sunday Legaspi market, but I decided to try and make my own one of these days so we can have it whenever we want.

Since I don’t like using instant mixes, I’ve searched for tamarind paste in Landmark and Rustan’s for several weeks now but to no avail.  Finally, while we were in Chinatown to buy my favorite hopia from Ho Land, I found a jar of tamarind paste at Bee Tin Grocery for 80 pesos.  With that, dinner for today was decided: some home made pad thai!  Since I’ve never tried making pad thai before, this is one of the few times that I actually stuck to a recipe, which I found online here.  It’s basic enough that I had everything in my pantry aside from the tamarind paste.  First, I soaked the noodles in water to soften them up, then I prepared all the other ingredients.  For stir fries like this, one thing I learned (the hard way) is to have everything prepared and ready to throw in your pan once you start since everything comes together very quickly once you start cooking.  So make sure your peanuts, tofu, beansprouts, onions, garlic and chives are ready to go!

The recipe is pretty simple, it took around 30 minutes for everything to come together but that’s because I toasted the peanuts from scratch (I had fresh peanuts on hand since we like to snack on boiled peanuts every now and then) and fried up the tofu separately.  The verdict?  Pretty good, but next time I’ll probably use different noodles.  The ones I had were advertised as for ho fan and pad thai so they were a little softer in texture than we would like.  Also, it would be better with a bit more sauce.  But the taste was excellent, this will definitely make another appearance in our house with a few tweaks in the near future.  🙂

Nilagang Baka (Filipino style beef soup with vegetables)

Literally translated, nilagang baka means boiled beef.  This soup is an all-time Filipino favorite but I rarely order it in restaurants since the broth usually tastes like beef bouillon cubes (too salty!) and lacks depth and the meat is usually too tough for my tastes.  Besides, it couldn’t be more simple to make yourself, and the results are always much, much better.  🙂

For the meat, you can use almost any part you would like but I prefer using brisket or chuck/beef stew cubes.  I’ve made this with a mixture of chuck and beef ribs and it was delicious too since the bones really added flavor to the broth.

Today, I used a half kilo of grass-fed beef from Down to Earth and brought this to a low simmer along with a roughly chopped onion and a lot of freshly ground black pepper for a good 5 hours.  Good food sometimes take time…but it is always worth it!  🙂  By this time, the beef was extremely tender.  Skim the scum off the top, if any, I didn’t have much today since I used fairly lean cubes.  I seasoned the broth with a few tablespoons of salt and a little soy sauce then added the following:

  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped into medium chunks
  • half a head of cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 bundle of pechay or bok choy

Other popular vegetables for this soup are carrots and corn on the cob but I don’t really like the broth to be even slightly sweet so I didn’t add them.  We had two dipping sauces, soy sauce with calamansi and sili, and fish sauce (patis) also with calamansi and chili.  As with most Asian dishes, this is fantastic on lots of steamed white rice.

Some days, whether it’s rainy outside or not, it’s great to have a one pot meal that is delicious, nourishing, and comforting.  This is one of our favorites.

Korean banchan (bean sprouts and spinach)

We eat out in Korean restaurants pretty often, and we love the side dishes or banchan that is served before or with our meal.  Among my favorites are the kimchi, the mung bean sprouts and the blanched spinach.  And since I made Korean beef stew tonight, I couldn’t serve that by itself…I like to have little side dishes or vegetables with every meal.  I’ve never made kimchi (next on my list) but the bean sprouts and spinach are delicious, healthy, and take less than 15 minutes to make, tops!  It’s so quick since the “dressing” for these side dishes are almost exactly the same.

First, I washed and picked out the dark bean sprouts from the pack I bought, then I boiled them in salted water for exactly 5 minutes.  Set your timer since soggy sprouts are no good!  Drain and set them aside.

Chop your spinach and take out the roots and hard parts.  Blanch them in salted water for 30 seconds, then rinse them quickly in cool water.  They should be bright green, if they’ve turned dull green they’ve been overcooked.

There are a ton of recipes online for the dressing for this, but all the ingredients are pretty similar.  From some trial and error and a lot of tasting, I came up with this ratio which incorporates the main ingredients that make up these side dishes:

  • Half a stalk of green onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil (I use the toasted sesame oil from Healthy Options)
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I like soy sauce in my spinach but not in my beansprouts, you can use whatever you like of course)
  • Salt to taste
I made around 3 portions of this dressing since we love beansprouts and I had a lot.

Mix it into the vegetables with your hands and adjust your seasoning with salt as you go along.  I prepared the beansprouts first then added a little soy sauce to the basic mixture before i prepared the spinach.  These were quick, perfect complements to the Korean beef stew.  🙂

Cucumber mint raita

I made my butter chicken a little spicier than I can handle (although it got rave reviews from my husband who loves all things spicy), so I decided to make a really quick, simple cucumber mint raita to cool things down a bit.  Raita is the Indian equivalent of the Greek tzatziki, which I also love!  There are recipes all over the internet for raita like this one from BBC food. this one from the food network, and this one from an Indian food website.  I usually look at recipes and just adapt them based on what I have on hand and the taste that I like, this method has always worked out for me so far.  🙂

I used around half a cup of  low fat Greek yogurt from Rizal dairy farms (I usually have a tub of Lemnos greek yogurt in the fridge but S&R has been out of this last few times we were there), a teaspoon of finely chopped mint leaves, and a quarter of a large cucumber.

I grated the cucumber with my coarse Microplane grater.  I love Microplane graters and zesters!!!

I stirred this into my yogurt, added a couple of squeezes of fresh lemon and some ground cumin to taste, and I had a really fresh, bright raita in less than 10 minutes.  🙂