Back in the old days when I was still residing in Lebanon, Asian cuisine as a whole was defined as “Chinese” cuisine. People were lining up for the “Chinese” restaurant, where food tasted more Thai and Malaysian rather than Chinese.
My first encounter with Thai food was during my first visit to Australia back in 2004 where a lunch deal would cost about $6.00. Good old days!
My experience with Thai cuisine got more authentic when I shared a crowded house of British, Canadian, and Thai. The Thai couple kept my senses active round the clock. Basically their routine kept me entertained and was about studying at night; cooking and fighting during the day. The aroma in the kitchen was mind confusing, shifting from garlic to curry to coconut milk, and I began to question if I was born as a dog in a human body.
Thai food is known for its balance of three to four fundamental Southeast Asian taste of sour, sweet, salty, and spicy; and it consists of various types of meat and seafood combined with local vegetables, herbs and spices such as garlic and pepper, and served with rice. Later, the Chinese brought noodles to Thailand, and introduced the steel wok.
The spiciness of Thai cuisine is highly influenced by neighboring countries and it incorporates many Indian spices in its pastes. However it still manages to maintain its own unique flavour with the addition of local ingredients of Thai basil, lemongrass, and ginger.
Thai restaurants have become very popular all throughout Australia. It is hard to count how many thousands of Thai restaurants are available in Sydney with an average cost of $16.00 per meal at Thai Pothong in Newtown, where I had hell of an experience! Blame me, the place is ranked five stars, but having the curiosity of a cat, I asked the waiter to bring me the house specialty as an entrée, little I knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride of chilli and onion. I don’t think I made it to the main; and 2 years later, I am still hallucinating.
Last week, I have attended The Night Noodle Markets, an event organised by the Sydney morning herald and CITI Bank, with up to 40 Asian eateries dishing up everything from authentic Thai deserts to Peking duck pancakes and Shanghai dumplings.
And after a long day at work, I was rewarded with a Pad Thai: a wonderful combination of noodles, chicken, crunchy fresh veggies and that distinctive sweet and spicy sauce, with a final squeeze of lemon to guarantee silkiness and a chair in heaven.
I think I also swallowed the chopsticks, out of excitement!
Chicken Pad Thai
Combine 100g of tamarind pulp and 300ml of warm water in a bowl. Break up the pulp with your fingers until it is dissolving into the water. Strain the water into a saucepan, squeezing all the liquid from the pulp. Add 200g of palm sugar, 50g of caster sugar and 150ml of Thai seasoning sauce. Bring to the boil, and then simmer until reduced and slightly syrupy.
Heat a little oil in a wok and when hot, add 200g of sliced breast. Fry until they curl and change colour then add ¼ sliced onion, and 40g of preserved radish. Stir-fry briefly then push the ingredients to one side and crack in 2 eggs, breaking them up just a little. Without letting them cook completely, add 200g of soaked and drained flat rice noodles (soak in warm water for 30 min prior cooking) , 2 tablespoons of water, a few scoops of tamarind sauce (or to taste) and some chopped garlic chives, bean sprouts, fried shallots, peanuts and chilli powder to taste. Stir briefly then serve garnished with wedges of lime or lemon.