Shrimp Pad Thai with Chicken Sateh

DSC_0076Something that the rest of the country may not know about the Pacific Northwest is just how abundant Thai food is here.  I am not sure why, but the population here has embraced the flavors of southeast Asia with gusto.  Even in my medium sized city, I can choose from about 12 different Thai restaurants that are within 10 miles of my house…and I don’t live in town.  With so many options to choose from, the quality of food that these establishments kick out is usually pretty good since competition is a bit stiff.  One item that is always on the menu is some variant of Pad Thai.

I am really not clear why people here developed such a fever for Thai food; maybe it’s the dismal weather.  I do have a vague recollection of Thai food becoming common place some time in the late 1980’s.  I do know that pad thai was a staple food for me in college, as it was very cheap and highly available in Seattle.  And honestly, there is a lot to love about pad thai.  The fried rice noodles are satisfying, filling, and have a delightful sweet and sour flavor.  The chili and fish sauce accent both the sauce in which the noodles are cooked and the stir-fried ingredients in the dish.  And what a great variety of ingredients there are; you typically get your choice of meat (shrimp, chicken, pork, beef) to go with the array of vegetables and tofu that the cook selected.

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Dan Dan Noodle

Dan_Not enough can possibly be said about the merits of this oddly named and fiercely flavored Sichuan dish.  Like a lot of the Sichuan dishes that I have run into, this one is a oil-based, chili-fueled piece of culinary perfection.  Chili oil and black vinegar create the foundation for the sauce, which is used quite sparingly.  We prefer to accent our sauce with plenty of Sichuan pepper, which provides an astringent and numbing quality that is a type of flavor, I guess.  Ground pork is a pretty common topping and rounds out this richly flavored and wickedly spiced  household favorite.  The blend of flavors in the sauce are such that they really deserve fresh noodles in order to really shown them off, but dried egg noodles will do in a pinch.  Wider noodles work better, I think…. 

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Soba Noodles with Peanut and Chili Sauce

Soba with Peanut and Chili SauceSoba noodles are typically eaten cold, with some kind of dipping sauce.  In this case, I just took the easy route and decided to just plate the noodle with the sauce.  After I started heading down the road of sloth, I went all in; the sauce to go with the noodles is particularly idiot-proof.  It requires no cooking and contains four ingredients, all of which come out of either a bottle or a jar.  Despite the relative simplicity, this dish does pretty well in the taste category.  There is not a lot of subtly, just a blast of vinegar and chili flavor with a bit of peanut to bring it back in line.  I think that you really need some form of garnish to compete with the sauce and I found that sliced scallion provided a hint of something natural and kept the dish from being monotonous. … 

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