I made pad thai! …Or something like it. It didn’t taste the way it does in restaurants, but it wasn’t entirely bad. I did make a few substitutions and omissions, given the amount of money I was willing to spend on new condiments. And my very limited shelf space.

So sometimes I like to take a walk down to a market… you know… just to clear my head. Window shopping boutiques generates too much temptation, so I settle for supermarkets. Last night, I took a stroll to Chinatown.

Though many markets are closed (or are in the middle of closing) when I get out of work, I’ve found that by bravely dodging the fishmongers tossing out buckets of melted ice, I’d eventually find Hong Kong Supermarket, a giant amongst the little sidewalk stands, which is open slightly later. This is my Candyland — live fish, tons of Chinese vegetables, dragonfruit!, every sauce I could ever think of using, and snacks. Lots of them. And all cheap. This is where I can spend 10 dollars and feed myself for weeks.

In a little Thai section, I found everything I needed – tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Downstairs, I found rice noodles. I decided to forgo the peanut oil and peanuts, not willing to shell out 6 dollars for a jar of nuts (American, of course!) and not being able to imagine what else I’d use peanut oil for. A bag of bean sprouts (it came out to 30 cents, no kidding), and I was on my way home.

(A Version of) Pad Thai

  • a little chunk of tamarind paste (1/2″x 1/2″ x 2″-ish)
  • 3/4 cup of boiling water
  • 2 tbsps each of fish sauce and palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
  • a certain amount of rice noodles
  • broccoli, cabbage, and bean sprouts
  • garlic (minced) and scallions
  • 1 egg, beaten

I was confused by Alton Brown’s portioning (or rather, I just didn’t bother reading carefully), so I made the sauce and decided not to use all of it. Pour the boiling water over the paste and stir to combine. Mix the sugar, fish sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl. Soak noodles in a bowl of warm water until soft. Heat up some oil (I used sesame, since I was too cheap to buy peanut) in a wok and add the scallions and garlic. Sautee for a bit and add the egg. Scramble. Toss in the broccoli (in hindsight, I think I should have cooked the broccoli before scrambling the egg, so the rest of the stuff isn’t sitting in the pot drying out). Cabbage can be added, and doesn’t take long to wilt. Add the noodles and bean sprouts, pour on the sauce. Toss quickly.

Then I added a secret ingredient. My father’s mystery peanut sauce. Mystery as in: I have no idea what goes in there, but its got peanut butter. I decided to add this since I had left out everything peanut.

Salt, and serve! (In my case, I taste and then pack the rest up for lunch.)