After my previous Pad Thai meltdown goop-out, it took me a while to work up the nerve to tackle this one again. And I probably never would have done so had not the wonderful Pim—proprietor of Chez Pim, a most amazing food blog, and author of the recipe I used—not answered my plea for enlightenment. And what a thrill that was in its own! Pim! On my blog! Seriously, if you're at all interested in food, you should check it out. Pim travels the world in search of what is good to eat and what is interesting about food and culture. And like that genius at use real butter but unlike me, she can actually operate a camera. Really well, in fact.
But I digress. Pim explained that not all rice noodles are created equal. The ones I used did not match the ones she had in mind for the recipe in soaking time. Pim recommended soaking the noodles until almost soft enough to eat rather than adhering to a specific soaking time. She also recommended the local Berkeley Bowl as a potential source for noodles labeled as Pad Thai noodles. But whereas the Bowl had about seventy kinds of tofu, they did not have the noodle I was seeking. I'm absolutely sure of this because I stood in front the noodle section for about half and hour surely looking like a total idiot.
But the Bowl did have several other ingredients that I had not been able to find elsewhere.
Pim recommends pickled turnips. I couldn't find those but thought that pickled radish would be close enough. I liked it, and it added a nice bit of color.
And instead of the standard green onions that most American versions of this dish include, Pim recommends garlic chives. I know: I really should learn to focus my camera, but in the meantime know that if you can ever get these they are absolutely worth buying in a bunch as large as this. Their taste is somewhere between garlic and chive, and they would be good chopped in a salad or on top of almost anything.
Because Sophie is a little fussy about green plants sprinkled over her food, I served the radish, garlic chive, and cilantro as optional toppings, along with sliced lime.
They added both color and flavor to the finished dish, which was finally a success!
I'm convinced that the key is Pim's sauce. Many American recipes for this dish include catsup, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. Pim recommends nearly equal parts of tamarind pulp, fish sauce, and palm sugar, adjusted for personal taste. I love the Thai combination of sweet, sour, and salty, and Pim's recipe hits it right on the head.
Thank you, dear Pim!