Everyone knows about ramen noodles. That super inexpensive package of dried noodles and flavor packets of various types. Most food snobs might snub their nose at this tried and true college cuisine, but with a little creativity, you'll never even know it's ramen! Today I pondered new twists for the soupy classic, and since I had some leftover cilantro and limes for a previous dish - it clicked! Pad Thai!
Just in case some of you might be a little unfamiliar with this dish, here's a little background on it. Pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand. It is considered a stir fry dish, and is commonly served as street food. Pad Thai contain rice noodles, scrambled egg, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chili pepper, bean sprouts, toasted peanuts, cilantro plus any combination of shrimp, chicken, tofu as the main proteins. Pad Thai is also garnished with lime wedges, as the freshly squeezed juice compliments the diverse flavors of the dish. This is actually one of my favorite dishes of all time!
Now this isn't a splitting image of the legendary Thai street food. For example, I don't exactly keep tamarind paste in stock (it's a pretty exotic ingredient and not available at the regular supermarket), but there's a few ways you can improvise.
Ramen-Style Pad Thai:
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 package Ramen noodles (doesn't matter which flavor, you won't be using the flavor packet)
1/3 cup chopped Toasted Peanuts (you can also toast them yourself on a pan)
1/2 cup chopped Cilantro +extra for garnish
1+ cups Cocktail Shrimp/diced Tofu/diced leftover Chicken (or any combination of them)
1 Lime, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon Smooth Peanut Butter
3 teaspoons Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
Mix all sauce ingredients together until peanut butter mixture is even and thinner. Heat ramen in water according to instructions (I microwave it for 4 minutes). Toast peanuts over medium high heat along with main protein combo of your choice and olive or canola oil. Remove from heat when toasted and warm. Crack egg into same pan and scramble into small pieces (don't let it clump together). Re-introduce peanuts and protein. Add drained ramen noodles and 1/2 cup of ramen water. Add sauce and mix well in pan. Add chopped cilantro and the end, and mix into noodles. Garnish with extra chopped cilantro and lime wedges.
As always, you can tinker with the sauce ingredients, nothing is set in stone here! Ramen is an excellent blank canvas for all sorts of nifty and inexpensive creations. Just check out the leftovers in your fridge, the spices in your cabinets, and keep an open mind :)