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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pad See Ew for beginners

Pad See Ew

It's taken me a year, but here's another installment of the popular "for beginners" series.  The first one, Pad Thai for Beginners, is still one of the most popular links on this blog.  It's high time I give you another one to link to (and drool over), yes?

This time we are going to do Pad See Ew for beginners.  Pad See Ew is another popular item on Thai restaurant menus.  The spelling can vary a bit, you may have seen anything from Pad See You to Pad Siew or Pad See Ewe, plus many variations in between.  The first syllable is pronounced Paad, with an elongated ah sound, as in Padma, while the last is much the same as when you see something repugnant and go eeeeew. 

Pad See Ew, no matter how you say it, means stir-fried with soy sauce.  The type of soy sauce used in this recipe is not the Kikkoman variety you find at a sushi bar, but a thick, slightly sweet soy sauce called See Ew Dum in Thai, or Kicap Manis in Malay and Indonesian cooking.  You can get it at most Asian supermarket.  (If you really couldn't find it, you can add a little sugar to regular soy sauce and heat until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, or so I've been told.)

The fundamentals of the cooking here are really not that different from Pad Thai.  You need a good, well-seasoned wok (see the Pad Thai post), must have all the ingredients ready (at room temperature or as close to it as possible) before you begin, and, above all, you really should do it only a couple of portions at a time - I'd say four at the most.  In order to get a good wok char on everything and not turn your Pad See Ew into a pile of eeeeew-inspiring mush, your wok must be super hot so everything can be cooked very quickly.  Doing six to eight portions on your regular stove is therefore basically impossible.  Frankly, the wide, flat rice noodles normally used in Pad See Ew is even harder to deal with than the thin type used in Pad Thai.  They stick like hell and will turn into mush in a heartbeat if handled improperly.

There are only three basic components in Pad See Ew, your protein of choice (chicken, pork, beef, or even shrimp) plus an egg (you can skip it if you want), Chinese broccoli, and Sen Yai or wide flat rice noodle.  In order to keep everything nicely charred, we will be cooking each of these elements separately, and then combine them at the end to finish.  Trust me, this is the best way to do it on a home stove, I've really tried.  It doesn't take that much extra effort, and it really will prevent the much-feared noodle mush.  Worth it, yes?

Pad See Ew
For 2 portions
(Double, triple, or quadruple as you please, but it will be safer to cook two portions at a time.)


300g or 11oz of fresh flat rice noodle should be enough for two regular portions.
If you use dry noodles, soak them in lukewarm water until pliable but not soft.  Make sure you drain the noodles very well before cooking or they will spitter-spatter everywhere.
1 egg
250g or 9oz of Chinese broccoli
1-2 cloves garlic, depending on how much you like it, chopped
2-3 tbsp of cooking oil (I use grapeseed oil)
a little less than 1 tbsp of thick soy sauce (You can buy it here or here.)
fish sauce to taste
1 tbsp of rice vinegar

For the protein and marinade
225g or 8oz of pork loin, cut into very thin bite-size pieces
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp oyster sauce
a splash of dark sesame oil
Toss the pork and all the sauces together until well mixed.  Let marinate for 15-30 minutes before cooking time.

Make sure you have all the ingredients prepared before you begin.  For the Chinese broccoli, I love to use the stems as well.  I use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough skin from the stems and slice them thin before cooking.  Separate the stem pieces from the leafy part because they don't cook at the same rate.  Cut the leafs into big pieces because they will cook down quite a bit.


Heat the wok on the highest heat your stove can handle.  When the pan is very hot, add a tiny splash of oil.  Throw in the broccoli stems and toss quickly in the hot pan for just a few seconds.  Add the leafy part and a splash of fish sauce.  Toss quickly again until the leafs are wilted.  Transfer the broccoli into a plate and set aside.


Set the wok back on the fire and let it heat up until smoking.  Add another splash of oil – this time a biggish splash.  Tilt the wok to coat it well with the hot oil, then throw in the noodles.  Shake the wok a few times and toss the noodles to coat them with oil.  You can do it with a twist of your wrist if you're good, use a spatula if you're not so sure.  Add just a little less than a tablespoon of thick soy sauce, and a few splash of fish sauce.  Toss the whole thing again quickly to evenly distribute the sauce.  Spread the noodles around the wok a bit to maximize the contact with the heat.  That's how you get a nice charred bits from the wok.  Add more oil if the noodles stuck to the pan.  Like Pad Thai, this aint no diet food.  When the noodles are done, cooked through and nicely charred in parts, transfer them to a plate and set aside.  Scrape the wok with a spatula to get all the burnt bits out and chuck them.


Set the pan back on the fire to reheat.  Add another splash of oil, follow by garlic and the marinated pork (or whatever protein you use).  Spread the pork pieces around the wok and let it char, undisturbed, for a few seconds, then flip to the other side.  If you cut the pork thinly – like I told you to - they will cook very quickly.  When the pork are done, push them over to the side of the wok and crack one egg into the middle.  Let the egg set for a few seconds and then stir everything together quickly. 


Grab the plate with the broccoli you set aside and throw the veggies back into the pan.  Stir quickly to mix, then grab the other plate with the cooked noodles and throw that in too (the noodles, not the plate).  Toss again to mix everything well. 


Taste it, you might need to add another splash of fish sauce or a bit more dark soy sauce to your taste.  Some people add a little sugar too, I don't - I'm quite sweet enough already, thank you very much.  Add one tablespoon of rice vinegar and give it a toss.  A turn or two of pepper, another quick toss, and you are done!


See?  It's really not all that complicated.  If you need to make more, wash the wok quickly with hot water, no soap needed, just to remove all the bits stuck to the bottom. A quick wipe to dry and set the wok back on the fire to work on your next portion.

Trust me, you'll never order another Pad See Ew again.


Want it vegetarian? 

Easy.  Use tofu in place of the animal protein.  Find a tofu that's a bit on the sturdy side, silken tofu will turn into icky puree when you stir fry them.  You can even use fried tofu - I find the step-by-step instructions here helpful for frying tofu, though I must tell you that I do not endorse you going to your local chinese market, opening containers of tofu, and squeezing it to gauge freshness, as recommended there!

If you don't want to bother with frying up the tofu, you could buy ready made ones at any chinese market.  Seitan, if you're into that kind of stuff, will do well here as well.

To make it really strictly vegetarian, use this vegetarian "oyster" sauce in place of the regular oyster sauce, and this light soy sauce in place of the fish sauce in the recipe. 


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