If you're anything like me, you visit Asian restaurants, devour plates piled high with delicately and masterfully sauced noodles or rice, and walk out promising yourself you'll find a recipe to capture the essence of that flavorful fare. Well, actually, I usually leave the greasy spoons that I frequent wondering whether or not I mistakenly drank a half gallon of peanut oil in my tea cup and finished my meal with a few spoonfuls of salt. But that's me. MSG-induced comas aside, I do often wonder how the Thai, the Chinese, the Korean, the Japanese, and so on, craft such luscious stir fries.
What is that flavor that I'm missing in my own kitchen attempts? Soy sauce, check. Ginger, check. Sesame oil, check. Sugar, check, check , check (an admitted sweet seeker, here). What I've discovered, other than that soy sauce doesn't rinse out of my favorite white button down, is that these dishes achieve that brilliant balance of sweet and savory with the addition of a few splashes of ingredients I am always too cheap to buy. Namely, fish sauce and oyster sauce. I justify that if the recipe only calls for a teaspoon or two of one of these $5 bottles, it surely can't affect the flavor much. Fact: they can. Last night I proved it.
After poring over a dozen or so recipes for Pad See Ew, a popular Thai comfort food, I bit the bullet and paid for all the necessary ingredients. Fish sauce, oyster sauce, hot chili paste, wine. Ok, wine wasn't on the list, but it sure did make the meal complete. An hour in the kitchen later, I was seated in front of a piping hot plate of scrumptious, authentic Thai. Pad See Ew, a first and a triumph. Slippery noodles lacing in and out of juicy strips of marinated chicken, swirling around tender, wilted baby bok choy. The whole dish glazed in a sauce that touched on sweet, played with savory, and flirted with spice. And just for you, a photographic journey through the meal preparation. Try it, delight in it, save the leftovers for a midnight snack. Oh who am I kidding, there won't be any leftovers.
Pad See Ew (serves 4) Ingredients: For Chicken Marinade:
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 TBSP oyster sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
For Stir Fry:
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly into 2" strips
- 12 oz dried, wide flat rice noodles
- 3 cups sliced baby bok choy (3 small heads)
- 2 TBSP plus 2 tsp oil (sesame, vegetable, canola, any variety would work), divided
For Stir Fry Sauce:
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- 2 TBSP oyster sauce
- 2 TBSP fish sauce
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1- 2 tsp hot chili paste (depending on how spicy you prefer your dish- start with 1 tsp and taste test it)
2. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for thirty minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the chicken and ensure tenderness.
2. Whisk together your stir fry sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 3. Slice the baby bok choy, keeping both leaves and stems.
4. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add your rice noodles. Let them cook for about 6-7 minutes, until tender.
5. Drain and toss the noodles with 1 TBSP oil to lubricate and ward off sticking.
6. Heat 1 TBSP oil (I used toasted sesame oil) in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
7. Add the chicken strips, discarding the remaining marinade. Stir fry for about 6-7 minutes, until the chicken is opaque and browned on all sides.
Remove to a plate.
8. In the same pan, add the remaining oil. Add the bok choy. Stir fry for about 5 minutes, just until it begins to soften and wilt.
9. Add the noodles to the pan and stir to combine.
10. Now pour in the stir fry sauce. Lift the noodles repeatedly to separate into individual strands.
11. Return the chicken to the pan, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate.
12. Stir to combine and coat noodles, chicken, and bok choy evenly in the sauce. Taste for desired flavor, adding a few additional splashes of fish sauce as needed.