July 15, 2021. Dear Kids- Remember the first Thai restaurant that became our family favorite while you were growing up? I think you were about 6 and 4 the first time we ate there. The food was good, but my favorite part of our experiences there was when we ordered take out. When we would arrive to pick up our food, I would say, “Order for Hugh” to the cashier and whenever the diminutive owner came out with our dinner, which was often, she would hand it to me and exclaim, “Order for Huge!”. Every once in a while, I would repeat my name back, but it never seemed to stick, but that was just fine, because you kids thought it was cool to have a Huge Dad (I was probably a foot taller than the nice lady) and it made me feel a little better about myself too! Although, as I write this, I now wonder if it was a weight thing (I probably had 140 pounds on her as well) and not a height thing?
Anyway, over the years, we’ve all come to have our preferred Thai noodle dishes- Pad Thai, Pad Kee Mao (aka Drunken Noodles) and Pad See Ew- to name a few, so here’s my Dad take on an easy noodle dish inspired by all these family favorites that I couldn’t wait to call Dad Thai!
I took components of each dish, with the idea of creating a tasty recipe that was quick and easy to make with basic ingredients- keeping in mind that your college pantry, equipment and budget are more limited than mine. I am very happy with the Dad Thai Sauce, which is a nice balance of salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter from some very basic and inexpensive ingredients. It’s also very versatile and can be used in a variety of stir fries and as a glaze, a sauce and a base for a salad dressing.
Even with all the optional toppings, the recipe shouldn’t take much more than 30 minutes to get on your table, but you can even get it down to about 15 minutes if you use fresh, quick cooking dry or leftover noodles and whatever leftover or quick cooking meat and/or vegetables you have on hand in place of the charred broccoli.
Diet. Vegan and Gluten Free Basic Recipe with Vegetarian and Omnivore Options
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes depending on type and size of noodle
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
Dad Thai Sauce
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup lime juice (1-2 limes at room temperature) and zest of one lime
- 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
- 2-4 teaspoons Sriracha/favorite hot sauce or to taste
The Stir Fry
- 10 ounces dried or fresh rice or wheat noodles, the size of fettuccine or wider if you can find them
- 2 pounds of broccoli, ends trimmed, stems peeled and stems and florets cut into large chunks for roasting (if you’re short on broccoli and/or time, in the spirit of drunken noodles, use whatever leftover cooked or quick cooking veggies and/or proteins you have in the house in place of the broccoli)
- 2-4 tablespoons canola oil
- kosher salt to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
Optional Toppings (any or all)
- 4 large eggs, fried or scrambled
- 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
- 1-2 limes, cut into wedges
- 4-6 radishes, thinly sliced into strips and soaked for 10 minutes or more in rice vinegar and a bit of water
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
- 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil and/or Thai basil
COOK AND PLAY
1. Bring The Heat. Set up a lower oven rack and heat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Dad Thai Sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk or stick blend soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and zest, peanut butter and hot sauce until sauce is smooth and sugar and peanut butter are completely dissolved. Taste and adjust flavors as you wish.
3. Noodle Time. Read those noodle package instructions and get to soaking or cooking your noodles until they are to your liking and be sure to keep an eye on them so they never turn to mush. Depending on the type and size of noodle, this can take anywhere from 3 to 25+ minutes, so plan accordingly. If the noodles are done before you are ready to stir fry, drain and stir in a bit of low sodium soy sauce and/or canola to keep them from sticking.
4. In A Pickle. Hey, if you want pickled radishes for a topping, get those radishes sliced up and covered with vinegar and a bit of water.
5. Char That Broccoli. Place broccoli on a large baking sheet in an uncrowded, single layer and toss with oil, salt and pepper. (don’t add garlic until you stir fry in Step 6 or it will burn to the bad kind of bitter). Add a few tablespoons of the Dad Thai Sauce and toss a bit more. Roast broccoli in oven, cut side down, and flipping after 8 minutes or so, until nicely charred and cooked through- about 15 minutes. Let cool enough to touch and cut into bite sized pieces. Set aside to add to stir fry.
Note: If you were in a hurry or were short on broccoli, this would be the time and place to substitute about 4 cups of cooked or quick cooking (that you would cook in the stir fry pan, of course) veggies and/or protein (like mushrooms, bell pepper, tofu, chicken strips, shrimp, etc) for the charred broccoli.
Another Note: I was able to comfortably fit two pounds of trimmed broccoli on a 3/4 sheet pan- if your pans are smaller cook in batches or use two pans on the lower and middle rack (swapping places after 8 minutes) to avoid steaming and to maximize your char.
6. Let The Stir Frying Begin. Preheat a large nonstick frying/sauté pan over medium heat, add a few teaspoons of canola oil and stir in garlic. After 30 seconds, add half the sauce and stir to incorporate garlic. Add cooked noodles and toss with sauce. Add broccoli or leftovers and toss some more, adding more sauce to your liking- you may not want to use all of the Dad Thai Sauce. Portion stir fry into serving bowls or plates and top with egg, peanuts, limes, radishes, jalapenos, scallions, protein and/or fresh herbs. PS- I know you kids are often in a rush, but if you have the time, stir fry each portion individually, with a few tablespoons of sauce and a portion of broccoli, and I think you’ll agree it’s better than stir frying it all at once.
Upping Your Thai Sauce Game. Attention Food Police, the Dad Thai Sauce is not meant to be authentic, but it is meant to be flavorful, evocative of Thai flavors, inexpensive, easy and accessible. If, however, you want to move towards a more authentic Thai sauce experience, and you budget allows, try experimenting with genuine Thai sauce ingredients like tamarind, palm sugar, dried shrimp, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, preserved radish, fish sauce- even oyster and hoisin sauce, which are more Chinese than Thai, but the large Chinese presence in Thailand have made them a part of Thai cuisine. Remember you want a balance of salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter- light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce and/or dried shrimp (salty and umami); palm sugar (sweet); oyster sauce and hoisin sauce (salty and sweet); tamarind (sour), chiles (spicy); preserved radish (bitter).
Using Your Noodle. Noodles can be fresh (refrigerated section) or dried. Fresh noodles cook in just a few minutes, while dried noodles can take anywhere from 5 to 25+ minutes. Noodles can be made from many ingredients– wheat, buckwheat, rice, yam, mung bean, etc., but the rice noodle reigns supreme in Thai noodle stir fires. Pad Thai favors dried rice noodles with a width similar to fettuccini, while the noodles that show up in Pad See Ew and Drunken Noodles are typically fresh and wider (called “Sen Yai”), similar to pappardelle (wheat noodle) in size. It is relatively easy to find the fettuccini sized dried rice noodles in your basic US grocery store, but you’ll need to work a bit harder to find fresh and wider rice noodles. Contrary to what the Food Police will harshly preach, there’s also nothing wrong with using wheat noodles like fettuccini, egg noodles, pappardelle (beware, they charge you more for the fancy name) or lasagna (cooked and cut into 1/2” strips) if you like the texture and taste and don’t care to drive around town in search of a more authentic noodle- I used lasagna noodle strips (and scrambled eggs) for the wide noodles version of the Dad Thai pictured below.
Chinese Broccoli. Yes, the Food Police will also judgmentally tell you it is Chinese broccoli that you have to use for Pad See Ew, but remember I’m keeping this recipe accessible and charred broccoli, with its smoky and bitter notes, is a wonderful and accessible substitute for the Chinese broccoli. Nevertheless, I encourage you to use Chinese broccoli, which has the added benefit of being quicker to cook than charred broccoli, if it’s accessible for you. To use Chinese broccoli, trim the stem ends, chop up stems and leafs separately- stir fry stems for a few minutes before adding the leafs- then stir in the garlic for 30 second, followed by the noodles and the sauce. Broccoli rabe or broccolini also make fine substitutes, in case you were wondering, but I sincerely doubt that you were.
Which Came First the Scrambled or the Fried Egg? It’s traditional to scramble the egg in Thai Noodle stir fries, but since this Dad likes the runny yolk of a fried egg, he usually fries up the eggs in the stir fry pan right after he dumps the stir fry out and wipes out the pan.
On The Side. If you were thinking about a bright salad to compliment your Dad Thai, that’s a good thought! So why don’t you bring that thought to life by tossing chunks of “seedless” cucumber (trim ends of one cuke, peel 3 lengthwise strips- about 1/3″ apart for a a zebra effect- and seed with a spoon before you chunk it up) with the juice of a lime, a teaspoon of honey and some salt and pepper to taste. If you want an upgrade, as pictured below, toss in some diced grape tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, thinly sliced jalapenos and chopped fresh herbs, like cilantro, too.
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