In the past two centuries, Asian cuisine has taken over U.S. homes and restaurants. The large presence of immigrant and Asian-American communities in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Chicago means that these places abound with the flavors and smells of the Eastern hemisphere. You may order Chinese takeout every now and then, or have a go-to Thai restaurant you love, but did you know that with a little bit of effort you can make affordable, delicious Asian cuisine food in your own home? Oriental food may be expensive in restaurants, but these dishes are ideal for serving large groups and can be very cost-effective. Find out where the nearest Asian cuisine market is, or do some online shopping, and get ready to follow these mouth-watering recipes.
Pad Thai gets a bad rep as the dish that everyone who is not familiar with Thai cuisine orders in Thai restaurants, but let’s be honest, the dish is the most reliably delicious option you could get! Originally a street food in Thailand, pad thai rose to prominence when the country saw its rice crops diminish during World War II because of floods and, well, the war. The government saw fit to incentivize the consumption of rice noodles rather than standard rice to endure the shortage.
To purchase some of these items, you will have to head to the Asian market, or to the “ethnic foods aisle” in your usual grocery store. Pick out: rice noodles that are similar in width to fettuccine, peanut oil (if you can’t find it, use peanut butter and soy or fish sauce as a replacement), tamarind paste (optional), fish sauce (essential), honey, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, scallions, garlic, eggs, cabbage, bean sprouts (mung bean sprouts for bonus authenticity points), your preferred protein (shrimp, beef, tofu, chicken, and pork are all fine, but you should really choose shrimp), roasted peanuts, cilantro, and limes.
Obviously, you might not be able to find everything. But you can always make it work.
Grab four ounces of rice noodles and put them in a bowl filled with boiled water. This is perhaps the most important step, do not—by any means— forget to soak your noodles in boiling water. Check every five minutes to make sure they are not too soft. The right consistency is “kind of cooked, but definitely not falling apart”. Once they are ready, drain the water and drizzle the noodles with your peanut oil or home-based peanut concoction. Now, grab a saucepan and bring a little bit of tamarind paste mixed with fish sauce, honey, and vinegar to a simmering point in medium-low heat. Lifehack: You should always be cooking on medium, do not rush your art. Have a little taste of your sauce, it should be a bit sour, but not unpleasantly so. Add some red pepper flakes and leave it alone for now.
Find the largest skillet in your household or neighborhood. Set the heat to medium-high, add three tablespoons of peanut oil, along with the scallions and garlic. Wait a minute, then add two or three eggs and scramble them. Now, add the cabbage and bean sprouts. Once they are cooked, throw in your preferred protein (hopefully, shrimp). As the shrimp turns pink, add the rice noodles to the stir-fry. Mix it and toss it all, adding more of your favorites sauces. Serve it warm with roasted peanuts, limes, and cilantro. Voila! The best Asian food you’ve ever made!
Mango Sticky Rice
Probably the most delicious culinary invention on Earth, mango sticky rice is a perfect summer dessert! The taste to effort ratio is unbelievable, so follow up your homemade pad thai with this recipe:
Okay, don’t get scared, but the first item is glutinous rice, more popularly known as sticky rice (does not contain gluten, despite the name). You will probably need to find an Asian market to find it. Make sure you are buying the sweet kind. Everything else is pretty easy. Unsweetened coconut milk, sugar, salt, toasted sesame seeds, yellow mangoes.
The night before: wash the rice several times over, until the water comes out clear. Leave it soaking in a bowl overnight. The next day, drain the water and leave the rice in a sieve covered with a kitchen towel, which you will use to steam the rice over a large saucepan with simmering water. You might need to check it every now and then to add water, it will be ready in 30-40 minutes or once the rice is tender.
In the meantime, boil one cup of coconut milk with a third of sugar and salt, stir until the grains are dissolved and let it rest away from heat. Once the rice is ready, mix it in a bowl with the coconut milk, cover it and wait 30 minutes. Boil another 1/3 cup coconut milk with three tablespoons of sugar. Let it chill until it thickens, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds, and slice some mangoes to serve along with the rice and a bowl with the extra sauce.