Life, style & food in the District
So last night, I had the best pad thai of my life…. And it was in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Now, don’t get me wrong, so many good things come to mind when I think of Harrisonburg. For starters, the city is surrounded by tons of farmland, a lot of which is owned by Mennonites, so Harrisonburg has a kick-ass farmer’s market. Second, the city is home to my all-time favorite clothing boutique, the Yellow Button (uh- if only I was a millionaire). And third (but not final), Harrisonburg has several amazing dining locations, including the five-star Joshua Wilton House (best filet mignon I’ve ever had – they don’t even serve it with a steak-knife because it’s so tender you can cut it with a butter-knife!) and the newly opened Local Chop and Grill House (amazing local meat, amazing local veggies, amazing beer, ah-ma-zing wine).
However, aside from all of its many attributes, great ethnic food does not come to mind when I think of Harrisonburg… That is, until last night.
Kent and I were in town visiting his family for the weekend, and my dear mommy-in-law suggested that we go to eat at Taste of Thai. I quickly (and oh-so-politely) hinted that I would prefer to eat at Local Chop, but Kent and his sister won the battle of the dinner location… Not that I was the least bit upset – After all, I have never had a bad Thai meal. But that being said, I really didn’t know what to expect.
Oh man, if words could be eaten, I would have scarfed them last night.
Aside from [an excused] lack of service (I would never blame the wait staff… because I have never seen a restaurant that busy – seriously), the entire experience was phenomenal. First of all, the dining room was much prettier than most hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants I’ve frequented, and the food lived up to the décor.
I am just going to say it: pad thai is my favorite Thai dish. But over the course of the past few years, I have made a major attempt to order things other than pad thai (you know, to expand my foodie horizons).
BUT WHY?!? Pad thai is so amazing! Oh man, I love it!
So last night I was in the pad thai mood, and completely gave in to my craving… And man, am I glad that I did. THAT IS BECAUSE I just had the best pad thai of my life… In Harrisonburg, Virginia! Granted, I have not been to Thailand, but I have ordered pad thai in quite a few major US cities (I think I had Thai food in London, too), so I feel like I can say I’ve had my fair share.
Everyone else at the dinner table ordered a meat and/or vegetable dish (aka: not a noodle dish), and we all shared… but no one’s was as good as mine! In fact, shortly after we woke up this morning, Kent asked what I wanted for breakfast. My reply was, “pad thai.” Then, the conversation at the breakfast table with his family revolved around how amazing the pad thai was last night. I could not have agreed more.
… And that is why I had to re-create the dish for dinner tonight (especially since I did not have it for breakfast…shoot). SO, with a very limited Asian pantry (I’m Italian/Southern, ya’ll – don’t hate), I tried my best to recreate pad thai tonight.
After searching pad thai recipes on epicurious (my new obsession, by the way) and reading the ingredient/prep-time list for few variations, I was more than discouraged. After all, I do not have $100 and 3 hours of free time available for one meal – even if it is a Sunday. However, I decided to go for it, with my own variation, and fully knowing that I had a few “key” ingredients in house. And despite the noodles being slightly undercooked (again – in Italian this is praised as being “al dente,” whereas in Asian cuisine, this is just plain bad), the meal was actually surprisingly delicious.
So let me try to explain to you guys (notice how I resisted saying “ya’ll” again) what I did:
Peanut oil (a luxury, not a necessity)
Crunchy peanut butter
Some sort of meat/tofu (if you want)
Lime/cilantro (also not necessary, but delish!)
Process (?) Chaos?
For the sauce:
Meanwhile, in a pan, stir-fry some vegetables (I just used an organic frozen bag from Trader Joes) with some minced fresh ginger, some canola oil, and some minced fresh garlic.
Also, prepare your rice noodles (per package instructions) – Once these are done, set aside and begin to heat a large pan. In this pan, heat about 2 tbs of canola oil and 2 eggs (already scrambled) – Cook the eggs and set to the side of the pan. Add shrimp, tofu, or chicken (or nothing – depending on what you like… we thawed some shrimp and it was great) and sauté until cooked. Then, add noodles and sauce, and stir-fried veggies to the pan…. Mix it all up; top it with some lime and cilantro, and then EAT IT!
Clearly, I am not great at the ingredient/recipe list – And any classically trained chef would probably DIE at my variation, but you get the point! Use what you have in your kitchen (plus a few minor ingredients you may need from the store) and voila! You’ve got an A+ Sunday night meal… and one that is pretty much [thai]ed with the best Asian restaurants in your area.
Until next time!