Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pad Thai in Brazil!

Yeah! I did it! I made pad thai in a Brazilian kitchen. It wasn't 100% authentic, but it was good for what it was, and it'll be a fine stand-in on the days I'm craving Thai food here in Brazil. Alexandre also approved wholeheartedly. 

So I kind of cheated and bought fish sauce in the US, only to discover that the city we've just moved to has a Japanese market that sells fish sauce, rice noodles, and Thai chili paste. 

The one thing I haven't been able to find in Brazil is tamarind paste, which is an ingredient in pad thai sauce. That's ironic because tamarind actually grows in Brazil and is pretty easy to buy fresh, which is what I ended up doing in an attempt to make my own tamarind paste. That was a disaster, so the home-made pad thai had to go without. I also had to skip the palm sugar-- another surprise, what with all the palm trees here. The lack of this ingredient didn't seem to be too bad, since one of the recipes I found didn't even call for it.

OK, so if you're in a bigger Brazilian city, especially in the state of São Paulo or one of the other southern states that has Asian immigrants, you'll probably be able to pull this off.  I combined a traditonal pad thai recipe with a simplified, Americanized recipe, gleaning what I liked from each one. I've typed up what I did below. Note that the amounts of things can be increased or decreased depending on your personal preferences (especially in the cases of garlic and pepper).

Both of the recipes emphasize that you don't need to boil the noodles completely. I accidentally cooked mine a little too much, but it still tasted great. So don't worry too much about that!

Pad Thai in Brazil
Serves 2

- 1 chicken breast
- 3 handfuls of rice noodles, broken in half (this is the brand I found. It has a hilarious name.)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
-1 medium-sized carrot, sliced as thinly as possible
-a handful of green onions, chopped up nice and small
-bean sprouts (called brota de feijão in Portuguese; they come in a bag and are available at feiras or in the cold part of the produce section in many Brazilian supermarkets)
-1 small regular onion, chopped into big-ish pieces
-a pinch of pimenta calabresa, a.k.a. red pepper flakes (if you like things spicy, you may want to consider using fresh dedo de moça peppers instead)
-1 tablespoon of soy sauce
-1 egg
-As many peanuts or ground peanuts as you like (I used the ones leftover from the homemade peanut butter recipe)
-1 or 2 limes
-A handful of fresh cilantro (called coentro in Portuguse; make sure you don't buy salsinha or cheiro verde!)
-Optional: Tofu (this is easy to find in Brazil in places where you can get the other ingredients, but Alexandre isn't a big fan and it was kind of expensive this week. I usually find the best tofu prices from the Japanese salesmen at the feiras.)

For the sauce:
-1/3 cup of fish sauce
-3-4 tablespoons of water
-3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce
-1/2 of a lime
-3 or 4 garlic cloves, ground up as small as possible (I used the food processor)
-1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or a few drops of thai chili sauce, if you have it
-1 teaspoon of tumeric (a.k.a. açafrão da terra -- I included this because it was in all of the tamarind paste recipes I read)


Chop up all of your vegetables so they're ready to go in. It's easiest to do this first (or, ideally, the person eating with you will help you by chopping things up while you do the first steps).

1. Boil water for the rice noodles. Once the water is boiled, turn it off and drop the noodles in.

2. Combine all of your sauce ingredients and bring them to a boil.

3. Chop up your chicken and drizzle some of the soy sauce on it as a sort of quick marinade.

4. Heat up some oil (ideally in a wok, but if you're like me, you'll just throw it into the one big pot that you have). Add in the chicken, the soy sauce, and the red pepper flakes (or fresh peppers), plus a little more soy sauce if you want / if the chicken is burning because you're using the wrong kind of pan.

5. Once the chicken is more or less cooked, remove it from the pan and set it aside temporarily.

6. Add in some more oil to the wok / pot that you used for the chicken. Heat up the garlic and onion in it. Drain your noodles and add them in. Then add in about 1/3 of the sauce. Mix mix mix mix.

7. Add in your carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, and the chicken. Mix mix mix. Add in some more sauce, to your liking.

8. In a separate pan, scramble up the egg really quick. (The traditional recipe says to do it IN the pot with the rest, but I thought that was risky.) After the egg is scrambled and cooked, add it into the pot with everything else.

9. Keep mixing, and, if necessary, adding more of the sauce. This is also a good time to squeeze in the lime juice.

10. Once it's all cooked and yummy, remove the pad thai from the heat and serve with the peanuts and cilantro on top.


Please leave a comment if you end up making it!