Over spring break I went down to Florida with the 24 athletes from the University of Michigan Triathlon team to do a week of spring training. It was decided that Tuesday was going to be our attempt at a century ride. A few of us in the group became the designated cooks and every night it ended up being a competition between the cooks. For the night before the long ride the group I was cooking for decided that they wanted to have a meal with a large amount of carbohydrates. It has been shown that rice is a very great source of carbohydrates for athletes before a race or large workout. It is easily digestible and not particularly high in fiber. While for the most part this may not be the healthiest it was exactly what we were looking for. Most of the carbs are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is your body’s most easily accessible form of energy, and fat and protein is much harder for your body to access and takes more energy to burn (McDowell). We all wanted pasta but I also wanted to make a dish that would be more impressive than spaghetti. I decided I would try my hand at making Pad Thai.
As a group we also are not the most timely and hardly think ahead. Due to both of these facts I did not make it to the store until it was already 5:30. I had been working out all day and everyone was starving. I and a group of five others split up and ran around the store getting all the ingredients as quickly as possible. While I would have preferred to make my own sauce we determined that it would be easier and faster for us to just buy a pre-made sauce. Besides the packets of sauce, and boxes of rice noodles all the other ingredients were fresh typical of Thai dishes.
You can find the recipe I used here.
As soon as we got back I assigned duties to others so we could be eating as soon as possible. One person was on chopping dicing, and slicing duty. Another person was on rice noodle duty. I had another person pound the chicken breasts while I cut them into bit sized pieces. One of the difficulties that we had, that I did not anticipate was finding proper cooking utensils.We were staying in a large rental house with two kitchens. However everyone was cooking at once and pots and pans were a scarce commodity. We had to find a pot large enough to cook three boxes of rice noodles and the only knife I could find was steak knife.
While the rice noodles were cooking I pan fried the chicken. Once the chicken was done I cooked up the eggs. This was the first time that I had ever cooked chicken or made scrambled eggs. Both, it turns out, are quite easy to do. Then I added the sauce and vegetables. I then mixed this into the noodles. Each person individually garnished their own dish with cilantro, lime, jalapeno and peanuts.
The Pad Thai turned our delicious. I don’t know if I was just incredibly hungry or if I actually made a really good dish but everyone loved it. It was fresh and filling, but it wasn’t the uncomfortable filling where feel sick. The pre-made sauce actually didn’t taste fake or processed, but authentic, or as authentic as I know it should taste with my only experience being No Thai. The lime juice accentuated the sweetness of the sauce and the saltiness of the peanuts and the jalapeno gave the dish some heat. Everything came together to make a perfect pre-century ride meal.
Pad Thai appears to have originated as a dish of stir fried noodles brought in by Viet Traders (Wikipedia Pad Thai). It was subsequently changed to use mostly fresh ingredients, such as lime, green onions and cilantro, like what happened with Thai curry (Lecture 8). The dish originally called for a different Thai chili, but the grocery store was limited and we ended up with a jalapeno. However both of these chilies would have entered Asian foods through the Indian Ocean trade. The the Prime Minister of Thailand between 1938 to 1944 and from 1948 to 1957, was trying to westernize the country. In 1939, he supported the change of name of the country from Siam to Thailand. At the time, wheat noodles were very popular in Thailand, but Plaek Phibunsongkhram sought to eliminate Chinese influence. His government promoted rice noodles. As a result, a new noodle made of rice named sen chan, the noodle used in Pad Thai, was created and the dish we know today as Pad Thai (Wikipedia Pad Thai).
McDowell, Dimity; Fill ‘Er Up
Wikipedia Pad Thai