Thai Time

This year, Thai New Year – Songkran – falls between April 13 and 15. Water is at the heart of this three-day festival: it symbolizes starting the New Year with a clean slate as well as helping Thai people to beat the stifling April heat.
Can’t afford to take a trip to Thailand for a water dousing? Why not celebrate the Thai New Year with a culinary feast of flavorsome Thai dishes courtesy of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Over the next three days we’ll be running a few of Gordon’s favorite Thai recipes: prepare to treat your taste buds!

Above all else, Thai food is wonderfully fragrant. The use of ingredients such as limes, coconut, lemongrass and lime leaves makes the food enticingly aromatic. It can sometimes be very fiery, too, but always full of fantastic flavors. I see it as a very healthy food and it has a real feel-good factor when you eat it. As with Indian food, there is so much more to Thai cooking than curries. One word of advice: never skimp on the quality of the ingredients. The key to Thai food is freshness, so everything must be in peak condition.

PAD THAI WITH PRAWNS

One of the most popular dishes on Thai restaurant menus, this isn’t difficult to make at home. You just need to make sure that you don’t overcrowd the wok. So, if you decide to increase the quantities here – to serve more guests – fry the noodles in batches, two portions at a time.
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
125g thin or medium dried rice noodles
1 ½ tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp tamarind paste (or lime juice)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
100g raw prawns, peeled and deveined
2 medium eggs
50g bean sprouts
2 spring onions, trimmed, green part only, cut into finger lengths
3 tbsp roasted chopped peanuts, to sprinkle
lime wedges, to serve

METHOD
Soak the rice noodles in boiling water for about 10 minutes until flexible and pliable but not overly soft, or cook according to the pack instructions. (Some dried noodles need to be blanched in boiling water for several minutes to soften them).

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind paste in a small bowl and stir well. When ready, drain the noodles and set aside.

Heat half the oil in a wok or large non-stick frying pan until hot. Add the shallot, garlic and chilli and stir over a medium heat until fragrant. Tip in the prawns and stir fry for a couple of minutes until they turn orangey pink and opaque. Remove the prawns to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Drain the rice noodles and add to the wok with the sauce and a little splash of water. Stir-fry for a few minutes until they are tender. Push the ingredients in the wok to one side and add a little more oil to the other side. Crack the eggs over the oil and scramble lightly until they are almost cooked, then fold into the noodles.

Return the prawns to the wok and add the bean sprouts and spring onions. Stir briefly over the heat, until the vegetables are slightly wilted but still crunchy.

Divide the pad Thai between warm shallow serving bowls and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts. Serve immediately, with lime wedges.

Recipe taken from Gordan Ramsay’s World Kitchen: Recipes from the F Word (Quadrille Publishing, £20). For Gordon’s take on other Thai dishes such as chicken in spicy coconut broth, be sure to check out the CD-Traveller site tomorrow.

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