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Pad Thai--Cook-Off 6

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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 09:25 PM

Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index.

For our sixth Cook-Off, we're going to be making pad thai. You've surely eaten this Thai restaurant staple dozens of times, marvelling at the sweet, sour, hot, and salty marriage on your plate. There are lots of variations of pad thai floating around the internet, including one by mamster at the eGCI Thai Cooking course. While there is one ingredient -- rice noodles -- that may be hard for some to find, most ingredients or substitutes are available at your local grocer. And, if you're new to Thai cooking, isn't now a good time to get your first bottle of fish sauce or block of tamarind?

In addition to the course, here are a few threads to get us started:

The excellent Thai cooking at home thread discusses pad thai in several spots.

A brief thread on making pad thai, and one on vegetarian pad thai.

For the adventurous, here is a thread on making fresh rice noodles.

Finally, a few folks mention pad thai in the "Culinary Nemesis" thread. Fifi, snowangel, and Susan in FL all mention in the fried chicken thread that pad thai is also a culinary nemesis of theirs. So, in true cook-off style, hopefully we can all share some tips, insights, recipes, and photos of the results!

I'll start by asking: does anyone know any good mail-order purveyors for folks who can't purchase rice noodles at their local Asian food store?
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#2 snowangel

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 09:46 PM

So I've just reserved every Thai cook book our library system has to offer. And, asked my mother to reserve every one my library system doesn't have that her's has.

I hope someone else will chime in on internet sources. I can get fresh rice noodles and everything else within a bike ride (a long bike ride, mind you) from my house). I happen to have everything I need, with the exception of the fresh stuff, at my house at the present time.

BTW, the "preserved radish" referred to in Mamster's recipe is sold here in plastic bag packages as "salted radish." I'll take some pictures of ingredients that I can easily find in the next couple of days.

My family loves pad thai. I just have a lot of trouble with the rice noodles. They tend to be either stiff or mush. I need help!
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#3 FoodMan

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:12 PM

Snowangel,
I use dried rice noodles for Pad Thai and soak them for a couple of hours in cold water before cooking. The end result is perfect.

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#4 Behemoth

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:16 PM

Finally, thanks to the internet, remember that you're never too late for an eGullet cook-off. While all have a specific starting time, none have a end time, and there are many of us eager to see what you will do with the cook-off recipes. So don't hesitate to contribute if you're finding this thread weeks or months after its start: your posting your own ideas, questions, or results can bump activity back up on this thread in no time!


I'm counting on this. I still really want to try the fried chicken & steamed pork buns...

For our sixth Cook-Off, we're going to be making pad thai.


I feel like I've finally got the hang of that one, but I might try making my own noodles this time. That would be fun, especially since I have, like, 10 lbs of rice flour taking up way too much space in my pantry. (Korean pine needle rice cake project that I still haven't gotten around to...but at least I finally located my pine needles! :rolleyes: )


Snowangel, I think the thing with the noodles is that they really seem to differ from brand to brand. After a couple of "too mushy" tries I now err on the side of slightly too stiff when soaking-- then I pull off pieces and try them as I'm cooking. If they are still too stiff, I put in a little more sauce and stir fry them longer until they are just al-dente. (All the "fresh" ingredients get added at the end so you can't really overcook the dish.)

Oh, and despite what David Thompson says, I got impatient once and soaked the noodles for 15 minutes in warm water. Worked fine.

Edited by Behemoth, 29 March 2005 - 10:18 PM.


#5 Chris Amirault

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:28 PM

Finally, thanks to the internet, remember that you're never too late for an eGullet cook-off. While all have a specific starting time, none have a end time, and there are many of us eager to see what you will do with the cook-off recipes. So don't hesitate to contribute if you're finding this thread weeks or months after its start: your posting your own ideas, questions, or results can bump activity back up on this thread in no time!


I'm counting on this. I still really want to try the fried chicken & steamed pork buns...

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Absolutely! There are many among us who will be very happy to see your results!

For our sixth Cook-Off, we're going to be making pad thai.


I feel like I've finally got the hang of that one, but I might try making my own noodles this time. That would be fun, especially since I have, like, 10 lbs of rice flour taking up way too much space in my pantry.

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Excellent! Pictures, please!

Snowangel, I think the thing with the noodles is that they really seem to differ from brand to brand. After a couple of "too mushy" tries I now err on the side of slightly too stiff  when soaking-- then I pull off pieces and try them as I'm cooking. If they are still too stiff, I put in a little more sauce and stir fry them longer until they are just al-dente. (All the "fresh" ingredients get added at the end so you can't really overcook the dish.)

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Good tips! Can you give us some brand recommendations?
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#6 Peachpie9

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:38 PM

Hello ChrisAmirault,

Ohhhh, I am excited to try this. I love Thai food, and Pad Thai is a favorite.

I have tried it before, and got the noodles cooked satisfactorily, but my problem is with the sauce. I love the flavorful, slightly sweet, slightly spicy sauce in the restaurants, but mine turned out (Time 1) so spicy I couldn't eat it, and (Time 2) muddy and icky in appearance and flavor. I'm going to look for a good recipe from among your suggestions. Thank you!

Catherine

#7 Behemoth

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:46 PM

Good tips! Can you give us some brand recommendations?

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:laugh:


I live in central illinois. I take what I can find! :smile:

#8 snowangel

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 11:31 PM

I guess another of my problems with the noodles is that they are all broken up by the time the dish is done. They aren't the long, silky looking strands you see in the cookbooks, or that I ate lo those many years ago in Bangkok.

I've also perused Mamster's recipe, as well as those in the Thai/SE Asian cookbooks I own (3 total) and realize that there is some difference in which the order of ingredients are added to the pan. As well, there seems to be some difference on whether the sauce is just tamarind and nam pla, just rice vinegar and nam pla or a combination of all three.

And, as I recall from the almost 10 years I lived in Thailand, "authentic" pad thai is in the eye of the beholder. They were all slightly different. Slightly different taste, slightly diferent widths of noodles, and had I paid more attention than a teenage girl would while the cook was cooking, I have no doubt I would have noted different cooking techiniques with every different dish.
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#9 Tepee

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 12:08 AM

I guess another of my problems with the noodles is that they are all broken up by the time the dish is done.  They aren't the long, silky looking strands you see in the cookbooks, or that I ate lo those many years ago in Bangkok.

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Sounds like the noodles are either oversoaked, or overhandled in the mixing.

Count me in the cook-off...but I'll only be doing this on April 10. :smile:
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#10 Malawry

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 05:25 AM

This is the recipe I use for pad thai. I make it at work sometimes--I made it the week I participated in the Foodblog actually.

Pad Thai

1 pound pad thai noodles
2 eggs
Peanut oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped onion
3-4 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 pound shrimp
Chicken stock
1 tsp pickled sweet radish
1 tbsp fried tofu
Sweet paprika
Cayenne
Sea salt and white pepper
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tbsp ground toasted peanuts plus extra for garnish
1 cup scallions and garlic chives
1 tbsp nam pla
Jalapenos
Lime slices

Soak noodles in water for at least 30 minutes. Beat eggs. Heat pan with oil. Add eggs. Cook without moving until half done and then move to pan side. Add onion and garlic. Add vinegar, sugar and soy sauce. Add shrimp. Add noodles. Add stock if needed and toss. Add radish, tofu, paprika, cayenne, pepper, and salt. Toss. Add half of sprouts. Toss. Add peanuts and most of scallions and chives. Add fish sauce. Toss and remove from heat. Plate with shrimp and scallions on top. Garnish with jalapenos, raw bean sprouts, lime slice, peanuts, and spring onions.

I learned this recipe at L'academie from a Thai chef. Comes out great every time.

#11 fifi

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 07:18 AM

. . . . .
I've also perused Mamster's recipe, as well as those in the Thai/SE Asian cookbooks I own (3 total) and realize that there is some difference in which the order of ingredients are added to the pan.  As well, there seems to be some difference on whether the sauce is just tamarind and nam pla, just rice vinegar and nam pla  or a combination of all three.

And, as I recall from the almost 10 years I lived in Thailand,  "authentic" pad thai is in the eye of the beholder.  They were all slightly different.  Slightly different taste, slightly diferent widths of noodles, and had I paid more attention than a teenage girl would while the cook was cooking, I have no doubt I would have noted different cooking techiniques with every different dish.

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Heh heh . . . this sounds sorta like gumbo. Everybody makes it differently. Everybody uses different ingredients. Everybody has a trick up their sleeve. And with all of that . . . Everybody knows what it is. And, though pad thai is pad thai in a way, it is probably never really the same.

And, can we say that the ingredients are somewhat . . . um . . . flexible? Is this one of those dishes where, beyond the basics (sort of like gumbo) that the intent is to use what you have? I am just trying to wrap my head around the character of the dish. I have eaten it at restaurants and tried it a couple of times long ago but I never really thought about it a lot. (Mine wasn't that great. I think I didn't know what I was doing with the noodles.)

Perfect for a cook-off.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

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#12 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 07:47 AM

And, can we say that the ingredients are somewhat . . . um . . . flexible? Is this one of those dishes where, beyond the basics (sort of like gumbo) that the intent is to use what you have? I am just trying to wrap my head around the character of the dish. I have eaten it at restaurants and tried it a couple of times long ago but I never really thought about it a lot. (Mine wasn't that great. I think I didn't know what I was doing with the noodles.)

Perfect for a cook-off.

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I agree. I have at least six different pad thai recipes in my cookbooks and each one is very different. I think that that is part of the interest here, determining what effects different ingredients have, and at what times. I also think -- and Malawry's recipe bears this out -- that we'll find versions that don't have too many ingredients that will be hard for folks without good Asian stores to find.
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#13 Susan in FL

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 07:56 AM

Thanks, Rochelle! That is a good-looking recipe. And everyone has already given some good input. I'm loving this!
Susan, I hope you don't mind if this other Susan jumps in with a photo, too. I wasn't sure what I was looking for when I first started on my sweetened salted radish search, and I ended up with both of these:

Posted Image
One says sweet salted turnip and the other says preserved radish (sweet). Hopefully this will give those of you unfamiliar a visual idea of what to look for. I had also been looking for the little dried shrimps for quite a while and recently found them.

Kasma Loha-unchit calls for dried shrimp as well as fresh in her Pad Thai recipe.

I have a good source for rice noodles. It's in a town 30 miles from here, but it's worth the drive. However, I have ordered stuff, including Jasmine rice and sticky rice, from both Temple of Thai and ImportFood.com on more than one occasion, and I've been very pleased with the quality and the prices. I imagine that they would be reliable sources of rice noodles.
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#14 Chufi

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 08:04 AM

Thanks for the link to Kasma's site Susan! Very interesting!

#15 Eden

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 12:41 PM

I've been meaning to learn how to make Pad Thai for-just-ever, so thanks for the impetus!

I skimmed through chrisamirault's links above & have two quick questions:

1) A couple of posts in there implied that meat/chicken pad thai is not authentic. I'm not able to eat fish or seafood, so I was initially thinking about doing a carnivore's Pad Thai, but would it be better just to go vegetarian? If meat is authentic, what would be the most appropriate?

2) can anyone confirm (the original poster wasn't certain) that vegetarian fish sauce is called Nuoc Mam Chay?

Thanks, this will be fun!
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#16 jmolinari

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 01:37 PM

I've bought a couple different salted radishes, and they all tasted odd, if anyone has a good brand recommendation i'd like to hear it
thanks
jason

#17 Susan in FL

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 01:41 PM

For what it's worth, in one of the Thai restaurants I go to they have shrimp Pad Thai, pork Pad Thai, chicken Pad Thai, vegetarian Pad That, etc. listed on the menu. Go for whatever appeals to you. I'm glad you got the impetus! I'm not sure about the name of vegetarian fish sauce, but my bet is that somebody here will. :smile:

While I was out burning off calories in my walk/run today, naturally I was thinking about food... where for my colleague and me to go for our dinner meeting tonight, and what thickness of rice noodles to use in this cook-off!! I understand this is a matter of personal taste/preference, as well. What do you all prefer, and why?
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#18 Peachpie9

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 01:56 PM

This is exciting. I have a couple of questions, too. What EXACTLY is a cook-off? Do you make the dish, photograph it, review it, and post the results? I am new to this site and love it already.

Also, where on the site can I go to read about the basics (something tells me I should already know what a cook-off is).

Thank you.

Catherine

#19 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 01:58 PM

This is exciting.  I have a couple of questions, too.  What EXACTLY is a cook-off?  Do you make the dish, photograph it, review it, and post the results?  I am new to this site and love it already.

Also, where on the site can I go to read about the basics (something tells me I should already know what a cook-off is). 

Thank you.

Catherine

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Welcome, Catherine! If you click on the blue text in the intial post here, you will go to the previous five cook-offs. They should explain themselves quite well!
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#20 mamster

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 02:12 PM

After making it many more times, I've come to the conclusion that the phad thai recipe I posted has too much tamarind. I've been playing around with the proportions but haven't come up with something I like much better yet. So I'm in, too.

Also, Iris is really into phad thai lately. The spicier the better.

Isn't David Thompson's recipe the one that calls for "a handful of rice noodles"? What a tease.
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#21 johnnyd

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 02:32 PM

Geez, Mamster I dunno... I thought the 3/4cup Tamarind water was dead-on. I did notice that when I heated up the Tpaste in water, the more time on the heat wrings out more flavour, so depending on how dense the tamarind "water" is, will affect the pungency of the sauce. Your recipe is the only one I've made that comes close to our local Thai Take out so it works for me. Sheesh, I'm in! :rolleyes:
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#22 little ms foodie

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:02 PM

hmmmm....the husband is deathly allergic to peanuts, would it be complete sacrilidge to make it without?

Man I am behind in my cook offs! Going to do fried chicken this weekend though.

#23 Toliver

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:11 PM

...what thickness of rice noodles to use in this cook-off!!  I understand this is a matter of personal taste/preference, as well.  What do you all prefer, and why?

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I did a Google Image search for Pad Thai and the noodles that appeared range from glass noodles to fettucine-like noodles. I prefer noodles about this size.
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#24 Jason Perlow

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:16 PM

hmmmm....the husband is deathly allergic to peanuts, would it be complete sacrilidge to make it without?

Man I am behind in my cook offs! Going to do fried chicken this weekend though.

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Not sacrelige, but basically pointless, because the dish is totally out of balance without them. You'd be better off making Pad Siew, Lard Na, or Pad Kee Maow, three other Thai noodle dishes that are as equally as good, which have no peanuts.

Here's a Kee Maow Noodles I made a while back:

Posted Image

The predominant flavor profile in this dish is chili and basil -- "Kee Maow" means "drunken" because it is typically served as a hangover remedy.


Here's a Kee Maow recipe that looks pretty hardcore:

Kee Maow recipe at Bella Online (click)

And here's a good one for Pad Siew, which is made with Dark Soy.

Pad Siew Recipe at Importfood.com (click)
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#25 snowangel

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:26 PM

hmmmm....the husband is deathly allergic to peanuts, would it be complete sacrilidge to make it without?

Man I am behind in my cook offs! Going to do fried chicken this weekend though.

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If you're going to go no peanuts (last time I made them, I checked the bag of peanuts, which was empty -- thank you family, for once again putting an empty container back into the cupboard :shock: ), so I served it with lime wedges and a little dish of rice vinegar with sliced bird chilies, and it was just fine. Yes, I missed the peanuts, but if you've never had it with peanuts, you wouldn't miss them, I think. These are traditional accompaniments at the holes in the wall that sell pad thai in Bangkok.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#26 torakris

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:30 PM

pad thai, yum!!

I have made this quite a few times and my favorite recipe so far is (gasp :shock: ) from Cook's Illustraed! July/August 2002 page 10 to be exact.

I even have almost all the ingredients in the house, I even made a tamarind extract two days ago for a Cambodian style soup. my favorite noodles are dried and about the width of linguine. CI has you soak them in hot tap water for 20 minutes, the magazine even has pictures for comparison showing ones too stiff and too soft.
I think I have found Sunday lunch.... :biggrin:

The fried chicken is being made tomorrow night!

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#27 Dejah

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:40 PM

Posted Image

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Are these the sweet pickled radishes malawry's recipe called for? I use these when I want to make a steamed dish with beef or pork. Toisanese call this "ham choy". The salted ones need to be rinsed off before using. The sweet ones are actually not "sugary sweet"...just not salty. :unsure:
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#28 snowangel

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 04:41 PM

1) A couple of posts in there implied that meat/chicken pad thai is not authentic.  I'm not able to eat fish or seafood, so I was initially thinking about doing a carnivore's Pad Thai, but would it be better just to go vegetarian?  If meat is authentic, what would be the most appropriate? 

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I know in Thailand that I had pad thai with chicken. I had it with pork. I had it with shrimp. I don't recall ever having it with beef.

Since Heidi horks every time she eats shrimp, I use chicken. I like bonless thighs, but boneless breasts would work, too.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#29 Eden

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 07:50 PM

hmmmm....the husband is deathly allergic to peanuts, would it be complete sacrilidge to make it without?


Not sacrelige, but basically pointless, because the dish is totally out of balance without them.


so you don't think that you could sub-in say almonds for a similar effect? Or perhaps a blend of almonds & cashews? No it's not going to be exactly the same, but could it be a plausible flavor approximation once it was cooked in?
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#30 ellencho

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 07:54 PM

Hi all. I used this cook off as an excuse to use up my many leftovers in my refrigerator. The pad thai that I made tonight was loosely based on the David Thompson recipe and contains an obscene amount of protein - pork, chicken, shrimp, fried tofu and eggs.

First I soaked my noodles in water for a couple of hours.
Posted Image

I then made up my sauce which consisted of fish sauce, sugar, palm sugar and tamarind pulp. I allowed the ingredients to dissolve on low heat for a couple minutes.
Posted Image

Then I fried up two scrambled eggs (I don't like to mix the shallots directly into the
eggs).
Posted Image

After that I softened 2 shallots and then added a bunch of oyster mushroom that I had been wanting to use up lately.
Posted Image

Next I added fried tofu, and once that warmed through, an obscene amount of meat that I wanted to empty from my freezer.
Posted Image

Once the meat was cooked through I added the pickled radish, sprouts, and the drained noodles and allowed them all to soften a bit.
Posted Image

Then I added the sauce, sliced up snow peas, and added the eggs back in.
[img]http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1112236668/gallery_15186_1020_53682.jpg]http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/11122366..._1020_53682.jpg[/img]

This is my final product minus the lime wedges that I forgot to add to the photograph before we devoured this mess. The noodles were topped with the remaining bean sprouts and some scallion.
[img]http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1112236668/gallery_15186_1020_28957.jpg[/img]

If anyone is interested in the recipe PM me, it's really easy and once your noodles are soaked thoroughly it's quick too.

Edited by ellencho, 30 March 2005 - 08:08 PM.

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