Pham’s Nuoc Mam

Pham's Nuoc Mam

Hello Good People,

OK, to be fair it’s only been a week and 1 day since my last post so I’m still holding to my resolution. I’m on a current Vietnamese food binge at the moment making pickled daikon and carrot and all sorts of asian-y sauces. I’m really craving some Durian fruit. Nothing sounds better than a Durian milk shake right now. A pity that no one at work is as enthused as I am. Le sigh.

Also, apologies for the semi-blurry pics. Bernadette, my DSLR camera, is about to give and I’m looking to replace her lens. They’re a bit scratched up from my last experiment…. Dun dun dun…..moving on.

NUOC MAM

OK so Nuoc Mâm  or properly spelled Nước mắm literally means fish sauce. It’s, “an  amber-colored liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt,” as quoted by Wikipedia. Many families eat it straight up, others dilute it with chilies, lime juice, sugar, satay….the options are endless. In Vietnam, nuoc mam is like chocolate; it goes with everything. The sauce that I’ve photographed and photoshopped to the bone is similar to one that Trinh makes minus the cocorico aka coconut soda. Trinh’s sauce is a heavenly secret. Luckily for you I don’t know how to keep one. ;)

RECIPE

  • 1 jar (I used an old tomato sauce one)
  • 1 cup of cocorico (Hansen’s Cane Sugar Gingerale is a BOMB alternative or Trinh says 7-Up is ok to)
  • 1/2 cup of fish sauce
  • 1/2  a cup of lime juice ( I tend to put a bit more.)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar (organic cane is the best option)
  • 3 tbs of chili garlic sauce
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 cup of water

It is quite simple. I will say it in three words. Prepare. Mix. Stir. This is just the guideline that I follow when I make the super-secret-sauce that goes amazing with my spring/summer rolls but remember if you like it more tart add some more lime juice or if you like it more peppery add more chili-garlic sauce. I usually enjoy more chili, lime juice, and garlic. I also enjoy a good run-on sentence. The point is to prepare it and adjust it to the way you like it. Below is the process in English and in French.

1_ Find a Jar2_Gingerale3_Fish Sauce4_Limes5_Sugar6_Garlic Chili sauce7_Garlic8_End

It’s really quite simple isn’t it? It lasts awhile too. I would say 2 to 3 weeks. Next time I’ll blog the super secret peanut sauce for you rabbits vegetarians. :D

Nuoc Mam Jar

ENDING QUOTE.

The optimist says the glass is half full.
The pessimist says the glass is half empty.
The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow.
And the cynic… wonders who drank the other half.

I realize the jars are empty but I always aim to see a glass half full.

Thanks for reading!

Christine

A NEAT LOAF

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Hi Phambots-

If I were to have a fanbase I would name them the Phambots. Lady GaGa has her monsters, Taylor Swift has the Swifties, and Justin Bieber has the Beliebers.  Well, I’ve decided I’m going to have the Phambots. (It has to be noted that I am a monster, a Swiftie, and a Belieber…as well as a Britney fantatic). 

So roughly over the past few weeks I’ve become somewhat fixated completely obsessed with detoxification, cleanses, veganism, vegetarianism, juicing….I think you know where I’m going with this.  I mean I even bought a book about it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’ll ever be a raw food nut who can only digest below 118 degrees. I don’t think Trinh (my mum) would know how to handle that. Although she was very good at making vegetarian and meat versions of her recipes for Jen and the rest of us animal-killers. 

 However, having broken a leg, eating dogs and cats who knows what in China, and having a hectic work schedule; I can only imagine how bitter my body felt.  I remember feeling tired, lethargic, and piggish. The days of yore when you can eat anything you want is now gone. Don’t all detox success stories start this way? IE) At first I was tired and lethargic and then fruits and veggies saved my life!

In all seriousness and completely unrelated to the NEAT LOAF, I had my blood work done, got a physical, did all the routine check ups upstairs and downstairs and …. I was fine. The old engine is doing Pham-tastic. Har Har Har.

So in hopes of boosting my immune system, encouraging stronger bowels, and improving my overall health I’ve decided to magnify what I eat. It’s a matter of questioning what I eat, why I eat it and what will it do for me. I know that an extra slice of pizza will only make me more lethargic but that a kale smoothie will give me more energy and make me happy. Larry, a friend of mine, said it best. PROTECT YOUR TEMPLE PEOPLE.  Henceforth…..

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THE NEAT LOAF:

I read this recipe from this great vegan book called, ‘Main Street Vegan’ by Victoria Moran. She is legit. A lot of the recipes are not originated by her though. She is a legit copy and paster. :D

THE RECIPE:

Bought to you by ‘The Peaceful Palate’ by Jennifer Raymond…with my alterations.

  • 2  2 1/2 cups of cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped fine cashews and almonds chopped
  • 1  1 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 1 medium belle pepper finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup wheat germ, my first thought was wtf is wheat germ?
  • 1 1 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp; thyme, marjoram, sage (I used fresh thyme)
  • 2 tbls soy sauce Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • 2 tbls  dijon mustard ( I like the ones with the mustard seeds)
  • BBQ sauce or ketchup (I made a tomato sauce from scratch…:D)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated, ( I added this)

Now growing up we never ever ate meatloaf. So this was a first for me in making an actual loaf of meat. 

Basically, the instructions are quite simple. Pulverize everything in a food processor to the consistency that you want it. Don’t expect to put everything in a bowl and mix it by hand because it will never come together. You MUST use the machine. It should come out to a thick pasty consistency. The good side to this meat loaf is that you can taste it if it needs seasoning.

After the processor, you pour it all in to a baking pan and smear globs of BBQ or Ketchup on top. You Americans never cease to amaze me in your love for condiment 1 and 2. I am not very fond of either so I opted to make a tomato sauce of my own.

Bake for 60 minutes at 350°F. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8-10.

Below are the glory shots. Pls note: I bought a pineapple.

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Then we top it with some Parmesan Cheese and pop it into the oven and TA-DA. It was surprisingly delicious. Would I have preferred the real McCoy….well duh. I kill animals but this was a Pham-tabulous substitute. 

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The NEAT LOAF

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ENDING QUOTE(S):

If you want my views of history, there’s something you should know. The three men I admire the most are Curly, Larry, and Mo.
 
Maybe I’m damned if I do, but with every other beat I got left in my heart, you know I’d rather be damned with you.
 
-Meat Loaf (actor and rock star)

Thanks for reading!

Christine

Books Mentioned:

Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran

Banh Canh

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Ho Boy,

What a year it has been. I really have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve got a great dysfunctional family and really awesomely awkward friends. I work in a place that has absolutely no HR and well…. it’s never boring. I think this new year will be a good one for me. I’ve got an odd feeling. And I hope the same for anyone who reads this. I mean reading this is like picking up a penny heads up. If you catch my drift. wink. wink. ;) .

A week ago I was in Texas for the holidays with the ‘Phamily.’ We eat. It is our hobby. I actually got a 2 week membership at the local gym called ‘Texas Family Fitness” because I knew I would be over indulging stuffing my face with spring rolls, banh mi, duck, et etc. Needless to say I ate very well for 2 weeks.

Actually, Vietnamese food is quite healthy and my mom is a pretty healthy cook. I think it was my growing affection for a Johnny Walker night cap that was the kicker. My liver hates me.

So….

Banh Canh

A.K.A. Thick noodle soup with crab according to Wikipedia. There are many versions of this traditional soup but the thing that makes it ‘Banh Canh’ are the wide white noodles. My mama, TRINH, makes them fresh from scratch. Henceforth, my mama is sooo much more awesomer and bad ass than your mama. I’m sorry English was not my first language. =/

I am sidetracking way too much. Moving forward, Banh Canh is usually served for breakfast/brunch or lunch. It’s really great if you have a fresh baguette with it too to dip in the broth. Trinh prepares it with crab flavors. I think what I’m most impressed with is that she actually made her own noodles. Please see below.

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They have this slight chewy texture and they absorb the savory broth really well. Trinh basically makes this pasty dough texture and then uses a potato masher to create her noodles. I was impressed.

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Trinh rinsing her noodles.

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Trinh posing with her noodles.

  The following is a detailed display of how we plate when we eat noodle soup. This process is applied to every Vietnamese soup …at least the ones that I’ve eaten. We line the bowls, fill with noodles and toppings, and we top it off with scathing hot broth.

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1. Thick white noodles. If you go to the asian market you’ll find the flour packet to make these. It’s actually quite simple.

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2. Trinh evening out the noodles.

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3. A common topping is pork cut into thin strips.

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4. Another popular topping is broiled shrimp. One of my pet peeves is overcooked shrimp. I really don’t know how people can eat overcooked shrimp. I find it almost offensive.

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5. Trinh found the time to boil and shred some crab meat. She then sauteed it with some spices. Trinh usually can’t sleep past 6.

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6. Trinh evening out the crab goodness.

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7. Garnishes for Banh Canh include: fresh chopped green onion, cilantro, and fresh cracked pepper.

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8. And finally here we see Trinh topping the bowls with piping hot broth. It is ok to be jealous. ;)

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9. More hot broth.

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10. Usually served with a nuoc mam sauce and chilli paste.

Additional Pictures of Our Toppings:                 DSC_0869

1. Chicken aka le poulet.

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2. Crab aka le crabe.

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3. This is the some of the soup flavoring she uses. It’s legit if you’re in a rush.

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Sexy Shot 1.

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Sexy Shot 2.

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My brother and Trinh…posing. My brother tried to be a model. It didn’t work out… Trinh tried too… =/

Thanks for reading guys! Have a great new year! Be good to one another and maybe I’ll write more.

New Years Resolutions:

1. Keep up my awesome Fitness Regime. Kickboxing is my sport in life. Helps with the aggression. ^_^

2. Practice French and learn basic Chinese.

3. Call Trinh once a week.

4. Blog once a week.

5. Learn to meditate.

6. Pending.

Et toi? And yours are?

Ending Quote:

Daydream, delusion, limousine, eyelash / Oh baby with your pretty face / Drop a tear in my wineglass / Look at those big eyes / See what you mean to me / Sweet-cakes and milkshakes / I’m a delusion angel / I’m a fantasy parade / I want you to know what I think / Don’t want you to guess anymore / You have no idea where I came from / We have no idea where we’re going / Lodged in life / Like branches in a river/ Flowing downstream / Caught in the current / I’ll carry you / You’ll carry me / That’s how it could be / Don’t you know me? / Don’t you know me by now?

Before Midnight anyone??!!

Take Care,

Christine

^_^

CC’S TABBOULEH

Dear Friends,

Since May 21st was my last entry I thought it only appropriate to wait 4 months for my next one. HAR HAR HAR….

What can I say, I’ve been busy. I’ve used this excuse in the past and I’m going to use it now ^_^ with this lovely asian face. However, I will say this, I really miss blogging about food. Now this next part will make me sound like a little piglet but I forgot how much I love food and how much I love to eat….and really how much I appreciate gluttony Honey Boo Boo style. :) Today I felt a little sad that I had lost touch with that side of my vivacious personality. Well, I’m back and I’M HUNGRY and it’s also 2AM and time for 4th meal.

Having not made anything in awhile, I browsed through my digital albums (70% of which deal with food in some capacity) I found my photo piece on Tabbouleh that I never got to publish. It’s not amazing or anything……it’s SUPER AMAZING and good for you too. I could eat this everyday and the only seasonings you need are sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and really good olive oil. Notice how I did not just say salt, pepper, and olive oil. The quality in your ingredients will make all the difference. You know how I roll. I modified this recipe from my imaginary Aunt Ina Garten. On y va….

CC’s TABBOULEH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 CUP OF BULGHUR WHEAT (I like to buy the fresh bulghur wheat but you can buy the pre packaged ones and the ones that are already seasoned)
  • 1 LEMON ZESTED
  • 1 1/2 CUPS OF BOILING WATER
  • 1/4 CUP OF FRESH LEMON JUICE (or a little bit extra if you like the tang)
  • 1/4 CUP OF GOOD OLIVE OIL (I use somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 a cup)
  • 2 CUPS OF SCALLIONS THAT I SAUTEE (Aunt Ina likes them raw but I like to bring out the sweetness when they are sauteed)
  • 1/2 A CUP OF PARSLEY ( I don’t like parsley but I endure it in this recipe but if you hate it just take it out and substitute some mint or cilantro…which is what I think I used)
  • 1 CUP OF FRESH MINT
  • 1 LARGE CUCUMBER DICED EVENLY
  • 2 CUPS OF CHERRY TOMATOES OR USE 2 GIANT BEEFSTEAK TOMATOES OR 4-5 ROMA TOMATOES
  • FRESH PEPPER AND SEA SALT TO TASTE

FIRST STEP: PREPARING THE BULGHUR

It really is quite simple. There are a lot of ways to do this but I actually prefer Aunt Ina’s way. Boil the water and pour it on to the Bulghur wheat and add the lemon juice, olive oil and 1 1/2 tbs of salt and some cracked pepper. Let this be for about an hour. Uncovered in room temperature.

LAST STEP: ADD EVERYTHING AND MIX WELL

Seriously, it is that easy. The key to excellent Tabbouleh is to let it rest for a few hours. Below I basically used what I had in the kitchen. I remember feeling sad because I didn’t have any mint. :’( Cry me a river.

Adding the lemon zest. I like the extra lemony tang and who doesn’t like lemon zest? It’s fancy.

Adding the tomatoes. I used Roma tomatoes here. I prefer heirloom baby tomatoes from the farmer’s market but you work with what you have.

Adding the sauteed scallions. I sautéed 1 bunch of scallions with some salt and pepper and a dash of love. ^_^

I like seeing everything before it’s mixed. I also love the colors! Who are we without colors? Boring! Wish my clothing choices were as bright as might food choices.

Adding the cucumbers. I actually prefer the small cucumbers vs. the large hot house cucumber. It’s a preference thing.

Mix well and let it sit. It really is quick and delicious and a lot of the things are substitutable if you’re a picky eater….and I know many.

Last but not least, Fenway…outlined in shoes. I’m not going to eat him. Dogs are for playing not for eating. Name that country______.

Some thought -provoking quotes….

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.

– George Bernard Shaw
 
Any human being is really good at certain things. The problem is that the things you’re good at come naturally. And since most people are pretty modest instead of an arrogant S.O.B. like me, what comes naturally, you don’t see as a special skill. It’s just you. It’s what you’ve always done. 

- Stephen Jay Gould, Evolutionary Scientist

Thanks for reading…(all 5 of you)

Take Care,

Christine

A Taste of Chinese Culture….And Then Some….


Dear #1 Fan,

So this might be my most sadistic post…but hey, it’s all part of the food chain/animal kingdom right? So the above picture I like to call ‘the last kiss.’ Makes you rethink the last time you had bacon doesn’t it? For me that was about 3 days ago. I was very close to attaching a picture of bacon beneath it, but then that might make me boycott bacon and I am nothing without bacon….and pork chops….ham….pork loin….

So, China has some interesting cultural differences as I mentioned in my previous post. Here are a few of them. Enjoy!

It is not unusual to have your silverware wrapped in plastic to assure/ensure that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.‘ Personally, I don’t really buy into it and neither did our Chinese-English-Speaking friends. Also, a decent Chinese restaurant will give you a pot of tea prior to the meal and you use it to clean your silverware. So basically after I had unwrapped my ‘sterile’ package I poured hot tea on everything…..

Toilets are appropriate in this food blog because….what goes in must come out? All joking aside, yes that is a woman’s toilet, and yes I had to use it with my broken leg. I have to give props to the architect because peeing outside the cylindrical perimeter is nearly impossible.

The picture to the right is a minivan overfilled with Chinese people. Enough said.

I couldn’t resist. The middle picture came from a pet shop. sighs of relief. And no one ate the head or feet. Chicken feet isn’t that bad though. It tastes like soft, chewable sponges.

The picture to the left is an open truck with bags of live chickens. Henceforth, I will now only eat cage free chicken eggs and chicken. Though I couldn’t apply this discipline in China because cage free doesn’t exactly exist in Putian aka developing countries.

The picture to the right is more of a custom in this factory I visited. So, they explained to me that whenever a child is born they give away colored boiled eggs. They offered me these pink ones. I declined. This custom interferes with Easter. 25 years of Western culture has taught me that only chocolate belongs in colored eggs.

Last but not least, three guys very confident in their masculinity. You don’t see much of this in the southern states. Til the next adventure!

Thanks for reading!

Take Care.

Christine

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

PUTIAN, CHINA

Dear Reader,

I am jet-lagged. I am wide-awake at 3am. This is going to be an interesting weekend. So apparently my blog is banned in China for reasons I know not. Perhaps it is my provocative take on eating and how I, from time to time, call it food porn. Nevertheless, I have been itching to post about my eating adventures abroad.

For the last 3 weeks I’ve been in China and in that time I’ve had the honor of digesting things I normally would not even consider. This is probably what I like most about traveling. Escaping one’s comfort zone and trying someone else’s for a change. If you are willing to be a bit open-minded, it can truly be rewarding. I always say I’ll try anything once.

PUTIAN, CHINA

Putian is a developing city. Certain parts are more developed than others and some parts are really……rural. Rural as in you can see local trucks carting around 20-25 live pigs or local bikes transporting baskets of live chickens and ducks. Developing cities can only be described as organized chaos. In a lot of ways you could compare it to a circus or a magic show because you’ve got babies riding in motorcycles sandwiched between mom and dad and sometimes maybe even an aunt or uncle in addition. There were mini-vans that usually carry 8 people carried 18-20 people. I wish I could utilize space more efficiently. Anyway,  this entry is based in a restaurant we went to on the first day. I don’t remember the name, where it was, or how to get there but I remember I really liked the eggplant.

CLOCKWISE FROM THE TOP LEFT: 1. Steamed buns with onion pork filling. 2. Steamed fish with ginger and pepper sauce 3. Oyster omelet 4. Roasted duck..

I am never going to forget those buns. It requires, what they call, an acquired taste. The fish was quite good however I’ve always been quite antsy about bones and fish skin. The oyster omelet was a one bite wonder. The duck was really good but then again how can you go wrong with roasted duck? Just don’t think about Daffy, Rubber, or Donald.

Shrimp on skewers with a spicy pepper garnish. You eat the entire thing minus the tail. I for one like eating the shell. They say its quite good for your teeth too.

CLOCKWISE FROM THE TOP LEFT: 1. Soup pot with mushroom soup. 2. The mushroom soup. 3. Sautéed eggplant and peppers. 4. Sautéed taro in a sweet sticky sauce.

The soup was like miso with lots of wild mushrooms and pieces of pork. The eggplant was fantastic. It had some really nice spicy undertones. The taro was not bad either.

Full. Thanks for reading. Will post something comedic very soon. Right now it is 4:40AM and I feel like having lunch. I think I’ll write a letter to WordPress Customer Service. How else am I suppose to build a Chinese fan base? Oh mon dieu.

Take Care.

-CHRISTINE

  “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” -Lin Yutang

PHAN’S PAD THAI


Dear Diary Reader,

Many things have happened since January’s post. I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail for not posting, but I have an excuse and it’s a pretty damn good one. I broke my leg mid-February and am currently in rehabilitation mode. It’s been quite an adventure to say the least. Evidence is below. Luckily, I only have a few more weeks on it. Food prep has changed dramatically. I now aim for the bland  simpler things in life like………..a good PB&J or cereal. It’s been 2 weeks post-op and I’m slowly getting back into the groove of things and well…..I just made a slammin’ gouda mac n’ cheese with arugula and peppers. It took patience and the fire alarm went off but SON, IT IS SLAMMIN’.

PHAN’S PAD THAI

Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Phan’s Phamous Pad Thai. I make pad thai a little different so bear with me. I would say mine is extremely healthy. I love anything with Kale because it is soooo good for you and carrots as well. And bonus, it’s VEGETARIAN! So, ON-Y-VA.

THE INGREDIENTS:

(give or take 1-2 things….:)

  • 1 onion
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded carrot (I shred my own mainly because the sugars from the carrot make the pad thai sweeter vs buying the already shredded carrot that have since dried and shriveled up  inside the bag like your grandmother’s toes after a long bath)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 box of extra-firm tofu (more if you like)
  • 1/2 bunch of kale (cleaned and chopped….I like to buy the kale that’s already been cleaned and I generally use 1/2 a bag for this recipe mainly because I love kale like nobody’s business)
  • Soba Noodles (the kind I buy comes in a package of 6 so I usually boil 2)
  • 1/4 cup of mushroom sauce (Chinatown grocery store)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbs of chili flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • I don’t remember if I put mustard or not but I’m sure 1/2 a tbs of mustard (whole grain) can only be a good thing right? :)
  • 1/2 tbs of sesame oil (if you have it…..if not, it’s ok)
  • 2 tbs of chopped peanuts

STEPS:

  1. Sauté the garlic for 1 minute on medium heat in a large pan. Add in the onions and shredded carrot. Shred your own carrot it makes a difference in the taste. It gives it a golden sweetness almost. Sauté until the onions and shredded carrot becomes soft and united. Add in the green onions and sauté for about 5 min more. Add a pinch of salt.
  2. Add the kale. Give everything a quick toss and put a lid on it. This will help the kale shrink down drastically. Medium to low heat.
  3. While the kale is working. Boil the Soba noodles by the boiling instructions. Strain and set it aside when it is done.
  4. Back to the vegetable mixture. After everything has been sautéed. Add 1/2 the mushroom sauce, mustard, and chili flakes.
  5. Now this is the part where it gets interesting. I generally like to keep things down to 1 or 2 pots or pans but you can use a new pan if you like. In the same pan, scoot everything aside so that 1/2 the pan is clean. If it’s a non-stick pan you don’t need oil for this part. Crack 2 eggs and scramble them on this side on Medium heat. Try not to mix in the vegetable mix with the eggs too much. I mean you could but it’s just not aesthetically pleasing to me. What are we barbarians? 
  6. After the eggs are done, incorporate the soba noodles, the tofu, and add the remaining mushrooms sauce. You may or may not use all of it. Taste it and see. Add the peanuts. Add salt and pepper to taste.

STEP 1:

 STEP 2:

STEP 5:

The End.

It should hopefully look something similar to this. Pad Thai is a dish you can add anything too like bean sprouts, broccoli, and etc. It’s kinda like my version of soup du jour. Whatever I have left in my fridge it just sort of makes it’s way into my pad thai.

THE ARTISTIC SHOT:

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately due to being crippled and thus I’ve seen many films. So I’m going to include a mini-movie review section.

LES FILMS:

THE HELP (A) – funny with depth
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (A-) – dreary yet light hearted
HUGO (B) – beautifully made but boring as hell
BILL CUNNINGHAM DOCUMENTARY (B+)- interestingly provocative
LIKE CRAZY (C+) – I’d rather watch a couple fight in real life
DRIVE (A) – It gets you.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (A) – Blockbuster
JACK AND JILL (pending)
THE DESCENDANTS (pending)

Thanks for reading!

Christine
There are really only three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask, what happened?
Ann Landers