A lot of people turn to TikTok for dog videos, new dance moves, and questionable medical advice, but I usually have a different goal — food. Recipes, to be specific. My bookmarks look like a page of a (pretty ADHD) cookbook. I save luscious-looking desserts, high-protein breakfasts, stuff that probably gets the "Everyone's so creative!" lady riled up, and recipes that look possibly, maybe, sort of doable. Like, for instance, the one for the Thai noodle dish pad see ew that I encountered from @thenoodlequeen.
@theenoodlequeen Pad See Ew🤤 These fried chewy rice noodles in a dark savory soy sauce are a Thai favorite for good reason💯 #padseeew #padseeewnoodles #thai #thaifood #thaifoodlover #thaifoodhacks #thaifoodcooking #thaifoodie #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #asianrecipe #asianfood #asiancooking #recipesoftiktok #recipetutorial #howtocook #noodles #ricenoodles #thainoodles #thai #thaipad #noodlesrecipe #noodlechallenge #20minutes #20minutemeal #easycooking #easyrecipes #quickrecipes #dinnerideas #lunchideas #takeoutfood #takeout #quickmeal #foodinspo ♬ Vlog - Soft boy
Doesn't that look easy? And tasty? There is something about a chewy rice noodle and a dark, savory sauce that just gets me. Unfortunately, my experience with Thai food is limited to takeout, the little flavor packets I get at Trader Joe's, and high hopes. But really, how hard could it be, right? It looked easy on TikTok, and we know everything on social media is totally accurate. (If I have to point out the sarcasm here, you aren't paying attention.)
I picked up some thick rice noodles and Chinese broccoli at a nearby Asian grocery store and, after watching the video over and over and over again (there was no text version of the recipe that I could find), I got to work.
The process was ... educational.
I was so excited to find the noodles and broccoli (and made a separate grocery run for oyster sauce, as I had lost my previous container to the Great Pandemic Fridge Death of 2020), but I didn't realize I missed more than a few ingredients. I also didn't realize I had used the last of my rice wine vinegar in another recipe (sidebar: that stuff is gooooood on cucumbers). I would have to wing it. It wouldn't be the first time. More on this later.
I also overlooked how much time it took to chop. And chop. And chop. Because I was working with chicken breasts, I had to chop those into bite-size pieces. The broccoli also required chopping and was thicker than expected. This gave me time to remember how much I hate cooking, even if I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for recipes (I know, makes no sense, I didn't say I was logical about any of this).
Soaking the noodles was doable, yes, but the resulting sad clump of starch was not. I jabbed at it repeatedly with a wooden spoon but ended up severing most of the noodles into sad little fragments. Big deal. It wasn't like I was taking pictures or anything.
Finally, time to add the sauce ... and my lack of ingredients finally sunk in. Dark soy sauce? Isn't that, you know, soy sauce? White pepper, whatever, I threw in some black pepper. And the rice wine vinegar, just, I dunno, I have some balsamic vinegar, right? Vinegar is vinegar. Did I really believe that? No, no I did not.
To be clear, it isn't. After tasting the Frankensteinian mess I'd created, I did what only a savvy home chef can do. I added more sugar.
The result? Surprisingly, not bad. I cooked it up, took it off the flame, and served my picky, picky family. On the bright side, my husband liked it (adding more sugar did not make it sweet, thankfully, but tempered the off-putting balsamic flavor). The kids, however, pushed it around their plates and eventually slunk off to find out if we had anything more palatable to eat, like Cup O'Noodles or old Halloween candy.
Was it on par with Thai restaurant takeout? Not quite (though using the right ingredients might have helped). I wasn't unhappy with it (I am also not a kid under the age of 13, so there's that). I would eat it again. I might even make it again (after buying some of the missing ingredients). But don't tell the kids — next time there will not be leftover Halloween candy as an escape.
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