Tasty Tuesday back from a break
Mmmm… noodles. When I am in the mood for noodles (which doesn’t happen very often – I’m more of a rice girl), there are 3 Thai dishes I like to go for: Phat Thai, Kuay Tieaw, and Rad Naa. The last one, Rad Naa, is what I’m going to introduce you to today. Check it out.
Camera on my phone does a pretty nice job, eh? I forgot to bring my real camera along when we went for lunch. Whatever took the shot, it still looks good. Today’s lunch is a Thai-Chinese dish featuring thick white rice noodles, fresh veggies, a bit of minced pork, and some sauce. Fantastic… this time.
Unfortunately, Rad Naa is one of those Thai dishes that you have to sniff out for quite some time before finding one you enjoy. Why? Because quite often the sauce can turn out to be more like eating snot (yes, I said snot, as in what comes out of your nose when you have a cold… sorry!) than a nice light gravy. It all depends on who is cooking the food, so once you find one that’s good, you must stick with that cook. Seriously. I almost didn’t order this at the new little cafe down the road due to prior offensive encounters with the meal in other locations, but I gave it a chance anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. Yes!
Despite the horrific description I gave above, I must assure you, though, that there are many people who do make Rad Naa well. And, when they do, it’s such a great meal! So, what’s in it?
- The base starts with a bed of thick, white, slightly sticky, rice noodles in your preferred size and shape. There are fat ones ranging from 1 – 3 inches wide, as well as skinny ones comparable to fettuccine, spaghetti, and vermicelli. I almost always go for the fat ones, because they’re more like dumplings when they get clumped together. I like dumplings.
- Next comes the vegetables – another thing that varies between cooks. Traditionally, Rad Naa is made with Chinese spinach (both leaf and stem) or young broccoli (leaves included). However, some cooks add other vegetables (see my plate above) like diced carrot, tomato, and green onion.
- Then you have your protein – you may choose any meat you like, though thinly sliced chicken or minced pork are the most common.
- And on top of it all, there is the sauce… the one part that can either make or break the entire thing. When properly executed, the sauce should be translucent, slightly thick, yet light in flavor. (Think of a nice light chicken gravy made from pan drippings, with a little bit of cornstarch whisked in to give it some body.) Its flavors come from a mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, fermented bean sauce, garlic, a pinch of sugar, and white pepper powder, with a touch of cornstarch or tapioca flour as a thickening agent.
As I said before, Rad Naa can be scary if you don’t know the cook who is making it… but, when done well, it’s a great meal for a “cool” rainy day (I would almost even call it my kind of Thai comfort food), and totally worth the time spent finding a good noodle shop.