Monday, July 6, 2009

Pad Thai and June’s Book Club Pick -- Hungry Monkey


So here is a little tidbit about me, I have to read for at least half an hour every night or else I can't fall asleep. Some might think that I would go through book after book, but I read at such a slow rate that it's kind of like a cruel joke. Also, after 30 minutes I am out like a light and only a few pages closer to finishing the book. Because of my reading narcolepsy and slow pace I only get through a book or two a month making Noëlle’s Simmer Down Book Club right up my alley. Each month a book related to cuisine is chosen and read by participants all over the globe. At the end of each month several questions about the book are posed by Noëlle.

This month’s steamy read (ha, I’m so funny… or sad) was "Hungry Monkey" by Matthew Amster-Burton. The story is a hilariously cute and comical tale of what my father and I like to call a "Daddy's Little Princess" (can you guess what I am?!?) and her dad on a culinary adventure to feed a toddler "real" food. Amster-Burton and little Iris explore everything from Sushi to Pad Thai... oh, and plain cheese pizza! Yes, in the end we find out that no matter what eccentricities and spices you introduce to a child in their younger years, they will always gravitate back to the repulsive basics.

I thought it would be nice to make a recipe from each book that we read, plus I have been looking for a killer Pad Thai lately and with a couple of tweaks to suit my tastes I think I found it.

Oh, also because I don’t have a child, I decided to comment on my cats eating habits.

(Coco also likes cooking from my A la Di Stasio Cookbook...)

Question 1
Food obviously plays a huge role in the Amster-Burton household. What role does food have in your household? Do you feel that kids need to know "where food comes from" and participate in food preparation, or is it enough just to make sure they're eating reasonably healthy foods?

Well since the only child that I have is my cat I will elaborate on her. My cat is getting fat. She can lie on her back with her legs in the air... buutttt the food that I feed her has gotten rid of her gingivitis (yeah, who knew). It's very expensive food and I would put her on a diet but trust me, a cat without food at 3am is probably just as bad as a screaming child. Once I put her on a diet and now she has anxiety attacks every time her bowl is half empty. I have thought long and hard about her food but seriously, she doesn’t care where it comes from, just as long as it’s there. She does like dolphin safe tuna though.

Question 2
Not every family can spend the time and money the author does to introduce his daughter to so many foods. What can working parents or parents with less means do to bring cooking and diverse foods into their children's lives? Or do you feel this is even important?

Really, I only have a cat, and I would do anything for her. Unfortunately when we change her food it doesn’t go well. That all I have to say on the subject.

Question 3
Both the author and myself had some pre-conceived notions about picky eaters. Did the book change any views you may have had, or (for those of you who are parents) reinforce what you already knew to be true from experience?)

I didn't think that one could accomplish what Matthew Amster-Burton has. I just figured that most tastes had to be acquired and no child would enjoy sushi in their first years of life. I guess I was wrong!

Question 4
The author confesses that he was, in fact, a very picky eater as a child, but turned out to be an avid food-lover. Most of you reading this are probably adventurous eaters; is this something that you came to on your own, or did your parents nudge you in that direction? Do you think being a "food lover" is innate or learned?

I think that being a food lover is learned, all I wanted to eat when I was a child was ketchup sandwiches and luke-warm milk, now look at me! My dad actually steered us away from vegetables because he didn’t like them. We would be alienated at the table if either my brother or I were caught with a piece of broccoli on our plates! Not that this bothered us, no veggies, great!! We did eat a ton of fruit growing up and now I love veggies as much as fresh cherries or any fruit out there.

Question 5
The author describes being forced to try sushi as a kid and almost throwing up, but trying it again in college and loving it. He credits this to the fact that the second time he tried it, he expected to like it. Do you agree? Can you think of a food that you probably liked because you expected to like it, or anything you didn't like in spite of thinking you would?

I remember the same thing happening to me with sushi. Everyone was eating it so I gulped it down the first time and the next day I wanted more. I think it was probably peer pressure! One thing that I didn’t expect to like was mussels. Once when my brother and I were younger we dared each other to eat a mussel at a local buffet. I did it and have loved them ever since, where as he didn’t and got into trouble for wasting food. Ha. Score one for the big sister!

Pad Thai
adapted from Hungry Monkey
this is the way I like it to make it

Pad Thai Sauce

1/4 cup concentrated tamarind paste, without seeds, sold in a plastic container
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp. Sesame seed Oil
1/2 tbsp. peanut oil
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. sugar

Pad Thai
1/2 cup pad thai sauce
1 chicken breast chopped into 1 inch pieces
20 shrimp (optional)
1 cup Firm Tofu, cut into 1 inch squares
10 oz. Rice Noodles
2 eggs
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
2 Handfuls of bean sprouts
1 tbsp green onions
1 lime quartered
4 tbsp. crushed peanuts

Pad Thai Sauce
Pour boiling water over the tamarind in a bowl mixing to get rid of large chunks of paste. Add all other ingredients to tamarind in a bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Pad Thai

Cook the noodles as directed on box, but make sure to cook till al dente. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Toss in chicken and tofu, cook for two minutes. Push everything off to the sides and in the middle crack the two eggs. Scramble the eggs vigorously, then continue sautéing everything until the chicken is cooked. Add the noodles, shrimp (if using) and sauce, sauté until all the liquid is soaked into the noodles. Place on plates and top with chopped green onions, bean sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts and a slice of lime.


Junglefrog said...

Yeah!! She's back!!! It's been awfully quiet with you guys gone... :) All is well here, no news anymore from lunatic guy, so I guess that was more shouting then action (thankfully`) Did you have a good holiday?

I love the photo of Coco on the book. So typical of cats too. Gizmo always resents whatever I am reading as it - or so she feels - distracts me from her presence. I have to stroke her all the time or else... she bites into my magazines and starts chewing on them sometimes too. Crazy cats.
I too believe that putting cats on a diet... well, it doesn't really work the same way as with humans now does it? Besides there is only one fatty in the household right now (counting only the cats ofcourse) and that is Witje. Coco looks perfect to me anyway!

♥peachkins♥ said...

This looks gorgeous! Yum,I love Pad Thai

TheKitchenWitch said...

I'm so excited to read that book! We struggle with childhood picky-itis over at my house.

I love pad thai but have never made it myself. Maybe one day I'll be feeling brave and tackle this!

Valérie said...

This book club is such a fabulous idea! It's definitely something I would love to join... which is why I am cursing the fact that I already have to read 2-4 books per week this summer, for school (a researcher's job is never over, as I'm sure you know). My pile of leisure books to read is also constantly growing, too... In order to manage it all, I'd have to give up cooking - and that's out of the question!

Maybe after things have slowed down a bit, if they ever do...

Pad thai is one of my favourite meals, one I don't make nearly often enough. I'm sure it was delicious!

tlm said...

There's the kitty! I looked all over for a pic of her. I will have to try the Pad Thai!

mlle noelle said...

Thanks for your participation, I'm posting this link on the book club page. I have 2 cats and they are difficult eaters too, I adopted them as strays and so they still have anxiety about not having food. I have to feed them twice a day because if I only feed them once, they eat too much and throw up... kitty bulimia!!

Valérie, you're more than welcome to join the book club if you have time. I've been trying to choose books two months out, so that if you're a slower reader or short on time, you can look ahead and have 6-8 weeks to read something. If you're interested, stop by the blog and send me an email and I'll put you on the mailing list for the book selections.

Sweet as Coco said...

1st-I love pad thai...but NEVER had the courage to make it at home.

MY dog has anxiety when she doesnt get enough food...she eats so fast like we starve her. Changing food...forget it. She will eat anything. :) Thats dogs...

And eating the 'basics' as a true. Pregnancy I hear makes you eat all the things you enjoyed during childhood as well. Go figure. ;)

Cherie said...

Home made pad thai! Wow!