Near where The Fella and I live in Sydney, there is a tiny little place that sells chicken pad thai noodles for $5 a pop. Five dollars? I hear you all shout. Yes my friends, just five, small, shiny little dollars
Needless to say, my frugal Fella thinks this place is the bees knees.
While I don’t mind the noodles from Glebe’s $5 Pad Thai, they’re not outstanding; but then for five bucks you wouldn’t expect them to be. A few weeks back I made the mistake of expressing this opinion to The Fella, who immediately issued me with a challenge. The general gist of which was: well little-miss-food-blogger, if you’re so smart you should make better pad thai for less than five dollars. I accepted the challenge, with gusto.
I’m not going to count this one as a fail. I might not have managed to stick to the ridiculous budget, but I maintain that my noodles taste far better, and that’s what really counts, right?
Chicken pad thai noodles
I’ve adapted this recipe from Thai cooking from bay books. I should just point out that it’s a fairly large deviation from the traditional recipe and Thai purists should probably look away about now. The reason for this is The Fella is allergic to fish and seafood, and I didn’t fancy a trip to casualty on my weekend. Also, the $5 place uses chicken, not shrimp, so it was easier to compare like with like.
Makes enough for 2 hungry people.
250 g (9 oz) Pad thai rice noodles ($1.81 per 250 g pack)
2 tbsp sunflower oil ($4.63 per 750 ml bottle, 2 tbsp costs a whopping $0.19)
3 cloves of garlic, minced ($1.08 per bulb, 2 cloves would cost about $0.10)
2 small birds-eye chillies (or to your taste), finely chopped ($ 0.45)
250 g (9 oz) chicken thigh fillets, fairly thinly sliced ($7.75)
½ bunch of spring onions, sliced at an angle ($2.24)
2 tbsp fish sauce ($1.83 per 300 ml bottle, 2 tbsp costs about $0.18)
2 tbsp lime juice ($0.69 per lime)
1 tbsp tamarind paste ($5.16 per 220 g jar, works out at about $0.71 per tbsp)
4 tsp soft brown sugar ($2.73 per kg makes 4 tsp a mind-blowing $0.05)
2 eggs, lightly beaten ($2.75 per half dozen, $0.92 for two)
100 g (3½ oz) bean sprouts ($1.50 per 250 g, makes it $0.60 for 100 g)
handful of coriander leaves ($2.48 per bunch, I would guestimate I used about $0.60 worth)
40 g (1½ oz) roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped ($2.75 for 200 g works out at $0.47 for 40 g)
Grand total: $16.76 on a meal for two, which is pretty darn recession-busting in my books.
As these noodles are cooked quite quickly, I find it best to have all of the ingredients cleaned, chopped and ready to go before I even start.
First off, cook the pad thai noodles in water according to the instructions on the packet, drain and set aside, but try not to leave them sitting for too long. The longer they are left, the soggier they will become.
Quickly heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and once it’s fairly hot, fry off the garlic and chilli for 1 minute. Then add the chicken and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly until it’s cooked through but not getting tough or stringy. Next add the cooked noodles to the pan, along with the spring onions; cover and cook for another minute. To finish, add the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, tamarind paste and eggs to the pan and make sure all of this mixture coats the noodles nicely and gets heated through. Sprinkle the noodles with the sprouts, coriander and peanuts and serve.
These noodles are delicious, even with the absence of any fish; and although I did technically blow the budget, they make for an exceptionally reasonably priced dinner. Spending $16.73 on a dinner for two isn’t bad at all.
Meanwhile, the Fella and I have come to a compromise, he agrees that my noodles taste better; while I agree that sometimes it’s just nice to spend next to nothing on take-away and not have to do any cleaning up. You just can’t put a price on not having to clean up.