I should start by saying I love Thai food and I have no Asian heritage whatsoever. My first introduction to Thai food as a teenager was at a local restaurant with my parents, and Pad Thai was what I ordered. Wow my taste buds went crazy! I loved it and it was so different than anything I had tried… The fish sauce, cilantro, and even the glassy rice noodles were a taste and texture explosion. I could not wait to go back and try it again, and I wanted to taste everything on the menu.
I started poking around with recipes and investigating ingredients. It turned out I could make my own Pad Thai with shrimp with relatively mainstream ingredients as long as I went and procured the signature flavor… The fish sauce. And they had it in the grocery store, lucky me! So I started making my own and tweaking it each time until it was just the way I liked it.
Years later, my work was running an awareness campaign for the Asian Pacific American Forum, which is a network that supports and provides networking opportunities for Asian pacific Americans at work. There are similar organizations for women, African Americans, Hispanics, veterans, gay / lesbians, you name it. The awareness campaign was a recipe contest, and you could enter for different categories like soup, side dish, chicken, fish, beef, etc. so I entered my Pad Thai. I was sure I had no chance of winning, not only because there we’d so many entries but I sensed that my tweaks had made it less ‘authentic’ somehow. I was one of 5 winners, and I was shocked. My recipe was made and judged by a panel. I won 100 bucks and they made my recipe in the work cafeteria with all the other Asian recipe winners with my name posted large and bright. I was definitely the only white winner.
I was very proud, and will never forget the honor to have won. Enjoy my take on ‘probably not very authentic but nonetheless delicious’ award-winning Pad Thai.
Another note: Purple cabbage turns everything blue when you save these as a leftover. This dish is WONDERFUL leftover but it may look horrible in your refrigerator… if it’s just the next day, it’s probably fine even if it looks blue and crazy.