Happy New Year to all of my readers. I hope you all had a great holiday season. I have had an overwhelming response to my absence in blogging; sorry about that. I’ve been so busy with many things I can’t begin to list them. I didn’t even have time to post pictures on my Instagram or my Facebook pages.
Anyhow, I will have to manage my time better so I can spare time to blog, which I love to do.
Let’s start the year with a simple dish. It’s my main comfort food, actually. Anytime I stress out and I want to eat Guay Tiew Rad Na. Really, it’s that comforting. Rad Na isn’t as popular among the foreigners compared to Pad See Ew or Pad Kee Mao, even though the ingredients for Rad Na and Pad See Ew are quite similar.
You might not have any idea what I’m talking about. It’s a dish mostly prepared with big, fat rice noodles, Sen Yai (see the description in my “all about noodles” post) and has a thick brown gravy with meat—either chicken, pork, beef or shrimp— and Chinese broccoli, called Gai Lan or Kai Lan, poured all over.
This is a dish that doesn’t photograph well at all. It’s like the Canadian poutine. The photo normally is not going to justify the taste.
Rad (ราด)= to pour, or sometimes you will see it as Lad (ลาด) = to cover, to lay something over on a flat surface, and it has another double meaning as angled surface, too. The official correct word is to be “Rad”, not Lad, as announced by the Royal Institute of Thailand (ราชบัณฑิตยสถาน). So, I will be using only the correct word here.
The Confusepedia, that popular online user-generated encyclopedia which ANYONE can add their knowledge or ignorance as they wish, has put a spin to the word by listing this dish as “Rat Na”…Ewwwwww…gross beyond belief, isn’t it? Even more ridiculous is they show “Rat na…often pronounced lat na as many Thais substitute the r for an l…” My recommendation is if you don’t really know what you are talking about, help people by withholding the urge to express, and at least keep your denseness to yourself, you know.
This dish isn’t originally Thai. It’s one of the Thai-Chinese dishes. Now, the question is which tribe of the Chinese brought this dish to Thailand. Well, apparently the Teochew Chinese and the Cantonese have to fight over the origin of the dish in Thailand now. I’m going to just sit back and watch. 😉
There are many different styles to cooking the gravy. The original one, or the one my dad would call original (which meant something he ate when he was a child which only nearly a century ago) was the one that used Pak Choy—Chinese Mustard greens or Chinese cabbage—and bamboo shoots with extremely thick gravy, so thick you can use it as glue. Because they would serve it in a banana leaf, they had to make sure that the gravy couldn’t leak out.
I hate that “original Rad Na” but I love this one. I am not a big fan of bamboo shoots, and so not a big fan of extremely thick gravy, quite unappealing indeed. Then we have the Teochew style which used Gai Lan—Chinese Broccoli—with a dark fermented soybean called Tao Jiew Dam (Dam=black) and fish sauce. The gravy would be a nice deep brown color.
I’m not done yet. There are more. The Hong Kong style with the clean-looking gravy with Gai Lan, and the gravy with oyster sauce and no fermented soy bean. You would be able to find this in the US at some Chinese restaurants. It will be listed as Chow Fun with gravy but sometimes they’re using Bok Choy instead of Gai Lan.
And the last kind that I like the most, the Thai style, which I was told is Cantonese style. It has Gai Lan in flavorful gravy that uses garlic, light fermented soy bean, Tao Jiew Khaw (Khaw=white)
oyster sauce and fish sauce. Sometimes they even add an egg, either mixed in the gravy or fried separately and placed on top.
Don’t go, “Who cares? Just give me the recipe already!” with me. The recipe is down below, don’t worry. I just want to make sure that my readers would not be fooled by the info from the “Confusepedia”, alright?
I’m still not done describing it yet. The noodles used in Rad Na are not only the “Sen Yai” or the big fat rice noodles. There is Sen Mee, the rice vermicelli as well. Sen Mee will be used in two styles: one is just stir fried in dark soy sauce and oil just like the Sen Yai. Another is the vermicelli that’s deep fried dry until the noodles are puffed up and crispy. This type would be called “Mai Fun” in the south of Thailand.
The Chinese broccoli also has two different types as well. “Rad Na Yod Phak ราดหน้ายอดผัก” is the advertises that they would be using the young Gai Lan, which is to ensure that there would be no hard parts. There is a way to fake that if the young Chinese broccoli isn’t available.
If you have a hard time finding Chinese broccoli, you can use regular broccoli. It would be delicious as well. If you want to make the extraordinary Rad Na, you have to understand that there are two important elements.
First is the noodles. You can’t be stingy or afraid to use oil to stir fry. This is one important element. The noodles will have to be brown and burnt in some spots and have some “blisters”, which are the spots where the noodles touched the hot oil in the hot pan and just fluffed up, trying to get crispy but there is not enough oil to get them that far. So the noodles acquire a wonderful semi-puffy, semi-sticky texture, full of the “pan smell” aroma.
I would encourage you to use lard if you normally use butter and are not afraid of using real animal fat. The latest studies say it’s better for your arteries than processed vegetable oil. I believe that. Lard will give the best aroma to the noodles.
Second is the gravy, of course. Alright, now you understand the character of the dish, so we’re ready to make it.
Ingredients (for 3 servings):
Meat of your choice: chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or mixed seafood 1 lb. (I used thinly sliced beef from the Asian market, the type they sell for making shabu-shabu)
Light soy sauce 2 tablespoons
Broccoli, either Chinese or regular, cut in pieces about 3-4 cups
Chopped garlic 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (1 tablespoon for the gravy and another teaspoons for the noodles
(Optional) Fermented light soy bean 1 tablespoon
Dark sweet soy sauce 2 tablespoons
Oyster sauce 2 tablespoons
Seasoning sauce or Fish sauce 2 tablespoons
White pepper 2 tablespoons
(Optional) Sugar 1 tablespoon
Soup stock or water 3 cups
Corn starch or tapioca starch 3-4 tablespoons
Noodles of your choice, as much as you want. I used big fat rice noodles, about 1/2 cup of already separated noodles per person.
Dark soy sauce 1 tablespoon
Oil or lard 2-3 tablespoons for the noodles
Oil for the gravy 2 tablespoons
1) Marinate the beef with 1 tablespoon of white pepper and 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce. (You can use oyster sauce instead of light soy sauce if you like the flavor)
2) Cut the vegetables. My secret is keeping the inner stems of the broccoli, either the Chinese broccoli or the regular one works fine. I peel the outside, which is the hard part and not chewable, keeping just the white inner core. Slice them thinly.
If you want the “Yod Pak” style or the young Gai Lan, just pick the leaves and keep the stem for cooking something else and don’t use those leaves near the base ofthe stem.
3) Separate the noodles,
or soak the vermicelli in cold water if you want to use vermicelli.
If you want the fried vermicelli, do nothing.
4) Mix all the condiments together, including the fermented bean paste, but reserve the dark soy sauce for stir frying the noodles.
5) Mix the corn starch with half a cup of water or soup stock.
6) You are now ready for action. I recommend using a cast iron wok if you have one. If not, a regular wok is okay.
At high heat, put 3 tablespoons of oil in the wok, wait until the oil gets hot and add the chopped garlic, flip it around a few time s, then add the noodles and the dark soy sauce.
Now the fun begins. Try your best to separate the noodles so they all touch the oil and sauce, tossing them around the wok fast then stopping, counting to ten, then tossing them around again and then stopping again. Repeat the toss and stop until you see the blisters and burns all over the noodles.
You will need more time with Sen Yai than the vermicelli. Once you see the noodles are ready, then turn off the heat. Put the noodles in a bowl.
If you want to do the deep fried vermicelli, you need a lot of oil in the wok, at the least one to two inches from the bottom of the wok. Heat the oil until hot and near smoking (300º F), separate the dried noodles and drop them in the hot oil a little at a time. Most likely you have to scoop them back out right away. Continue doing it until you get the amount you want.
7) Now the gravy. Heat the wok over medium high heat this time, add oil to the wok and wait until the oil gets hot again before adding the garlic, flipping it around a few times. The garlic doesn’t need to be golden before you add the meat.
Trick for the meat: I used thinly-sliced beef,
and I want to cook it so the beef is flat and not so wrinkled. I put the beef slices in the wok one by one and try to lay them flat once they touch the wok. You can try to do this or not—i’ts up to you. It’s not mandatory at all, merely my finicky preference.
(Sorry for the lack of pictures. I was cooking this by myself on high heat so I didn’t even have time to grab the camera.)
Add the remaining soup stock, but do not put the stock that you mixed with the starch in just yet. Add the mixed sauce, heat, then wait until the soup is boiling before you add the vegetables.
I separate the vegetables. I add the stems or the inner cores first,
then the leaves.
I want them to be equally cooked and ready at the same time, which is not possible if I throw all of them in together. So I put in the hard part that will take longer time to cook first, following with the part that takes less time to cook.
Then you wait until the soup starts boiling again and add half of the soup stock mixed with starch, stiring the whole time. If you don’t stir, the starch will become lumpy.
Wait until the gravy reaches a rolling boil again to see the consistency. If the gravy doesn’t become thick enough, add more starch mixing a tablespoon in at a time. The gravy will become thick very fast, so be careful with the amount of starch you add.
Always wait until it reach a rolling boil before adding more starch. Taste test your gravy and adjust it to your preference while you are waiting for the gravy to reach that rolling boil.
Add white pepper at the end.
If you want to serve it family style, you can put the noodles and gravy in two separate bowls and let the guests serve themselves, or you can pour the gravy over the noodles and serve. I don’t like serving them together because if you don’t eat them at that moment, the noodles will get soggy and not be as good, especially the deep fried vermicelli.
Do not forget to serve it with “Poung Phrik“.
Make sure there is chili in vinegar as a part of it. I served it with fish sauce, sugar, chili in vinegar and dried chili flakes. Of course, white pepper on the side as well. The sunny side up fried egg is optional. If you want the egg to be fluffy like the one in my picture, you need to fry it at high heat with a lot of oil.
Enjoy the Rad Na!