Pimp my Pad See Ew
September 22, 2020 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Sadly I live in an area without Thai restaurants nearby, so I've been trying to make my favorite dish at home. It hasn't worked yet.

I have:
- Dark (sweet) soy sauce, both Healthy Boy and ABC brands.
- regular soy sauce
- oyster sauce
- vinegar, both rice wine and white
- fish sauce
- a good wok
- good rice noodles

I have tried:
- many recipes from the web, eg this one which usually combine dark soy + soy + oyster + sugar + water + maybe vinegar
- recipes from youtube, including Mark Weins: dark soy + soy + sugar
- using only dark soy sauce
- using dark + regular soy + sugar + water
- adding fish sauce

The trouble is: I get caramelization, which suggests that I'm indeed getting it hot enough, but it never gets close to what restaurant Pad See Ew tastes like. The best descriptor I have is that it often tastes woody.

Please help!
posted by Dashy to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My mom, who is a Thai chef, says:

The dark soy burns easily, so put it in last, before blanched veggies. Do you use egg or not? She says that you can coat the noodles with eggs, and let it sit to cook before adding sauce, if you choose to use them. For flavor, use fish sauce, sugar, and vinegar will cut the taste.
posted by Alensin at 9:00 AM on September 22 [12 favorites]

Part of it could be that you're missing the "breath of the wok."
posted by Grandysaur at 9:01 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]

I was also going to suggest that you might need even more heat. Domestic electric or gas hobs really don't cut it. A domestic gas hob, for example, might only deliver 2 or 3 kW maximum. A strandalone wok burner can be 8 or 10 kW.
posted by pipeski at 9:09 AM on September 22

Are you using enough oil? Also nthing the wok needing to be really hot.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:35 AM on September 22

The easiest way to get that wok hei flavor--which is mostly burned oil as well as some browning reactions on the food--is to use a propane or butane torch. That article shows you the best way to use it to achieve the proper result and recommends an under-30 torch.

You can also watch the technique employed (with some additional discussion) here by Kenji Lopez-Alt.
posted by Maecenas at 9:37 AM on September 22 [5 favorites]

Yeah, my guess is similarly that you're cooking it enough, but not quickly enough, so bits of it dry out.

Kenji has been doing a lot of really cool wok-cooking demos on his Youtube channel. It's obviously not exactly the same, but he stir-fries noodles in this one.
posted by supercres at 9:38 AM on September 22

(The lo mein video includes the torch trick too; he par-cooks the noodles, lightly coats in oil, then butane-torches them outside the wok before adding to the vegetables.)
posted by supercres at 9:53 AM on September 22

Agreed on the wok hei comments. For me, wok hei is the biggest differentiator between a good restaurant Pad See Ew and a not-so-good one. Try the torch method linked above by Maecenas.
posted by odin53 at 9:02 AM on September 24

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