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A Mystery Basket Challenge, A Remembrance of Thailand and A Really Good Pad Thai Salad

March 10, 2013 by Joan Nova in Asian, Creative Cooking Crew Challenge, Food Pairings, Recipe Development | 12 Comments

The Creative Cooking Crew’s challenge for this month was a virtual mystery basket and, like the popular program “Chopped”, we had to use the items in the basket along with whatever we wanted from our own pantries to complete a “creative” dish.

The basket ingredients were: green apple, bacon, vinegar and nut butter. I immediately thought of some kind of Pad Thai-based dish. Predictable? Perhaps, because of nut sauces in Asian cuisine. But, I generally decide what to make for the challenge by whatever comes to mind first — and what I want to eat!

P1000449.JPGPlus, I’m an experienced Thai cook having once attended a half-day cookery school in Chiang Mai where we made Pad Thai and Tom Yum Soup. (And, where, I apparently turned into Flat Stanley.↑)

•            •           •

I love the monthly Creative Cooking Challenges! They metaphorically take me to a places I’ve never been and sometimes they take me on a walk down memory lane, like this one. Whatever the case, one thing I know for sure is that at least one night a month I’m going to eat something totally unexpected and generally out-of-the-norm.

Bacon + Shrimp Pad Thai Salad with Chili-Nut Butter Dressing and Pickled Apple Slaw

Bacon was rendered in a skillet till crispy and set aside; meanwhile, marinated shrimp were quick-fried in the bacon fat, then removed and chopped. I also toasted slivered almonds in the same pan after the oil was drained.

Granny Smith Green Apple was julienned with a little red bell pepper, carrot, and baby cucumber for a slaw topping and dressed with pureed apple, rice wine vinegar, red chili flakes, and a dash of sesame oil.

Almond Nut Butter was the base of the dressing for the rice noodles and was thinned out and seasoned with fresh lime juice, sriracha, and rice vinegar.

Rice wine vinegar was used with fish sauce, garlic and a kefir leaf as the marinade for shrimp. It was also used in the dressings for both the slaw and nut butter sauce.

Other non-basket ingredients used in the dish: chopped shrimp, garlic, scallions, cilantro, slivered almonds, chopped omelet, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce, pad thai rice noodles, cucumbers, carrot, red bell pepper, red chili flakes, sriracha, sesame oil, lime juice.

It was also the perfect moment to use this Chork (chop stick-fork) that I found in my Christmas stocking.

•           •           •

And like that other TV show “The Taste”, it was the PERFECT BITE … sweet and sour, fatty, salty, acidic and fresh. The apple slaw dressed with rice wine vinegar was so refreshing and created the right counterpoint to the salty bacon and fatty nut butter. The scallion and cilantro gave it freshness (with a bite). And don’t forget there was egg, shrimp, noodles, toasted almonds and nut butter dressing in that bite too. Nom Nom!

Side Note 1: Most bloggers will tell you that when you cook for both blogging and dinner, plating and photography are often rushed by appetite. I forgot to add the Thai-like radish and scallion garnishes I had chilling in the fridge.

Side Note 2: Those of you who know me from the early days of blogging may remember  that I created and hosted 3 annual rounds of  A Culinary Tour Around the World (see 3 links under Travel tab above). Here’s the link for the post I did on our virtual stop in Thailand in February  2011, along with a photo from my actual trip in 2007.

As they say in Thailand, Sawakeedah.

Please come back on March 27 when I will host the Mystery Basket round-up. Can’t wait to see what everyone did! Imagine the possibilities …

•                    •                   •

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. What a fun post. I love Mystery Cooking Challenges as well, because when not teaching a class, that is pretty much how I cook on a daily basis. What a fabulous last photo as well. Just wonderful. Can’t wait to see the round-up.
    Victoria of Flavors of the Sun recently posted..Two Easy Sides and an ObsessionMy Profile

  2. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me! says:

    Great post Joan and the pictures are wonderful. I loove the flat Stanley…

  3. Faith says:

    What a fun dish for this challenge! My initial thoughts went to a Thai dish as well, but I decided to go another route. Might have to try this one too though!
    Faith recently posted..Thick & Creamy Vanilla-Pistachio DrinkMy Profile

  4. I love your take on the ingredients…always inventive Joan! It all sound perfect (of course the bacon helps!).
    Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul recently posted..Tequila and Lime Marinated SteakMy Profile

  5. sippitysup says:

    I do remember those tours and I’ll always remember this salad.
    sippitysup recently posted..I Baked an Egg inside a Buckwheat Pancake and Ate itMy Profile

  6. Shannon says:

    lovely! it sounds absolutely amazing and I wish I had a bite :)
    Shannon recently posted..Double Choc MuffinsMy Profile

  7. I really love your creation and the Asian flavor, looks delicious. I am still deciding. That ‘fork’? is cool lol.
    Evelyne@cheapethniceatz recently posted..Puffy Raspberry Almond ClafoutisMy Profile

  8. Wow. I’m sure I would have forgotten the radish too. Beautiful and balanced. I want!
    Maureen C Berry recently posted..Apple & Bacon SlawMy Profile

  9. Laz says:

    Pad Thai is a favorite dish of mine, I’d enjoy your version for sure. Great photos as well.

  10. deana sidney says:

    Pad thai is one of my favorites. There used to be a great place by a company I worked for. I think I had it for lunch every day. Adding apple is a great idea and I love that the challenge led to a trip down a happy memory lane… isn’t it wonderful the way food can do that? It just opens old doors sometimes!

    Great challenge. Thanks so much for running it!
    deana sidney recently posted..Playing with History, Elderflower Apple Pies with Bacon Lattice Top and Almond Butter CrustMy Profile

  11. This is such a great dish, my fave flavors with one of my fave Thai dishes, who doesn’t love pad Thai? I think the green apple acts in the place of the usual green papaya. Love all the salad recipes for this challenge, so many different takes! And you are right, appetite is to blame for many a less than perfect food shot! haha!
    La Diva Cucina recently posted..Creative Cooking Crew Challenge: What’s in the BOX?My Profile

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