Thai Steak with Glass Noodles and Pack Choi

INGREDIENTS

First off, ingredients.  I sorted them out into 3 groups, and the amount listed serves 2 medium-hungry people.

Easy-to-find ingredients:

  • 2 thick beef steaks
    (about 250 grams total – feel free to double if you are really fucking hungry!)
  • 1 lime
  • 1-2 spring onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
    (if you really, really love garlic: throw in as much of this shit as possible – would not hurt!)
  • Salt, pepper, sugar, cooking oil (if you want to be fancy, use sesame oil – it smells fucking delicious, and definitely adds the flavor to the dish!)

Hard-to-find stuff (not so, if you have an Asian shop nearby):

  • 2 table spoons of tamarind concentrate
  • 2 table spoons of oyster sauce
  • 2 table spoons of fish sauce
  • 4 mini Pack Choi
  • 100 gr thin glass noodles

Something in-between (depends where you shop, or what you grow yourself):

  • 1 small red chili
  • 1 red pepperoni (looks like a bigger and less aggressive brother of chili)
  • 25 gr unsalted and un-roasted peanuts
  • 1 bunch of coriander (feel free to skip, if you really fucking hate the stuff)

PREPARATION

Asian food is all about preparation – it takes more time to marinade, chop, slice, grate and cut stuff, than fucking cook them later. Cooking is the quick and fun part, so brace yourselves for some prepping first.

  • Once you took the time to assemble all ingredients, marinate the meat.  In a medium-size Tupperware mix tamarind concentrate, oyster sauce, fish sauce and 1 clove of crushed garlic, add some black pepper to taste.  Put the meat in, make sure it is fully smothered in the marinade, and leave it the fuck alone in the fridge.  The longer – the better, overnight in the fridge would do wonders!
  • Cook the noodles according to instructions (in most cases you need to put them in a boiled water and keep them there for 5 min).  Drain, cool down with cold water, and put the fuck aside.
  • Chop the peanuts into quarters, and slowly roast them in a small frying pan without any oil.  Once brown – put the fuck aside.
  • Chop the Pack Choi into rough 1-2 cm cubes, chop spring onions into 1-2 cm pieces, de-seed the pepperoni and cut into very thin slices (you don’t want to be chewing on huge chunks of it later.  While not as aggressive as chili, it will still fucking burn your mouth, if eaten whole!).  Mix them together and leave alone.
  • Grate the zest off the lime, and squeeze the remaining naked lime into the same bowl.  Add 2 teaspoonfuls of salt, 4 teaspoonfuls of sugar, and 4 tablespoons of water (preferably hot or boiling, to help dissolve the sugar and salt).  Mix that shit up and leave alone.  This will be your lime vinaigrette for the noodles.

COOKING

And now – cooking fun!  Ideally, if you are two people – divide the responsibilities: one cooks the meat, the other one is in charge of the rest.  If you are alone – fucking multi-task!

  • Preheat the oven at 180°C (no idea what the fuck it is in Fahrenheit – use Google to convert!).  Heat a frying pan, add some oil, and put the steaks in.  Fry each side for 2 min (if you weren’t stingy and got thick pieces, also on the sides), and transfer to a baking tray, covered with baking paper.  Put in the oven for ~4 min (depending on how you like your steak and its thickness.  4 min will give you a medium-rare on two thick pieces.  For medium or well-done (how does it even exist?…) do the fucking math yourself.
  • Heat the wok (yeah, you will need one of those, if you are cooking any Asian dishes, even once a year.  Don’t be a lazy bastard, and get one!), add ~2 tablespoons of oil and let it heat up until almost bubbling.  Throw the Pack Choi, spring onions and pepperoni mix in, and fry at high heat for 4 min, stirring constantly.
  • After 4 min, throw in the glass noodles and the remaining 1 clove of garlic (crushed to oblivion), stir for one min, and a throw in the lime vinaigrette in.  Stir the fuck out of it and take off the heat.
  • After you take the meat out of the marinade – don’t fucking throw it away – it makes awesome sauce!!!! To make it, add 2 tsps of sugar and 3 tbls of water into the marinade, and cook for 3-4 min on low heat till it turns into the amazingly fucking delicious sauce! Pour over the meat when serving. (You might want to double all ingredients for the marinade to get more of this awesomeness.)

ASSEMBLING

  • Divide the noodle and Pack Choi mix between two big plates (heat them up first, if you are British, or pretend to be a fancy chef J)
  • Take the meat out of the oven, slice thinly, and place on top of the noodle mix.
  • Sprinkle with roasted peanuts, and chopped up coriander.

Eat that shit up – it’s delicious!!!!

Part 3 – The Cat

The cat was a clear-cut blackmail job.  And Evil Granny had a hand in it big time.

As pretty much every only child I’ve been begging my parents for a brother or a sister ever since I started talking.  I kinda wanted an older brother or a sister, but would have settled for a younger one as well…  At some point the parents sat me down, and appealed to my senses (I’ve always been a very reasonable child).  They took up the strategy that even the hard-core EU negotiators of today would be proud of, and demonstrated the value of having a young sibling to me first-hand.  They put an orange in front of me – at that point in time any piece of fruit, regardless of taste or the nutritional value thereof, was a priceless object of desire for me – and asked if I wanted it.  No shit, Sherlock – like any malnourished Soviet child from the North I was ready to swallow said orange together with peel and seeds right there and then!  I was then patiently explained, that if I were to have it right now, the whole fucking orange would be mine for the taking.  If, however, I happened to have a sibling, and a younger one at that, I would be expected to share said orange with the little brother or sister I so much desired, thus having only half of it.

This was clear and simple enough and I quickly changed my story.  I no longer wanted a little brother or a sister (orange stealers!), and started asking for a dog instead.  I learned to read really early, and read in books about dogs being a man’s best friend. I was also smart enough to realize that as carnivores they shouldn’t be much into fruit and my oranges would be safe with them.  Upon further contemplation, my 6-year old mind decided that I might possibly compromise on a cat, but would not budge any further.

Considering our limited accommodation situation (see the description of our communal digs in Part 1 – Uncle Sasha), my parents weren’t overly enthused about having anything or anyone else invade our living space and my demands for a cuddly pet were falling on deaf ears.

Being a quick-thinking and industrious child, I realize that if things were to move forward, I would have to take matters into my own hands. 

The opportunity presented itself soon enough.

One day, we went with Evil Granny to the dairy shop to buy some milk, and there it was – my golden opportunity!  In a shape of a very white, very fluffy and very big cat.  Bingo!!!  It did not take me too long to convince Evil Granny that the cat had to go with us.  She was well aware of my parents’ opposition to pets, and must have been already gloating at their indignation, when she nonchalantly said “Sure”, and allowed me to grab the huge and suspiciously obliging cat into my arms and drag it home.

I was thrilled – not only did my dream finally come true, but it came true in the shape and form of a beauty that I could not have even imagined.  The cat was magnificent – spotlessly white, blue-eyed, fluffy and very, very pregnant.  Obviously, the latter moment completely escaped my 6-year old attention.

When my Mom came home from work, and I ran to hear screaming happily “Look who I got here!!!!!” this was the first thing she noticed – her daughter dragging along the corridor a gigantic animal, that was at risk of giving birth right there and then.  She nearly had a heart attack, and this was the first time when I heard her swearing at Evil Granny, who pretended to be deaf and quickly hid in the toilet.

When my Dad came home, and was subjected to the demonstration of the pregnant cat by his daughter absolutely beaming with joy, the family council was called in.  My parents locked themselves in the kitchen, and started devising strategic plans on getting rid of the white beauty before it produced 8 or 10 more.  Evil Granny continued to hide in the bathroom, and Uncle Sasha was busy drinking, so they had to come up with the plan all by themselves.

I was oblivious to the conspiracy, and was busy trying to play with the cat, running back and forth along the corridor with a piece of newspaper tied to the end of a rope.  The cat was sitting in the corner, panting, ignoring all my attempts at socializing and probably praying to feline Gods to let this little monster leave her alone.  I was not easily disappointed, and spent the first evening in joyous oblivion, happily running along the corridor all by myself.  I finally had company, and this was enough!  The cat was just shy and needed time to get used to its’ new digs and the new friend.

My parents must have been good at psychology, or just happened to know their daughter really well.  The plan devised behind the closed kitchen doors was as ingenious as it was cunning.  Starting from the next morning, I started getting almost hourly updates from the dairy shop.  They came through Mom and Dad, and even through Uncle Sasha, who was probably bribed to cooperate with potatoes and vodka.  Evil Granny kept full neutrality on the subject, and did not get involved.

“I stopped by the dairy shop today to get milk, and the cat is being very much missed there!”, my Mom would say first thing as she came back home from work.

“Actually, the sales lady from the shop called earlier today,” my Dad would echo, “and asked if the cat was OK.”

“They really miss her so much, they keep crying that you took her away!”  My Mom was trying to appeal to my sense of compassion. “Crying all the time!…”

I was not really listening.  I was busy trying to engage the cat in the games that I invented by a dozen.  The cat was still sitting in the corner, looking docile and un-impressed.

“Uhm….  Yeah, they do miss the cat,” Uncle Sasha would put in his 5 cents through the cigarette smoke billowing from under his door to the approval glances from my parents.

My sense of compassion was still unresponsive, but after a couple of days I was starting to get annoyed with the cat.  It just would not play with me!..

My parents did not attempt to explain the concepts of the late stages of feline pregnancy to a 6-year old, and stuck to their story – the cat was being very much missed in the dairy shop.

“And the cat must miss them too, this is why it does not want to play with you.  It is sad, it misses home and its old friends!…”

They intentionally did not give the cat a name, fearing that this might be a potential first step to its settling with us.  Personally, I could not care less whether the ladies in the dairy shop were crying or not, but the cat not joining me in mad races along the corridor was a huge blow.  My parents noticed my disappointment, and worked it like pros.

“Five more calls today from a dairy shop….” my Dad would say solemnly.  “They said they could not work without the cat.  They are too sad.  And I think the cat feels it.  It looks so sad, almost ready to cry.”

Blatant lie, but after a couple of days it started to sink in.

“Don’t you think we should take the cat back home, to the dairy shop, and make everybody happy?…”

When the key question was popped, I was ready to part with the cat.  Not with my dream, though.

I put up a show of deep thinking (I would have thrown a tantrum, had I known how), cried a little, pretended to be deeply emotionally upset, and finally threw in my negotiation card on the table.

“If we bring the kitty back, what do I get in return?…”

My parents must have rehearsed this scenario as well, for I was very quickly promised a little kitten in replacement – a friend of friends had a cat that just had kittens.

“A little kitten would play with you,” my parents assured.  “It will be your real friend, and the cat will be happy to be back home.”

And so it was.  The cat was escorted back to the dairy shop, where it spent the last days of pregnancy being pampered with cream, milk and cottage cheese, gave birth to a 10-kitten litter of fluffy white balls, which were almost immediately adopted by the shop staff and patrons, and continued living happily ever after without little monsters chasing it along the corridor.

A month later, my parents brought home a little fur-ball, that I unimaginatively called Tishka.  He played with me all right, and developed an amazing ability to jump on the walls to an almost shoulder height, and slide along the wallpapers on his claws.  I swear I did not train him to do this!

He grew to be a magnificent, long-haired and bushy-tailed cat, and lived to the ripe old age of 21.  Throughout all these years we had shredded wallpapers and cat hair on our clothes and in our food and loved the cat dearly.