Each year, I wait with giddy anticipation for the summer months to arrive, during which time we can at last forgo the obscene number of layers of clothes and parkas for dainty sundresses and sandals. But this year, summer only came intermittently to Paris. With the exception of a few sunny yet cool days here and there, the weather has been rather dreary with unusually low temperatures. So, you can imagine my excitement when the sun made an appearance last week and bathed us with a healthy dose of vitamin D and balmy heat.
The timing of the arrival of these summer vibes couldn’t have been more perfect, as it coincided with a serendipitous run-in with a friend. We became close friends while working together many years ago at an oncology hospital in the outskirts of Paris, and we maintained our friendship after we had both moved on to different jobs. But when she moved to a neighboring country a couple of years ago, I fell out of contact with her. I was with dealing some personal struggles and made no efforts to be in contact with anyone outside of my family back home. And I never reached back out to rekindle our friendship because I felt bad for not responding to her messages and calls for so long (I know, I’m a terrible friend!).
It was quite a pleasant surprise to run into each other in a corner of Paris where neither of us usually find ourselves. The métro line I normally take to go to the 13th arrondissement for my Asian groceries is down for the summer for repairs and improvements. So, I took an alternative route and got on a line that I rarely take, but got off a stop too soon because I was lost in thought while immersed in a book. As I climbed the last few steps out of the métro station, I noticed someone looking completely lost. Strangely, I immediately recognized her and her me even though we were both masked up and hadn’t seen each other in two years! She had just flown into Paris from a week-long trip in Florence to spend the week visiting close friends before heading south to Bordeaux to see her family.
We were both wholly stupefied, yet overjoyed by this inexplicably fortuitous reuniting. What was supposed to be a quick grocery run for me turned into a day long girl’s outting full of good eats, endless conversations and strolling through town. Spending the day together was so nourishing and restorative – it were as though we had never lost touch.
A few days later, I had her over for lunch at my place before she headed south for the last leg of her trip. She wanted me to show her how to cook an Asian dish, so I opted for something easy to initiate her into this cooking realm. This vegetarian pad see ew that I’ve recently added to my regular rotation was the ideal dish for this occasion because it takes no time to throw together and calls for only a few simple ingredients that can easily be found at any Asian grocery store. I like to use mikado spinach in this dish because it cooks so quickly and has a pleasantly mild flavor. I also showed her how to make a no frills Vietnamese sticky rice and black-eyed peas dessert, but I’ll save that for another post.
Bonne dégustation & thanks for reading!
Pad See Ew with Tofu and Mikado Spinach
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce*
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp cane sugar
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 200 g fried tofu
- 2 eggs
- 400 g fresh wide flat rice noodles
- 1 bunch mikado spinach*
- cooking oil
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauces, oyster sauce (or mushroom sauce), vinegar, water and cane sugar. Set aside.
- Trim and discard the root end of the mikado spinach stems. Then cut the stems and leafy parts into 5 cm pieces and thoroughly wash and rinse.
- Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil to cook the rice noodles. To prevent the noodles sticking together, I add about half a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pot of water before adding the noodles. Once the water comes to a gentle boil, add the noodles and stir constantly for about 40-45 seconds. Strain in a colander but do not rinse. Avoid overcooking so that the noodles don't end up too soft and mushy. The noodles should be tender yet chewy. Also, you want to cook the noodles immediately before you combine them with the rest of the ingredients, so they don't sit out too long and become a sticky lump.
- Heat about 1 tbsp of oil over high heat in a wok. Toss in the minced garlic and stir until aromatic, about 25-30 seconds. Add in the tofu and give it a few quick stirs so that the tofu absorbs some of the garlic flavor.
- Make some room in the wok by pushing the tofu to the side. Crack two eggs into the wok and let them set for about 20 seconds. Then stir the tofu into the eggs to combine evenly.
- Add the chopped mikado spinach to the wok and then the rice noodles. Pour the prepared sauce over the noodles and toss so that all of the noodles are evenly coated with sauce. Once combined and the spinach has wilted, serve hot. For a bit of a kick, I serve with chopped fresh bird's eye chilis or Sriracha.