Sunday, September 27, 2009

To Serve with Love :)

This past week, the two most important people in my life made the trip to see me in Switzerland. Having had the privilege of good friends come to wish me well, see my life, and explore the country this summer was something for which I was grateful beyond words. It also helped me become a better host, because I realized a) I can't control everything according to my own predetermined plan and b) that's completely OK. Some of the best time spent with people you love occurs effortlessly. With this in mind I planned little (OK, well less...) except for one detail: their welcome dinner.

Part of the challenge is just hoping guests coming in on a red eye hold up until dinner time! I have to say everyone of them has done well so far, including this time around with my family arriving before 8am (ouch). After a trip to my flat to drop suitcases, a ride back into Zürich to see the sites, and a couple of waves of exhaustion I was finally in the kitchen. The appetizer: grated cucumber and sun-dried tomato salad with a soy-sesame dressing, surrounded by goat cheese on pumpernickel (thanks to one Parisian lunch June).

For dinner I started with a bag of gluten-free rice noodles and went with a Thai classic - with my own spin! (Though we were too busy enjoying the dish to take a good shot, scroll to the bottom for another pic.)
Coconut Chicken Pad Thai
Pad Thai:
Chicken breast
1 pack of rice noodles
1 cup beansprouts
2 shallots
1/2 garlic clove
Shiitake mushrooms (I used dried)
2- 3 eggs
Walnuts, crumbled
Green onions
Fish sauce + tamari (wheat free soy) sauce
Sesame oil

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
Sesame oil
Tamari sauce
Tamarind (paste)
Stevia (I use SweetLeaf packets; see comments for a note on Stevia)

  • Cut the chicken breast in small pieces and marinate in a couple of tablespoons of the fish and tamari sauce, and set aside.

  • Soak the rice noodles in warm water until somewhat harder than al dente. I left mine about 20 minutes, and recommend you do the next couple of steps while you wait :)

  • Chop the shallots and garlic finely. Cut the mushrooms into strips, or if working from dried mushrooms as I did soak in salted water and then press dry.

  • Prepare the sauce by heating some coconut milk over a medium-low flame for a little while. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and add the tamari sauce. I then seperately mixed the tamarind, fish sauce, and Stevia (you can use any sweetener) and added a couple of tablespoons to the sauce mixture.

  • When the noodles are softened a bit and your sauce is mixed, time to cook! Heat a pan or wok to very high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Add chicken and stir fry for a few minutes until nearly cooked.

  • Add shallots, garlic, and mushrooms and stir fry for a couple of minutes (you may need to add a little more oil as you go).

  • Add the rice noodles and about 1/4 cup of the sauce (continue to add sauce as it sizzles and cooks).

  • Push cooked noodles to one side and crack eggs, one at a time. Let them set before scrambling with the rest of the mix.

  • For the final minute, add the walnuts and beansprouts. Mix and cook well, and then remove from heat.

  • Give a nice stir, add any unused sauce, and then serve! Top with some green onions and more crumbled nuts.

Interestingly, originally I made a classic sauce of fish sauce, tamarind and sweetener. It wasn't working at all, but I'm happy with the modifications. Garnish with some fresh coriander if you'd like (which I didn't have time to do with my hungry guests, and self). This was in my opinion the tastiest dish I've pulled off to date, and I think my fam appreciated it - and the effort - as well. With all they've done for me, they only deserve the most ausgezeichnet (excellent) of food...I wish I could say my kitchen was as synchronized afterward :) Please do let me know how you like this one.


  1. You might want to list the specific brand of stevia you normally use in the recipe. Obviously whatever brand you use turns out well in your recipe, or you wouldn't list stevia at all. But you might want to know that not all stevia tastes the same because many brands extract it using chemicals, which changes the taste of the leaf. One thing I've learned from others is that stevia can make or break a recipe! I still have yet to cook or bake with stevia, but I use SweetLeaf stevia in my fruit smoothies. It's yummy! They only use pure water during extraction, so the natural sweet taste remains. Just thought you might want to know.

  2. Hi--
    You are absolutely right I also use SweetLeaf brand stevia in packets. With the increasing popularity of Stevia products, some brands add dextrose which IMO defeats the purpose! Thanks for the tip.