Dominic and I both zoomed back in time yesterday. Our first bite of rad na, or lad na, was our Delorean that took us there.
Dom arrived at a soi, aka side street, in Sukhothai. He had just watched the cook put wide rice noodles in a faded blue plastic bowl and then dip into a huge pot and ladle a luscious gravy of pork and chinese broccoli over the noodles. He took the steaming bowl to a metal table, added Thai chili sauce (which is only used in rad na when in Sukhothai) some sugar and vinegar and smiled.
I went back to the bustling market across the street from the tutoring school where I taught. My co-worker and I were standing in front of the rad na vendor in the back of the market. I was mystified as I saw him put the dark rice noodles in a clear plastic bag and somehow magically tie a rubber band across the top so that it was full of air like a balloon. He did that with even the tiny bags of vinegar and peppers. Then we meandered back to work, got some plastic white bowls from the kitchen, emptied our bags of goodness into them, tore open some chili pepper flakes to sprinkle on top and smiled.
I’m glad that I figured out how to make rad na that could bring us back in time—because the first time I attempted to make it, instead of smiling after my first bite, I cried out of frustration.
We hadn’t eaten rad na since Thailand, which was four years ago. So I was super stressed the first time I made it, trying so hard to make it taste like I remembered, but I was putting too much pressure on myself. I ended up with a gooey broth with tough, tiny slices of pork. It was sad.
But this time I took it slow, adjusted what I messed up on, and the smiles came.
So lesson learned. Know that if you do mess up making a dish you want to make so well so badly, the next time you make it, it will taste all the better and bring nostalgic tears to your eyes.
And what helped me the most was watching this awesome Thai cooking video, which is where my rad na recipe is adapted from. I like watching Thai cooking videos, but not many are well done, but his one was so cute and helpful. Hope it helps you too!