You Can’t Go Home Again: Part III in a Series on Thai Food in Fairbanks

Thai cuisine is so popular here, we even have drive thrus!

Thai food is not only Fairbanks’ favorite cuisine, it’s also turning out to be a theme in this blog.  Thai flavors are as ubiquitous as snow, so it’s no mere coincidence that when folks leave this place, they are sentimental about many things and Thai food usually ranks in the top 5.  My friend, writer and gastronome Alison Singer, recently sent this piece to me:

“Alaska is always in my thoughts. Always somewhere there on the horizon, along that furthest downward arcing of the horizon, where the sun meets the land, or the sky meets the water. And sometimes in winter, when I look up at a clear sky, flashes of the aurora appear in the periphery of my vision, but when I turn my eyes it is gone. And then I remember I’m not in Alaska anymore.

When I think about cheese, which I do daily, I think about Alaska, and I think about Alaska when I do dishes, and I think about Alaska when I bake cookies. I think about a day spent with a good friend, a day in which we learned what a KitchenAid mixer is capable of, and what it isn’t (multiple loaves of sun-dried tomato bread). On that day, in another small cabin with no plumbing, we made a feast of cookies and treats: cashew brittle, pumpkin rolls, meringues, sun-dried tomato bread, and many other things that I can no longer recall. Perhaps more than I have ever cooked in one session since. Perhaps.

Alaska is where I attribute the beginning of my food obsession. And I wasn’t obsessed with food in Alaska, and so it seems strange, even to myself that I see Alaska as the beginning. Something about the water though. I lived in a little cabin with no plumbing, and so I did the dishes with a thin trickle of cold water, after I had let the dogs lick off the important bits. And I had a boyfriend who was always happy to spend money at Thai restaurants. So between the water and the boyfriend, I didn’t cook that much.  But still.

I never made this dish in Alaska, but it is Thai, and nowhere have I eaten more Thai food than in Fairbanks.

Pad Kee Mao, from the kitchen of Alison Singer

Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)

  • 1 14-ounce package wide rice stick noodles
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped (or, you know, more. Because it’s garlic).
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh Thai chiles (or not, depending on your spice desire)
  • Some meat. Or tofu. Like a couple chopped chicken breasts, or a half package of drained, chopped extra-firm tofu (my preference, and I’m not a vegetarian).
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/8 cup black soy sauce (if you don’t have this available, just toss in a tablespoon of molasses).
  • 1/8 cup Golden Mountain sauce (can use regular soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges (or diced – you know, however big you want them)
  • 1 green bell peppers, cut into strips (or red pepper, if you’re like me and don’t like green)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular fresh basil)

A note on ingredients: My best advice as a wannabe chef is to not limit yourself to what the recipe says. You think mushrooms sound good in this? Hell yeah they do! And shiitake are awesome in it. And you think garnishing with scallions sounds good? It is.


Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently. (Or follow directions on the package.) Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok (if you don’t have a wok you can use a sauté pan with almost as good results) over medium-high heat.

Add garlic and Thai chiles; saute 30 seconds.

Add chicken and next 4 ingredients and saute until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. If you use tofu, you might want to fry tofu before and add it at this phase. Add noodles, tomatoes, and bell peppers; toss to coat. Transfer to large platter, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve.”

Alison Singer hates writing things about herself. Like biographies. But in the spirit of things, she lives in the mountains of North Carolina, where she spends most of her time thinking about food, cooking food, and eating food. And drinking. And playing with dogs. And playing outside. And occasionally going to school. And she loves it all. Especially the eating.

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