Back in December 2015, after an embarrassing week of dining out, I wrote a post about frugal ways to spend less when dining out. One thought I had in that post was to try making at home the dish one of us was craving from a restaurant. Well, 3 months later (better late than never), I tried it. As a result, there is a new format for BellyGrowling in this post. I will attempt to make the dish that one of us wanted from the restaurant, describe the experience, estimate the money saved, and honestly assess the experiment.
Last Saturday, Joshua's Belly was Growling for Pad See Ewe. The two biggest challenges to making this experience work were (1) the request was made about 90 minutes before our dinner time and (2) Joshua loves going to a restaurant to eat food. (Yes, we need to reprogram all of us to dine out less).
On a short time line, I looked up a few recipes for Pad See Ewe online before heading to Whole Foods. I picked Whole Foods over Trader Joe's (both of which are walkable from our place) because I thought I would have a better noodle selection. One of Joshua's requirements was the wide noodles he is used to seeing in Pad See Ewe. Also, the recipes I saw called for oyster sauce, which I knew Trader Joes' would not have.
The ingredients I had at home:
Apple cider vinegar
Grilled chicken (about ½ the amount I needed)
The ingredients I needed to get:
Noodles—This was a point of contention because I could not find the wide noodles! I priced out getting brown rice lasagna noodles and cutting them in half after cooking, but they were about $2 more expensive and much more labor intensive. I made a bold move and got the somewhat thin pad thai noodles. COST-$3.49
Chinese broccoli—I purchased bok choy instead. I could not find Chinese broccoli and I knew everyone at home liked bok choy. COST-$0.30
Dark soy sauce—I honestly didn't notice that two types of soy sauce were required until I started cooking. So, I found a substitute for the dark soy sauce by mixing 2 ½ tablespoons of soy sauce with 1 tablespoon of honey. I've never tasted dark soy sauce, so I have no idea how good of a substitute that was. COST-$0
Oyster sauce-I couldn't justify buying this for one recipe, so I skipped it. I'll just throw in some sesame oil instead. COST-$0
Broccoli—The restaurant where we usually get Thai food serves the Pad See Ewe with broccoli. Joshua usually requests that it is removed from the plate and it ends up being the bulk of my dinner. Why mess with tradition? COST-$1.79
The remaining grilled chicken—Since I only needed a small amount, I just got some from the prepared foods section. COST-$1.98
Total COST for Pad See Ewe ingredients-$7.56
(Full disclosure: I found corn on the cob (a super-duper favorite at our house and it was really good for April)! So, I splurged an extra $2 to get 4 ears. Good thing I did not get those lasagna noodles!)
The Pad See Ewe at our usual Thai place costs $10.99. Plus, Jeremy and I would have ordered food. Usually our bill there is around $45-50.
SAVINGS: $37.44 (at least)
OK, it is clear I save a good deal of money, but what happened with the food? I definitely futzed the recipe on several items. Don't tell Joshua, but it probably did not really qualify as Pad See Ewe by the time I was done cooking!
Here is the recipe I ended up making up, we'll call it Pad See Ewe-esque:
3 ½ T tamari sauce
1 T honey
2 T sesame oil
2 t apple cider vinegar
1 t sugar
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 small heads bok choy, thinly sliced
½ lb grilled chicken
1 lb broccoli steamed
8 ounces brown rice noodles
1-Steam broccoli and cook noodles according to package directions.
2-While broccoli and noodles are cooking, combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
3-In cooking oil, saute garlic, bok choy, and grilled chicken on medium-high heat.
4-Once cooked, stir broccoli and sauce into saute pan. Mix in noodles. Cook until heated through.
The dish was tasty! We all ate good-sized helpings of it. The noodles were just the right amount of gooey for maximum slurpability. The broccoli was discarded by certain members of our party, per usual. Jeremy added some red chili pepper to spice his portion up. Overall, a success; however, having the "wrong" kind of noodle was a real detriment to this noodle-loving family. But was it really Pad See Ewe. Unconditionally, no. And, one of the reasons I know that is because the next night, Joshua asked for Pad See Ewe again (and not in a "that was so good I want to have it a second time" way). We will keep trying!