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Recipe by Alex Thao, executive chef, Rama.

My family has been in the restaurant business for so long that it kind of runs in the genes. My dad has owned restaurants for years. Growing up, we would go to the restaurant after school to grab a quick bite to eat. Then we would go home, do homework, and not see our parents for a while. My family wanted to push me away from the restaurant business for these reasons, but like I said, it’s in the blood.

I’ve been able to do it differently from my parents by delegating the work and having a good staff. My daughter is four and I am able to pick her up at school and go to soccer games. My wife is the one who does the cooking at home, though. I don’t want to touch a knife after I leave the restaurant. I want to spend time with my family. Sometimes we do barbecues at our house. Our friends bring the meat and I come up with something creative. I have a kitchen in my garage and I can experiment out there without bumping into my wife and getting in her way.

I wanted to learn all aspects of the business, so I learned how to be a chef just by helping my dad out and by watching. I also go to Thailand regularly and spent a lot of time there learning. I have gone for months at a time and once for a year to Bangkok.

In Thailand, we believe food is medicine; like, the right food enhances circulation or improves health. A lot of these are myths passed on from generation to generation, but there is some truth there, too. As a result, there is balance in Thai food — it’s spicy and sweet. The bottom line is that the food has to be flavorful. There isn’t junk food in Thailand like there is in the States. Instead of a McDonald’s on every corner there is a street vendor who sells salads and rice and noodles. It’s hot and sticky over there so often, you just want a fruit salad or a salad with steak. It’s not like here, where you are eating all day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp black soy sauce

  • 1 tbsp sweet (or Thai) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce

  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

  • 3 tbsp canola or peanut oil

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 pound beef, pork or chicken thinly sliced against the grain

  • 1/2 medium white onion, sliced

  • 4 cups fresh rice noodles, separated

  • 1/2 medium tomato, sliced

  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves, loosely packed

  • 1/2 tsp white pepper 

HOW TO DO IT

Combine black soy, sweet soy, oyster sauce, and fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oil to medium high in a medium sauté pan or wok and sauté garlic until light brown. Add eggs and lightly scramble until set.

Add meat and onions to the pan, folding constantly until the meat is half cooked, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add fresh rice noodles, reserved sauce, tomato, and basil. Toss to combine for about 3 to 5 minutes. Make sure the noodles are cooked until the edges are slightly crisp

(NOTE: If you are using dried rice noodles, cook the noodles according to the package directions and rinse under cold water before adding to the meat and onions.)

Sprinkle white pepper to combine well and adjust seasonings as necessary before serving.

NOTE: You can purchase Thai soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce at 99 Ranch Market in Kearny Mesa.

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