Trail Chef: Backcountry Pad Thai

Bring spicy takeout flavor to camp with this gourmet meal.

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I’m curious: On a backpacking trip, just how many minutes per day do you spend talking about food? Specifically, the foods you can’t have, but suddenly can’t wait to eat: ice cream, cheeseburgers, pizza, Asian takeout?

Too many to count? I thought so. Something about all that fresh air kicks my salivary glands into high gear. But here’s a little secret I’ve picked up from Backpacker’s finest foodies: You don’t have to wait ’til the trailhead. Here’s how to feast in style on Pad Thai right in camp.

Spicy Pad Thai with Chicken and Vegetables

Serves 3. Recipe by Brendan Spiegel.

8-ounce package rice noodles

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 lime

1 carrot

1 cup shelled peanuts

2 cloves garlic

6-ounce can bean sprouts

7-ounce chicken breast pouch

1 tablespoon olive oil

At home

Mix soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar; add red pepper and transfer to a spillproof container. Drain bean sprouts and transfer to a separate spillproof container. Place oil in a third spillproof container. Crush peanuts into pieces with the bottom of a bowl or mug and place in a zip-top bag.

In camp

Cut lime in half. Squeeze the juice from one half into the soy sauce mixture and stir. Peel and dice carrot and garlic. Boil water and cook rice noodles for three to five minutes, or until soft; drain and set aside. Saute the garlic and carrot in olive oil for two minutes, until garlic starts to brown. Return noodles to the pot, then add chicken, about 3/4 of the peanuts, bean sprouts, and soy sauce mixture. Cook for two minutes, until everything is hot. Sprinkle peanuts on top. Cut remaining lime half into wedges and squeeze over noodles.

All those ingredients too fancy for your taste? Never fear: Check our our Thai Food section in the November issue for a dirtbag version of Pad Thai featuring ramen noodles, chicken, peanuts, and Asian sesame dressing.

—Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan