I absolutely love Pad Thai. It’s one of my favorite dishes. It gets expensive to eat out frequently, and the nearest Thai restaurant is not exactly right around the corner from us, so I decided to try and figure out how to make it at home. After doing some research, I went through a trial and error phase. The following recipe is the end result. It may not be 100% traditional, but my best friend and I think it’s delicious.
Before I get into the recipe, I want to share a bit of what I learned when I was trying to figure out how to make Pad Thai.
First, you do not boil the noodles. You soak them in water, at room temperature, until they are flexible but not too soft. The first time I made Pad Thai at home, I under-soaked my noodles, and they took a really long time to cook once I added them to the stir fry pan. I find that half an hour or so of soaking seems to be just right.
The key ingredient is tamarind. I had no idea what that was or where to find it. It turns out, some supermarkets carry it, but if yours doesn’t, it can be found at any Asian market. Apparently, it’s not the same thing used to make this dish in Thailand, but what you will be looking for is in powder form, and it comes in a packet.
Next, the Scotch Bonnet pepper flakes were my own personal touch. In coming up with my own recipe, I looked at several different recipes for Pad Thai and discovered that some contained ground dried chili pepper, others called for chili paste, and a few listed cayenne pepper as the spicy ingredient. We like our Pad Thai spicy, and I have dried Scotch Bonnet pepper flakes in the pantry, so that’s what I use.
Most of the recipes I looked at called for vegetable oil. I use canola oil and have not had any problems with it in the wok. From what I’ve read, olive oil is not a good choice for cooking in a wok, and I’ve never tried it, so I can’t say one way or the other.
For a more authentic dish, use palm sugar. I use regular, white granulated sugar, and my recipe uses significantly less than traditional Pad Thai recipes.
As far as the Thai rice noodles, you can find them in the Asian section of most supermarkets. If your grocer doesn’t carry them, you can find Thai rice noodles at any Asian market. All of the packages I’ve seen are exactly the same size, but look for the wider cut noodles.
I’ve made Pad Thai with tofu, and I’ve made it with shrimp. Half a package of extra firm tofu or half a pound of shrimp seem to be just enough. If you want more protein, you can use both. If you’d rather omit both, it won’t ruin this flavorful noodle dish.
The lime wedges and the peanuts are optional. I like to sprinkle peanuts onto the noodles just before serving. We both like the taste, and neither of us is allergic. You can squeeze the juice of a lime wedge onto your noodles, if you like. For me, the Mung bean sprouts and the scallions are a must, but many other recipes I looked at contained a few exotic-sounding ingredients that I didn’t feel like trying to find, and they didn’t seem necessary to me.
If you are used to the Pad Thai in U.S. restaurants, you might find these noodles to be a little dry. If this is the case, feel free to add more oil as you are cooking.
Finally, use a wok or a stir fry pan, and make sure you get it nice and hot. If you seem to have a lot of liquid in the pan, it is not hot enough. I find it easier to cook this meal in two separate batches, because the entire package of noodles can be heavy and difficult to stir all at once. Even so, a pasta spoon is necessary, in addtion to the wooden spoon I use to stir the ingredients.
3 cloves minced garlic
1 minced shallot
6 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried Scotch Bonnet flakes
2 tablespoons tamarind
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package Thai rice noodles
½ pound shrimp
2 cups Mung bean sprouts
3 chopped scallions
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
Chopped peanuts, to taste
Soak noodles at room temperature for about half an hour, then drain in colander.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in wok or stir fry pan. Saute onion and garlic until soft.
Meanwhile, stir together the remaining oil, fish sauce, tamarind, pepper flakes, and sugar in small bowl
If using, add the shrimp and/or tofu, and cook until shrimp is firm and pink and/or tofu is firm and starting to brown.
Add the noodles and the liquid mixture. Keep mixing everything around to keep the noodles from sticking to the pan.
Push noodles to one side of pan and scramble the eggs in the other side. Mix everything together.
When everything is well blended, and the noodles are heated through, add the bean sprouts and scallions. Keep mixing everything for a minute or two.
Serve immediately, with lime wedges and/or peanuts if desired.