after trekking through thailand, i can safely say: there is a reason pad thai is so mainstream.i can also validate the rumors – it really is better over there. i was astounded by how fresh and light it tasted in thailand, although i attribute that primarily to the fact that it’s prepared that day and, in most cases, to order. i’m not sure i can say the same of our thai food joints…i’ve been meaning to share this recipe for pad thai for a while now (several months, actually, considering i learned this back in october!) – because i was shocked to learn how simple it is to create delicious pad thai. it comes together so quickly to create a deeply-layered flavor explosion: salty and sweet and spicy and rich.
after investing in a few key ingredients, this dish can easily become a weeknight staple.pad thai is comprised primarily of rice noodles, bathed in a peanut-y soy sauce. dried shrimp paste and tamarind juice add complexity to the sauce [both of those you should be able to find in your local asian grocer], while a squeeze of lime at the end brightens the dish.
the key to good pad thai is not overcooking the rice noodles – they should be light and not overly chewy or dense. the sauce shouldn’t feel like it’s weighing them down, but rather lifting them up!
A RECIPE FOR AUTHENTIC PAD THAI serves 1-2
(courtesy of chiang mai’s thai farm cooking school)
- 80 g rice noodles — about a handful, uncooked
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 2 tbsp tofu or chicken, cut into small pieces
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp pickled radish, chopped
- 1 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
- 1/3 cup ripe tamarind juice (or 2 tsp white vinegar mixed with 3 tbsp water)
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp fish sauce (can sub soy sauce)
- 1 tsp chopped scallion
- 1 tbsp dried shrimp paste
- pinch of chili powder
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1-2 cloves crushed garlic
- pinch of salt
- heat oil in a wok on medium heat. when hot, add tofu and fry until it becomes crunchy.
- turn heat to low. add garlic, radish, dried shrimp & chili powder. stir until fragrant.
- add tamarind juice or vinegar and noodles. turn heat up to medium.
- stir fry until noodles are soft, ~2 minutes.
- move the noodles to one side of the wok, making room to crack the egg. add egg and scramble gently with a fork to cook.
- add fish sauce, sugar, salt, peanuts, bean sprouts and scallions. bring heat to high.
- stir fry an additional 1-2 minutes, until thoroughly mixed.
- serve with lemon and garnish with extra scallions.