A Recipe for Pad Thai
Serves 2-3. I frequently double this, see noodle note below:
- 8 oz rice noodles
- 12 oz fried tofu (you can also add cooked shrimp, chicken, or any other form of protein you want. I use 1/4 lb shrimp and 1 chicken leg/thigh)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 4-6 green onions, sliced into thin strips about 1 inch long
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts (the thick ones)
- 2 Tbsp diced garlic, chopped fine
- 3-4 Tbsp hua chai po wan (sweet preserved turnip -- หัวไชโป้วหวาน) (boiled for 2 min then chopped)
4-6 Tbsp vegetable oil (the more you use, the better the noodles turn out )
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 lime cut into wedges for garnish
- cayenne pepper to sprinkle on top
Plus the sauce, which is:
- 3 Tbsp palm, turbinado, brown, or other unrefined sugar (palm sugar is the traditional ingredient)
- 3 Tbsp tamarind concentrate or a prune-sized piece of tamarind paste dissolved in minimal water
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 4 Tbsp fish sauce or 3 Tbsp soy sauce to make it vegetarian
First thing is to soak the rice noodles. Use the thin, flat, dried ones. (NOTE: Usually they come in a 16 oz package. 8 oz is enough for 2-3 people, and the noodles cook best if you only cook 8 oz at a time, although since the prep is so much more work than the cooking it is easy to make several batches in a row.)
Soak the noodles for 10-20 minutes in warm water. If you do this when you start, you can just put the bowl with soaking noodles aside and they will be ready for cooking by the time the prep is finished.
Make the sauce in a bowl by mixing all the ingredients well. The sauce should be a nice balance between sweet (the sugar and tomato) and tangy (the tamarind and vinegar). If it is too sweet, add more tamarind or vinegar; if it is too tangy, add more sugar.
If you are using meat, brown it in a pan. I cut the chicken into pieces and cook until it starts to brown, then add the shrimp and cook until both are done. It doesn't really get cooked much more once added to the noodles later, so now's your chance.
Before starting the final cooking, ensure the noodles are soft (they will be flexible but still somewhat hard to the tooth). Drain in a colander.
Heat the oil in a wok or wide, deep frying pan over high heat. Fry the garlic till brown, then add the beaten egg and scramble. Throw in 1/4 the bean sprouts, the preserved turnip and half the green onions and fry for about 5 seconds, then add the noodles. Fry the noodles, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, or until done (they are done when they are soft and tender). Add the the tofu or meat in the last 30 seconds of cooking. Once the noodles are done, pour the sauce over the noodles, add the rest of the green onions, and stir till combined and the noodles are coated evenly, then remove from heat. The green onions should remain almost raw. Garnish with the cilantro, the bean sprouts, the peanuts, and the lime wedges. Sprinkle some cayenne pepper on top, to taste. If you want to serve it New Zealand style, put a little spoonful of brown sugar and a lime wedge on each plate.