My mom once remarked that she must have been Thai in another life because she loves their food and culture so much. If that was the case, I certainly was her daughter back then too, as Thai food is high up in my ranking, probably right after Mexican and Peruvian. This being the case, I have been in search of the perfect Pad Thai recipe, one that would give me the closest at-home-results to the stuff you get at your favorite Thai place (in my case it’s Bangkok Cuisine in Austin, TX).
So, I searched and searched and nothing. Then came the January Issue of Bon Appetit** and in it a special for Thai food, including Pad Thai. I couldn’t get my hands on tamarind paste the first time I tried the recipe and substituting it proved fatal. It is key to the final flavor of the dish. Last night I went for round two, since I now had the tamarind paste. With my own little tweaks (double the sauce, one extra egg, no radish, cilantro)…it was perfection, and I knew I had found my recipe.
PERFECT PAD THAI
Yield: 3-4 servings
- 8 ounces pad thai rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 6 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined (double on shrimp if you are not using tofu)
- 2 tablespoons 1×1/2×1/8″ slices pressed tofu
- 1.5 cups bean sprouts
- 2 teaspoons tamarind paste mixed with 5 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (the Thai version is called nam pla)
- 3 tablespoons simple syrup
- 8 chives, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 1/2 teaspoons ground dried Thai chiles (substitute with Mexican dry chiles de árbol if you don’t have Thai ones)
- 2 tablespoons crushed roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 2 lime wedges
- chopped cilantro leaves, to taste
- In a small bowl, mix the tamarind paste, simple syrup and fish sauce
- Heat water in a large pot and when warm, turn off heat and add noodles, making sure they are submerged. Let them soak until soft but not mushy, about 10 mins. Strain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Add eggs and cook for about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until shrimp and egg are almost cooked through, 2–3 minutes. Remember that over-cooked shrimp are rubbery, so don’t overdo it.
- Add the tofu if you are using it. Cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the noodles and cook for one minute and then add the tamarind paste mix. Mix and stir-fry until the noodles are well-coated and have absorbed the sauce, about one minute.
- Add the chives, chiles and 1/2 of the peanuts, mix well and serve.
- Sprinkle with the rest of the peanuts and the cilantro leaves. Sprinkle with lime before eating.
‘xcuse the photo quality. I got wrapped-up in the cooking I didn’t take any “steps” photos, and then I was so hungry I almost forgot to take the picture of the final result, so this is an iPhone one.
When I don’t have Thai chiles, I use Mexican dried chiles de árbol, which is what I did last night, about 1 and 1 and 1/2, with most seeds discarded.
I am a big fan of doing mise-en-place, getting all the stuff ready and chopped beforehand. In Thai food, this is key, as once you start cooking, things move fast. Hence my thing of mixing all the sauce ingredients ahead of time.
The magazine recipe called for sweet radish but I didn’t find any, so I skipped it. Loved the recipe as is, but of course will put it in if I ever find it to see what the changes are.
**You may have noticed, many of my posts are about stuff I cook from BA, most of the time with modifications. I try to cook at least one thing per month from the magazine.