Pad Thai

The most famous Thai dish in America! Making a good Pad Thai takes time. There's a delicate dance with the noodles because they cook in three stages. First you soak them in warm water and they begin to absorb and soften. In the pan, they first get pan fried with all the ingredients. Be patient in this stage. Allow them to begin to yield and marry with the hot oil and other ingredients. Once they look soft enough to eat right out of pan but slightly al dente, add the sauce to finish the cooking. My family was among the first to introduce this dish to America nearly 50 years ago and the American version differs slightly from the native one. The super bright orange was accentuated with paprika instead of the traditional addition of chili paste to give it a slight tint. And we typically finish this dish with garlic chives vs. green onions. I always say Pad Thai is like pancakes. You'll burn a few before you get the knack for it.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr (includes soaking of rice stick noodles)
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

Pad Thai Sauce:

4 tablespoons (60 ml) Thai fish sauce

4 tablespoons (50 g) sugar 

3 tablespoons (45 ml) bottled tamarind paste 

1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lime juice 

1 tablespoon (15 ml) rice wine vinegar (unseasoned) 

1 tablespoon sweet paprika, for color (optional) 

2 teaspoons chili sauce, such as Sriracha 

Pad Thai:

3 to 4 cups medium-width rice sticks, soaked

Banana leaf, cut into circles, for plating (optional) 

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, such as canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil 

3 to 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 

1/2 cup (95 g) Thai-style baked tofu, sliced  

1 teaspoon dried shrimp 

1/2 cup (95 g) chicken, cut into thin strips, 1-inch lengths 

2 eggs 

4 teaspoons packaged salted turnip, minced 

8 shrimp, peeled and cleaned 

1 cup (240 g) bean sprouts 

1/4 cup (50 g) dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed 

3 to 4 garlic chives (or scallions), cut into 2-inch bias strips 

1 lime, cut for garnish 

Directions

  1. For the Pad Thai Sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, sugar, tamarind paste, lime juice, vinegar, paprika and chili sauce. Set aside.
  2. For the Pad Thai: Soak the noodles in enough warm water to cover for 1 hour.  
  3. If using, cut the banana leaf into round shapes using an overturned bowl. Place on the serving platter and hold for plating. 
  4. Heat a cast iron pan over high heat. Add the oil and coat the pan completely. When the pan starts to smoke, add the garlic and stir for 5 seconds. Add the tofu and dried shrimp and stir-fry until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and stir-fry until no longer pink, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  5. Push ingredients in the pan to one side and let the oil settle in the center of pan. Crack the eggs into the pan. Allow to set until half-cooked, about 30 seconds, then lightly scramble. Combine with the remaining cooked ingredients in pan, scraping the bits from the pan before they burn. Add 3 cups of the drained noodles and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Add the salted turnip and shrimp. Cook until both the chicken and shrimp are medium doneness, about 1 minute. Add the sauce mixture and fold together until all the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.   
  7. Place half of the bean sprouts, half of the crushed peanuts and the garlic chives (or green onions) in the center of noodles, and then spoon some noodles over them to cover and let steam for 30 seconds. If the pan seems dry, add a small amount of the noodle soaking water. Transfer to a serving plate with the banana leaf circle, and garnish with the remaining bean sprouts, peanuts and lime.