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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. They first get pan-fried with all the ingredients. Be patient at 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 the 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 time)
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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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) unseasoned rice wine vinegar 

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 large 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 lengths on a bias 

1 lime, cut for garnish 


  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 large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the oil and coat the skillet completely. When the skillet starts to smoke, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 seconds. Add the tofu and dried shrimp and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  5. Push ingredients in the skillet to one side and let the oil settle in the center of skillet. Crack the eggs into the oil and let set until half-cooked, about 30 seconds, then lightly scramble. Combine with the remaining cooked ingredients in the skillet, scraping the bits from the bottom before they burn. Add 3 cups of the drained noodles and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve the noodle soaking water.
  6. Add the salted turnip and shrimp. Cook until both the chicken and shrimp are at medium doneness, about 1 minute. Add the sauce 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 scallions) in the center of noodles, and then spoon some noodles over them to cover and let steam for 30 seconds. If the skillet 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.