Pad Thai is one of those dishes by which it is convenient to critique a Thai restaurant. If they make bad pad thai, then you’re probably doomed. I guess the simple solution to bad pad thai would just be to use Victor Sodsook’s “Classic Thai Noodles” from his wonderful book, True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking The ingredients are not all that hard to come by (rice noodles and fish sauce I am sure can be found in the ethnic isles of most grocery stores), and the methods are not difficult (peel, chop, mash, soak, heat, stir-fry). I would say this pad thai is better than some I’ve had in restaurants. I thought, if anything, the noodles were less saucy than I expected them to be, but perhaps that is more authentic…I don’t know. Adam thought that the vinegar taste was perhaps a little strong, but I didn’t notice it. Overall, we were very pleased with the result and would definitely make again. I made very few changes the recipe, mostly eliminating certain ingredients I didn’t have and adding extra ones. Feel free to substitute ingredients – let me know what works!
Pad Thai (Classic Thai Noodles), slightly adapted from True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking by Victor Sodsook
Yields 4 generous servings
8 oz. dried rice-stick noodles, or other thin, flat noodle
1/4 lb medium shrimp (I didn’t add these, but I assume would be wonderful)
1/4 lb chicken
4 Tbs. fish sauce
6 Tbs. white vinegar
6 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. ketchup
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, mashed
2 Tbs. small dried shrimp (optional) (I didn’t have these)
8 oz. tofu, diced into cubes
2 Tbs. salted shredded radish (I didn’t have this)
2 eggs (optional – but awesome!)
1 1/2 tsp. Thai chili powder (I used regular chili powder with a few dashes of cayenne – worked fine)
4 scallions, chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces (white and green parts)
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, finely chopped or crushed (I used cashews because that’s what I had on hand – they were fine, I would use peanuts next time to get the full traditional pad thai flavor)
1. Warm some water in a large pot (no need to boil or anything – just warm it). Soak the noodles for about 15 minutes to soften.
2. While the noodles soak, prepare your stir fry ingredients. If using shrimp, peel them, but leave the tails ons. Slice the chicken into thin strips. Chop the scallions, mash the garlic. Dice the tofu. Measure out your chili powder. Have everything ready to go once you start cooking!
3. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ketchup. Mix until the sugar dissolves.
4. Drain the noodles and set them aside in a colander.
5. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and stir fry for a few seconds. Add the shrimp, chicken, and dried shrimp (or whatever fish/meat product you use). Stir fry until the chicken and shrimp lose their raw color, about 1 minute.
6. Add the sauce mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles and gently mix them into the sauce. Stir fry until the noodles absorb the sauce, about 2 minutes.
7. Add the tofu and salted radish (if using).
8. Make a little well in the center of the noodles, and crack the eggs into it. Lightly beat the yolks, then fold the eggs under the noodles (or fold the noodles over the eggs). Cook for 15 seconds without stirring. Then start stir frying again until everything is well blended.
7. Add the chili powder and scallions and cook until crisp-tender, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the bean sprouts and peanuts and mix.
8. Serve immediately with more bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, lime wedges, and chili sauce. I threw on some mint leaves. We actually ate leftovers the night-after, and they tasted fine heated in the microwave.