My roommate and I used to frequent a favorite Thai restaurant when we lived up North, and one of my favorite dishes to order when we went there was Pad Thai. I have been wanting to try making it at home for several months now. I finally picked up some of the wide rice noodles and tamarind paste at my favorite Asian food market, and then I went in search of a recipe. I found two that looked promising, so I combined different aspects of each one to come up with the final product. The flavor was really authentic and it reminded me of the one I used to order out. Though Pad Thai is supposed to have a little kick to it, I found this version to be a little too spicy for me. I mean, it was so “melt your face hot” that I almost couldn’t finish my bowl. Almost. I think next time I would go a little easier on the cayenne pepper, but otherwise I really liked this recipe. As with many Asian dishes or stir fries, it’s a good idea to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go, because once you start cooking, things move quickly.
2 Tablespoons tamarind paste
3/4 cup water (boiling)
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
3 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (the original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon – yowza)
4 Tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
8 ounces dried rice noodles
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined (or chicken cut into thin strips)
3 cloves garlic , minced
1 medium shallot , minced
6 Tablespoons chopped, unsalted, roasted peanuts
3 cups bean sprouts
5 medium scallions , green parts only, sliced thinly
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
In a large bowl, cover noodles with hot tap water, stir, and let soak until they are pliable but not too soft. Time will vary depending on how hot your water is, but generally it’s about 15-20 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.
Dissolve tamarind paste in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes. If your tamarind paste contains seeds, push the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fibers and extract as much pulp as possible. Discard the seeds and fibers. If your tamarind paste does not contain seeds, proceed to the next step.
Beat eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small bowl; set aside.
Stir together the tamarind liquid, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil and set aside.
Mince the garlic cloves and shallot, chop the peanuts, slice the scallions, and wash and dry the cilantro leaves. Set all of these prepared ingredients aside so that they’ll be ready when you need them.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the noodles and half of the reserved sauce. At this point, stir vigorously until all the noodles are covered in the sauce, and fry for about two minutes until they are soft. Push the noodles to one side of the wok. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the empty half of the wok. Add the eggs, let set for about 15 seconds, and then scramble them. Push the eggs toward the noodles. Add the shrimp, garlic, scallions, half of the peanuts, and half of the sprouts to the empty side of the wok. After about one minute, or until the garlic is fragrant, add the remainder of the sauce to the empty side of the wok. Stir everything together, and fry for another 2 minutes until shrimp are cooked through.
To serve, heap the noodles onto plates, and serve the rest of the peanuts, raw sprouts, cilantro, and lime on the side.