This is a very straightforward and authentic recipe for pad thai, one of my most loved dishes. It plays on different flavors simultaneously- sour, sweet, salty, and umami. Mr.S and I frequently get carry-out thai on our busy nights; I have a feeling we’ll be cutting back now that I can easily make this at home. I admit I am a bit of a pad thai snob; this recipe definitely seals the deal.
The prep is more time consuming than the actual cooking process.
Pad Thai Sauce:
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup tamarind pulp
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 tsp chili powder
10-12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, rough chopped
1/4 cup salted radish
1/3 cup dried tofu, cut into matchstick size
2 stalks scallion, chopped
1 heaping cup bean sprouts
thin rice noodles, half of a 14-oz package
orange slice, garnish
1. Noodles: In a large bowl, cover noodles with hot water, stir, and let soak until noodles are pliable but not too soft. Time will vary depending on how hot your water is. (generally about 15-20 minutes) Drain the noodles and set aside.
2. Sauce: Stir together fish sauce, tamarind, sugar and chili powder. Microwave for 20 seconds to gently dissolve the sugar. You can adjust the amount of each ingredient to your liking- for more sour, sweet, or salty.
3. In your wok: on high heat, add 3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil until smoking hot. Stir-fry the tofu until edges start to turn golden brown. Add the noodles and half of the reserved sauce. At this point, stir vigorously until all the noodles are covered in the sauce. Fry until noodles are soft. (Taste to make sure) Push the noodles to one side of the wok, and add 1 Tbsp oil to the empty half of the wok. Crack both eggs here and let set for about 15 seconds, and start to scramble. Push toward the noodles. Add the shrimp, scallions, radish, half of the peanuts, half of the sprouts, and 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.
4. Plate: Heap the noodles onto your plate. On the side of the noodles, and not on top, garnish with the rest of the peanuts and raw sprouts, and a slice of orange.
For the best flavor, make this from scratch. You can buy a box of tamarind, in which the tamarind are still in their pods. Crack open the hard shells, and remove the hard fibrous “spines” from the sticky meat inside. In a shallow bowl, place the shelled tamarind and cover with hot water. In an hour of two, with clean hands, mush the tamarind to make a paste, while removing and discarding the seeds. What remains will be a pile of brown mush, with the consistency of applesauce. Strain this through a fine mesh sieve to remove any fibrous pieces, and you will be left with wonderfully fresh tangy tamarind paste/pulp. This can be frozen for later use.