Well I’ll be honest with you, this one took me a few tries.
Of course I was not really familiar with Pad Thai before I made it, unlike my hubby who loves this dish more than any other food in the world. So I had to do some research and found a great place in Denver that makes wonderful Pad Thai, so wonderful my hubby actually liked it. I figured that was a good starting point before I go making my own Pad Thai!
Actually making Pad Thai takes a bit of practice in my opinion. The first time I tried it, I had no idea what to expect and it ended up being a bit of a disaster with very chewy noodles (I can say now I actually understand how to work with rice noodles!). However, the second try went a lot smoother since I was more familiar with the ingredients and I remembered the process so I got myself organized better.
I will be honest with you, Pad Thai is easy to make once all the ingredients are ready. The two things that tripped me up the first time was making tamarind purée (I ended up using a sieve because I wasn’t getting anywhere with just my hands) and the rice noodles (which I had the wrong size of and therefore didn’t soak them long enough so all the cooking in the world wouldn’t make they soft). When you get down to the actual cooking, it’s over in a flash. Before you know it you are done and looking at your pan like, “wait, that was it? Really?”
If you really want to make Pad Thai from scratch, I highly recommend reading up on Pad Thai over at SheSimmers. This is the most detailed tutorial I have ever seen (thank you Sherri for recommending it!) and it comes in 5 parts:
Part One: The Pan
Part Two: The Noodles
Part Three: Notable Ingredients
Part Four: Sauce and Seasonings
Part Five: The Recipe
Below I have outlined the recipe from SheSimmers (with a few changes I made). Note: several of these ingredients you will need to find at your local Asian market (for those of you in Denver I hit the one on the corner of Alameda and Federal).
Also prepare yourself to multi-task, i.e. stir noodles while stirring something else in the same pan. Don’t worry, it’s all explained below.
Pad Thai may not be the easiest thing to make the first time around, but with a little practice, boy oh boy is it an awesome recipe to have in your back pocket.
So tell me, do you think you will try to make Pad Thai??
- ½ cup plain vegetable oil
- 4 oz 2-3 millimeters wide dried rice noodles (soaked in room temp water for 20 to 30 minutes and drained)
- ⅔ cup Pad Thai sauce (ingredients and instructions below)
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste in oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
- ¼ finely chopped preserved radishes
- ¼ cup small dried shrimp (shell-on)
- ¾ cup firm tofu, chopped into bit sized pieces
- ½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 large eggs, cracked into a bowl
- 6-7 stalks of Chinese chives, blades cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- Chopped dry-roasted peanuts, dried red pepper flakes, sugar, fresh limes for garnish
- ¾ cup fish sauce
- 1½ cups palm sugar, finely chopped
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 14 oz block of tamarinds (which you will turn into ⅔ cup tamarind pulp, you can also buy tamarind pulp but it’s cheaper to make it yourself)
- First start by preparing the tamarind pulp. Soak the tamarind block in 14 oz of lukewarm water for about 20-25 minutes. Then you can either push the tamarind pulp through a sieve, leaving the veins, membranes, and seeds behind or you can squeeze it through your hands which is both an odd sensation and required more patience than I had at the time… The 14 oz block will leave you with just the right amount of tamarind pulp to prepare the sauce.
- To prepare the sauce, put all four ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugars have dissolved, which won’t take you long. Remember not to reduce or thicken the sauce or else you will end up with less than you need. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove sauce from heat and allow to cool.
- In a bowl, mix together the chopped chives and bean sprouts. Set aside.
- Set over medium-high heat a flat pan (I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan), no smaller than 14 inches wide. Add half of the vegetable oil to the pan when it’s hot.
- Immediately add the noodles to the hot oil, followed by the Pad Thai sauce and the shrimp paste in oil. Stir constantly (this is much easier done with two spatulas or spoons or whatever utensils you have on hand to mix everything around easily). Keep the noodles moving all the time (here’s where the multitasking begins!).
- After about 30-40 seconds, the noodles should have softened up considerably. At this point, push them to one side and add the remaining vegetable oil to the empty side of the pan.
- Add the garlic, shallot, preserved radishes, dried shrimp, tofu, and shrimp. This is what SheSimmers calls “the critical point of the process.” Do what you can to a) keep the noodles moving almost constantly to keep them from burning or forming excessive crust at the bottom, b) get the shrimp to cook about ½ way through, and c) keep all the small bits of stuff in the pan from burning.
- Once the shrimp is turning a bit opaque on both sides and all the small bits are getting brown, make a well in the middle and add the eggs.
- Break and scramble the eggs with your spatulas; let them cook undisturbed on one side before flipping and breaking them into smaller pieces. Don’t forget to watch the other members of the pan the whole time, especially the noodles.
- By the time the eggs are cooked the shrimp should be fully cooked, the noodles should be soft and chewy, the sauce should be completely absorbed into the noodles, and the little bits have crisped up and caramelized.
- Turn off the heat immediately. Add two handfuls of chive-bean sprout mixture to the pan and give it all a quick but gentle stir. Your Pad Thai is now done! You can serve it immediately, or let it cool for 8-10 minutes in the pan.
- Top with 2-3 tablespoons of chopped peanuts per serving. Season to taste individually with extra fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and dried red pepper flakes as necessary.