Despite our love of Thai food here in the U.S. there is a curious lack of information about its ingredients and preparation. I think that this in part stems from our fear of the unknown. Indeed, shopping in an Asian grocery store can feel like being in a foreign country. However, if you locate a friendly grocery store and ask for some help in finding the ingredients, you’ll be well on your way.
I’ve been waiting for some time now to “come across” an authentic pad thai recipe. I think I have finally found my definitive source in Kasma Loha-unchit, a Thai native and cooking teacher. Despite a laundry list of unfamiliar ingredients, pad thai isn’t as daunting to make as it appears. After all, it’s a simple stir-fried noodle dish that is common “street food” in Thailand.
- 1/2 lb. dried or 1 lb. fresh thin rice noodles (gkuay dtiow or ban pho in Vietnamese)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nahm bplah)
- 3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
- 2 tablespoons palm or coconut sugar
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/3 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied
- 3/4 cup firm pressed tofu, cut into thin strips about an inch long, half an inch wide and a quarter inch thick
- 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute half a medium sized onion)
- 1/4 cup small dried shrimp
- 1/4 cup chopped sweetened salted radish
- 1-2 teaspoons ground dried red chilies
- 3 eggs, scrambled
- 1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts, and more to garnish
- 1 cup garlic chives, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long pieces
- 2/3 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
- 4 green onions, sliced (optional)
- cilantro, a few sprigs
- 1 lime, cut into small wedges
Soak the rice noodles in cool or lukewarm water until the noodles are limp but still firm to the touch. Dry noodles will take much longer than fresh, from 40 minutes to an hour. When the noodles have softened, drain and set aside.
Make the sauce while the noodles are soaking. Combine fish sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar in a small bowl. Stir well until the sugar dissolves. Adjust flavors to desired taste of salty, sour, and sweet, and set aside.
Heat a large wok over high heat until it is smoking hot. Add 2 teaspoons of oil and quickly stir fry the shrimp until it turn pink and is almost cooked through. Sprinkle lightly with some fish sauce and remove from the wok.
Swirl in 3 tablespoons of peanut oil to coat the wok surface and wait 20 to 30 seconds for it to heat. Add the tofu, frying 1 to 2 minutes until golden. Add garlic and stir fry with the tofu for 15 to 20 seconds. Follow with the sliced shallots and cook another 15 seconds. Then add the dried shrimp, sweetened salted radish, and ground dried chillies. Stir and heat through a few seconds.
Add the noodles and toss well with the ingredients in the wok. Stir fry 1 to 2 minutes, and when most of the noodles have changed texture and softened, push them to one side of the wok. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the cleared area and add eggs. When the eggs have set, cut into small chunks with the spatula and toss them in with the noodles.
Add the sauce. Stir well to evenly coat noodles. If the noodles are still too firm, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water over them to help cook. Adjust flavors by adding more fish sauce or tamarind juice; if the noodles are not sweet enough, sprinkle in a small amount of granulated sugar. Toss in bean sprouts and the garlic chives. Sprinkle with half the chopped peanuts and return the shrimp to the wok. Stir until the garlic chives are partially wilted.
Transfer to a serving platter or onto individual sized serving plates. Garnish with the remaining bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, green onions, cilantro, and lime wedges. Squeeze lime juice over each portion before eating.
Serves 4 as a one dish lunch. Adapted from Kasma Loha-unchit.
Other Thai Favorites
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What’s oishii? “Oishii” (pronounced “oy she”) is the Japanese word for delicious. I love sharing great recipes I discover from popular restaurants, cookbooks, food magazines (Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, etc.), tv shows, friends, family, and other blogs. I also develop my own. Please contact me if there is a recipe you would like the test kitchen to consider: firstname.lastname@example.org
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