I never really order Pad Thai when I go out to Thai restaurants. In fact, I’m a staunch supporter of the Drunken Noodle and Thai Basil dishes for the complex and intense flavors that I feel often get lost in the peanutty madness of over-Americanized Pad Thais. However, as I was browsing the web, I came across this recipe that really sparked my interest b/c of all the color and texture in the photos.
I was also surprised to read on about how most restaurant Pad Thais use ketchup b/c it is supposed to be more suitable to American tastes. This was confirmed by my friends Fred & Julia who are currently taking an awesome around the world trip which recently including cooking classes in Thailand. Instead, an authentic Pad Thai is made with a sauce of tamarind, fish sauce, garlic, and palm sugar. What a complex array a flavors I have been missing out on!
So I went ahead and gave this Pad Thai a try! Substituted tamarind paste for the tamarind juice concentrate b/c that was all I could find digging around in the cacophony of the Asian market. I also added a lil bit of spice for extra kick. The result was a delicately sweet/sour/salty flavor accented with just a sprinkling of crunchy roasted peanuts. It definitely converted me to being a Pad Thai lover!
My favorite part, as is with most of my favorite dishes, was the contrasting flavors and variety of texture presented by the sweet/salty sauce, fresh greens & sprouts, and al dente noodles acting as sauce ambassador, distributing the Pad Thai flavor throughout. This authentic Pad Thai was a lighter, milder flavor than my other Thai favorites, but a welcome surprise to my palate after all these years of undeservedly shunning this lovely dish.
A few notes:
- You can make a bunch of the sauce at once and save it in the fridge to quickly & easily satisfy Pad Thai craving attacks
- Be careful not to overcook your noodles. You want that nice springy, bouncy texture here!
- Stirfry one serving at a time so you can get the right amount of heat & flavor distribution
Pad Thai Sauce
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup palm sugar
- 1.5 TBL brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 1/3 block of tamarind paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 2-3 dried red chilis (or 1 TB chili paste)
Pad Thai Noodle
- 1 package of flat rice noodles (I used pho noodles)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 red onion
- 2-4 cups mung bean sprouts
- 1 bunch fresh basil (thai, sweet, whatever. I love all basil equally!)
- 2 whole carrots
- 1 bunch green onion/scallion
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 lb chicken breast (Can also do shrimp, pork, beef)
- 1/2 block firm tofu
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 lime
1. Make the sauce. Place the sauce ingredients all in a small pot and heat it up on medium low. Cook & stir til the palm sugar has dissolved and the tamarind is mostly dissolved, around 15 minutes. This will definitely smell strong from all the fish sauce, so open some windows!
2. While waiting for the sauce to cook, prep your ingredients and lay them out on a large plate.
– Mince all the garlic
– Very thinly slice the red onion
– Cut the carrots into matchsticks
– chop the green onions in about 1/2 inch pieces
– roughly chop the cliantro
– thinly slice the chicken breast
– Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes
– Roughly chop/crush the roasted peanuts
.3. Boil some water to cook the noodles to al dente – 4 to 5 min only. Its ok if they are a little underdone.
4. Check the sauce, it should be kind of syrupy like this:
Take it off the heat and let it cool. Pour in a glass container for keeping after you are done using it to make the pad thai.
4. Heat up a wok/nonstick pan and add some olive oil to stir fry the chicken. Meat is done when it is no longer pink. About 5 min. Dump out onto a plate.
5. Do the same to the tofu and set aside. You can spend the time to cook this like I do here, but I was lazy and just lightly cooked it for about 2 min.
5. In the same pan, heat up another 1/2 TB oil and add the garlic and red onions. Stir fry til garlic gets golden, the add the noodles for 1 serving (about 1 cup) and stir fry for 1 min.
6. Add the pad thai sauce into the pan and continue stir frying to distribute. Add more sauce as needed to evenly coat the noodles. Add back the cooked chicken (about 1/4 cup) and continue cooking and adding more sauce as needed.
7. Move everything to the side and crack and egg in the pan. Scramble it.
8. Add some sprouts, carrots, green onions and stir everything together cooking about another minute.
9. Pour out onto a plate, add more fresh cilantro, basil, carrots and garnish with a lime and crushed roasted peanuts. Repeat for the rest of your servings.
10. When you are ready to eat, mix everythign together and add a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!