Pad Thai

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As far as I’m concerned, Pad Thai is the true test of any Thai restaurant. These delicious stir-fry rice noodles are synonymous with Thai cuisine and are arguably the most well-known Thai dish, globally. 

Given that I am uber in love with this dish, I spent hours upon hours…upon hours (!) perfecting this recipe. Anyone can stir-fry vegetables, but the hallmark of this dish is the sauce that the noodles and vegetables are coated in. The perfect Pad Thai sauce is a symphony of sweet, sour and salty, and has the perfect amount of acidity. It’s getting that balance that is the most challenging of things.  

As with any recipe I emulate, I poured over copious amounts of recipes and videos and analysed, in great detail, the quantity of ingredients that Thai street vendors use while creating this dish and finally…finally (!) came up with a recipe that is as true to the Pad Thai that is found in my favourite Thai restaurant!  

This recipe seriously delivers the perfect, restaurant-style authentic Pad Thai and is yours for the cooking! So go to it and seriously ‘wow’ your family and friends with this delish Pad Thai!

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This dish is super easy to make if you have all the ingredients chopped and ready to go before you start cooking. The wok will be quite hot and there is little time for chopping during the process of making this so take the time to set everything aside beforehand.

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Palm sugar can be found in the international aisle of your local grocery shop or in Asian stores such as Sunny Food Mart, T&T Supermarket, and Oceans Fresh Food Market, to name a few. The palm sugar is shaped in little discs but they will dissolve when added to boiling water.

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Word of advice: don’t sniff this. Just use it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Fish sauce is essential to making the sauce for the Pad Thai, so you’ll have to use it, but you don’t have to sniff it! 😉

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There are loads of different types of tamarind pastes and sauces. You’ll want to use the light coloured concentrate that is used for Thai cooking verses the thick viscous darker concentrate typically used in Indian cooking. There is definitely a difference in intensity and overall flavour, so make sure to use the light coloured paste.

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The finished sauce may look lighter than this depending on the colour of your soya sauce and the colour of the tamarind (even the little coloured concentrates have varying colours/hues). The sauce should be a bit thick and viscous after it is cooked. You won’t use all the sauce when you first mix the noodles and vegetables together. This recipe makes a bit more sauce than you’ll need initially since when the Pad Thai sits it will start to absorb all of the sauce.  For leftovers, you’ll want to return it to a pan, add more sauce and saute it for a few seconds to revive it. 

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The rice sticks should be about 3-4 mm or so in thickness. Specialty Asian stores will give you a variety of these rice stick noodles from 1 mm to 10 mm. You’ll want to choose something in between that (similar to the thickness of fettuccine pasta).

pad thai (18)Soak the noodles in warm water until they are al dente or almost fully cooked. You’ll be adding the noodles to the wok afterwards with the rest of the ingredients so you don’t want them to overcook in the wok when the sauce is added.

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You’ll want to use a large wok to ensure that all the ingredients will cook well and you can add the noodles later without it being too cramped.

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Traditionally, the vegetables and protein are progressively cooked in the same wok by pushing aside the already cooked protein on one side of the wok, leaving the other hot part of the pan to cook the next ingredient.  After the tofu is cooked, you can push the tofu to the side of the pan and start to cook the chicken or you can simply remove the tofu into a small bowl so it remains crispy then add the tofu back in after the chicken and shrimp are cooked. I often remove the tofu until after to keep the tofu crispy, but it’s not necessary.

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Here you’ll notice that I did not remove the tofu after it was cooked. I cooked the tofu, push it to the side of the wok then I cooked the chicken and pushed that to the side of the wok and finally, I cooked the shrimp before moving on to the egg and other ingredients.

pad thai (12) pad thai (13)pad thai (15)Finally, you’ll garnish with peanuts to add to the authenticity of the dish and lime wedges which not just aesthetically pleasing, but are used to drizzle over the noodles for much-needed acidity. 

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Pad Thai

6 ounces (3 discs)     palm sugar
4 tablespoons (60 ml)     tamarind concentrate/paste
2 tablespoons (30 ml)     fish sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml)     water
2 tablespoons (30 ml)     soy sauce

8 oz (1/2 lb)     rice stick noodles (about 3-4 mm thickness)
1/4 cup     canola oil
1/2 cup (approx. 2″ x 2″ x 3″ large cube)     extra firm tofu, chopped into chunks
1 tablespoon (about 3 cloves)     fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon     fresh green chillies, chopped
1 small     chicken breast piece, sliced into small pieces (slice on bias for a tender piece of chicken)
10-12     shrimps, uncooked and de-veined
1     egg
1/2 cup     carrots, julienned
1 tablespoon     red chili sauce (like Sriracha or Sambal Oelek)
1/2 cup     sugar snap peas, cut into pieces (slice on a bias)
1/2 cup     bean sprouts
1/3 cup (about 3 sticks)     green onion or garlic chives
2 tablespoon     cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoon     toasted peanuts, chopped
1     lime, cut into wedges

Prepare the Sauce:  Combine the above four ingredients on medium heat until the sugar melts and the mixture boils for a few seconds. The palm sugar will start to dissolve slowly so stir frequently to ensure that all the little chunks are dissolved. Add the soy sauce and set aside to thicken.

Prepare the Noodles: Soften the noodles in a large bowl of warm water for about 10-12 minutes or until it is almost softened right through (keep it al dente or it will overcook on the stove when you go to add the noodles to the mixture).

Heat oil in a large wok and add the tofu. Add a pinch of salt to season the tofu. Once the tofu is golden brown, add the garlic and chilies and fry for about a minute to coax out the flavour of the garlic, being careful not to burn it. Remove the tofu mixture into a small bowl while you cook the chicken. Add the chicken and cook through before adding shrimp. Add another pinch of salt to season the protein. Return the tofu to the wok with the cooked chicken and shrimp.

Push the mixture to one side of the wok and add the egg. Let it sizzle for a few seconds before scrambling it. Add the carrots and cook for a few seconds. Add the softened noodles and a bit of water (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup to soften the noodles, if needed).

Once the noodles are softened, add about half of the prepared sauce. Toss to coat then taste, and add more sauce if needed (the recipe produces more sauce than is needed initially as the rest is leftovers since the noodles will really absorb all the sauce as it sits).  Cook the mixture for about a minute or two. Add the red chili sauce and mix. Add the bean sprouts, snap peas, chives/green onions and cilantro and cook for 10 seconds before removing from heat.

Taste and add more salt if needed. Top with peanuts and serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!

Yield: 4 servings

RECIPES OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS: Perfectly Poached Eggs and Fluffy French Toast and Super Easy Strawberry Sorbet and Coconut and Date Cream Pie and Slow Cooker Veal Marengo and Jalapeno Corn Fritters and Spicy Date Chutney and Watermelon Mint Cooler and Gulab Jamun

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