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Authentic Pad Thai

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Serves 6 as a snack or first course; 4 as a main course

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 111

This classic stir-fry of rice noodles, tofu, dried shrimp, and colorful garnishes is a street-food staple in Thailand, and surprisingly easy to make at home. If you can’t find tamarind, palm sugar, Thai basil, or Thai chiles, you can still make a delicious version of this dish with the substitutions listed below.

Extras: Watch Corinne Trang demonstrate how to make Pad Thai and view a slideshow to learn more about Essential Thai Ingredients.

  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup tamarind concentrate (or substitute fresh lime juice)
  • 1/3 cup palm sugar (or substitute agave nectar)
  • 5 Tbs. grapeseed or vegetable oil; more as needed
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup small dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1 5-oz. cake pressed tofu, thinly sliced
  • 4 large eggs
  • 10 oz. medium (1/4-inch wide) rice sticks (pad thai noodles), soaked in warm water until pliable (at least 20 minutes) and drained
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or canned lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts, rinsed, root ends trimmed (if you like)
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil or cilantro, freshly torn
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced diagonally
  • 3 fresh red Thai chiles (or other small hot red chiles), seeded and thinly sliced, or Sriracha to taste
  • 1 medium lime, cut into 6 to 8 wedges

In a medium bowl, whisk the fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, and palm sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a large wok, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over high heat until shimmering hot. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 15 seconds. Add the dried shrimp and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible, and set aside. Add the tofu to the wok and stirfry until heated through and golden in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl of shrimp and set aside.

Return the wok to high heat and add 1 Tbs.of the oil. Crack the eggs into the wok and scramble gently to break the yolks, making sure not to overmix so as to retain some yellow and white parts; cook until just set, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. If any egg residue remains in the wok, wipe it clean.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in the wok over high heat. Add the noodles, broth, and fish sauce mixture. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the noodles have completely absorbed the liquid and are sizzling, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the dried shrimp and tofu,toss a few times, and divide among plates or bowls. Garnish each serving with some scrambled egg, mung bean sprouts, basil, peanuts, scallions, and chiles. Serve hot with the lime wedges on the side for squeezing over the noodles

Variations

Substitute 36 small fresh peeled and deveined shrimp for the dried shrimp, stir-frying them until opaque, about 1 minute.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 480; Fat (g): fat g 20; Fat Calories (kcal): 180; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 3; Protein (g): protein g 14; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 63; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 11; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1530; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 135; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Colin Clark

Came out perfect for me. I have made this a few times and think I get better at it each time. Ingredients are key. The tamarind I used was not over powering. Same with the fish sauce. The best version I made was also using good palm sugar. I also used Thai basil last time around and not cilantro which I love. Worth finding the right ingredients. A keeper for me.

This is an excellent recipe and easy to prepare. So many pad Thai recipes don't measure up but this one delivers rich flavors like the pad Thai at the best Thai restaurants. Unless they just prefer blander food (not judging, just saying), the people who said the tamarind or fish sauce was too strong might have an ingredient problem. Some brands of tamarind concentrate (like Tamicon from India) are super concentrated and would need to be diluted. Making it from scratch (soaking a dried block in warm water) or using the Thai sour soup base product off the shelf, you will have a somewhat soupy diluted paste that is just right. I also think it's best with a high quality fish sauce, preferably first press and Vietnamese. It only costs a few dollars more for a big bottle and makes a big difference (Three Crabs brand is widely available). The cheap fish sauce has a heavier, saltier taste.

As one reviewer said, I, too, would reduce the amount of Tamarind Paste/Concentrate. It was waaay to intense for my family. I might consider trying this recipe again someday, but not any time soon.

Really disappointing. It calls for far too much tamarind concentrate - 1/3 of a cup! - which completely overwhelms the subtle flavors of the other ingredients. I would not recommend this. Period.

I have been trying to make really good pad thai at home for years. I tried several recipes but never found one that I was really happy with. This recipe is head and shoulders above all the others I have made. One tip for making the recipe a bit more streamlined: when you buy a brick of tamarind paste (about 14-16oz), boil the whole brick on the stove in about 2 1/2 cups of water for about 10 minutes mashing it up every so often to break it up; put it through a food mill to extract the paste and remove the seeds; then freeze the paste in ice cube trays. When you go to make your pad thai you can take the tamarind paste straight from the freezer and mash it into the pad thai sauce. I absolutely adore this recipe. Thank you Connie Trang and Fine Cooking!

Pad Thai only good when fresh. For this much work for two, we will eat at our neighborhood inexpensive Thai restaurant.

I made this last night and the result was less than satisfactory. I believe there was just too much fish sauce - the pad thai came out almost sour tasting. Next time I will half the fish sauce and I hope it will be much better.

I made this after seeing the video, and it is the first time that I have been happy with my pad thai. I made only half the recipe and used lime juice instead of tamarind. I really liked it, and will make it again.

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