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This article has been published 03/27/2019 (932 days ago), the information it contains may therefore no longer be up to date.
If you think of Thai cuisine – something I do with alarming regularity – the dish you think of first is probably Pad Thai. It is as it should be; pad Thai is probably the introduction of most North Americans to Thai cuisine, authentic street food with accessible flavors.
There are noodles, there are prawns (or chicken or pork or tofu), there are peanuts and eggs. It’s a little tangy, a little sweet. It can also be spicy, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s basically all you want on a single plate, topped with a lime drizzle or two.
In Thailand, it started out as street food that was popular on stalls from Hat Yai to Mae Sai. In recent years, however, it has also been adopted in Thai restaurants, although it remains as popular as ever on the streets.
The Pad Thai you will find in Thailand is similar to the North American version, with a few notable differences. It’s likely to be sweeter than what we typically like in a starter; Thais like their food to be sweet. It will also likely be spicier than the neutral North American version. And if it’s made with shrimp, the shrimp may still have their heads attached.
When I was in an Asian market a few weeks ago, buying some ingredients to make this dish, a woman asked me why I was buying headless shrimp rather than unheaded shrimp. âBecause I cook for other people,â I say.
Despite my penchant for pad thai, I had never made one before. And so I set out to find a recipe that matched the perfect combination of tastes and textures I had in mind.
The quest was actually more difficult than I thought. Some recipes contained ketchup. Some were way too involved, with more ingredients than you would want to muster in a week of cooking, let alone a single dish commonly made by street vendors. Others had so few ingredients that the taste couldn’t approach real Pad Thai. So I took a bit of one recipe, a trait from another and maybe a technique from a third to create my own version.
But first, a word about a few ingredients: Pad Thai has a subtle tangy undertone. This comes mainly from tamarind, which you can find in international markets. I bought it as a paste concentrate, but you can also have it already mixed with water, sold either on the shelf or frozen.
Tamarind pulp is also available dried and vacuum packed. You can replenish it yourself with water if you want to put in a lot of effort.
The noodles used for pad thai are also available in international markets, although some well-stocked grocery stores with a strong international selection may also offer them. They should be flat rice noodles, the width of linguine. These are not boiled: just soften them by soaking them in lukewarm water for several minutes.
And while you’re at the international store, you might as well look for sweet or pickled radish. This brings a sweet and salty flavor to the dish, much like sweet pickles. It is by no means necessary, but it is inexpensive and will give you an authentic Thai flavor.
Pad Thai is stir-fry, which means it all falls into place quickly. It is therefore imperative to have all of your ingredients on hand before you start.
Mine probably took less than 15 minutes to cook. There were just enough eggs, just enough tamarind, just enough shrimp, just enough noodles, and maybe not enough garlic.
But he was good. It was awfully good. I suspect it would be well received from Kanchanaburi all the way to Ubon Ratchathani.
– St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Yield: 2 servings
113 g (4 oz.) Dried flat rice noodles (or 8 ounces fresh)
113 g (4 oz.) Extra-firm tofu
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
5 ml (1 teaspoon) of tamarind paste (see note)
30 ml (2 tbsp.) Fish sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp.) Brown sugar
50 ml (3 1/2 tbsp.) Oil, preferably peanut oil (do not use olive oil), divided
113 g (1/4 lb) peeled and deveined shrimp or chicken or a combination of the two
15 ml (1 tbsp.) Sweet radish, finely chopped, optional (see note)
2 large eggs
3 spring onions, sliced ââinto 2-inch (5-cm) lengths
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) bean sprouts, plus more for garnish, if desired
45 ml (3 tbsp.) Roasted peanuts, crushed or finely chopped, plus more for garnish
Crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper, optional
Remarks: Tamarind paste is available in Asian and international markets. You can also find tamarind pulp, frozen or not. Sweet radish is also available in Asian and international markets.
As with all stir-fries, it is essential that all ingredients are prepared and ready before you start cooking.
1. Soak noodles in lukewarm water until tender, about 10 minutes. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to remove excess moisture.
2. Combine tamarind paste, fish sauce, brown sugar and 60 ml (1/4 cup) of water. If water is listed as the first ingredient in tamarind pulp, use 1/4 cup of the pulp and leave 1/4 cup of water aside. Stir until completely dissolved. Put aside. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes.
3. Place a wok or large skillet over high heat and add 15 ml (1 tbsp) of oil. SautÃ© shrimp and / or chicken until cooked through and remove with a skimmer. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok or pan, heat up and add the tofu cubes, sliced ââred onion and garlic. SautÃ© until the tofu is golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the noodles and the reserved sauce made from tamarind paste and fish sauce. Add the minced sweet radish, if using. SautÃ© until noodles can be easily cut, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce sticks to the pan, add 30 ml (2 tbsp.) Of water at a time and stir to soften it and incorporate it into the sauce.
5. Push the mixture to one side of the wok or pan. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the open side of the wok or pan, if necessary. Crack the eggs into the open side of the wok or pan and cook undisturbed until half-cooked. Then mix with other ingredients in the wok or pan until scrambled.
6. Return the shrimp and / or chicken to the pan and stir to combine well. Add the sliced ââspring onions, bean sprouts and the 45 ml (3 tbsp) peanuts. Cook for a few minutes while stirring. Serve with a lime wedge. On the side of the plate, serve with more chopped peanuts, bean sprouts and small piles of crushed chili or cayenne pepper, if desired.
Per serving: 1,259 calories, 54 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 277 g cholesterol, 105 g protein, 85 g carbohydrates, 17 g sugar, 15 g fiber, 1,752 g sodium, 741 g of calcium
Adapted from recipes by Cooking with Poo, Seonkyoung Longest and Palin Chongchitnant
– St. Louis Post-Dispatch