Pad thai is one of my favourite dishes that I can rarely get enough of. While in Thailand, my husband and I would frequently walk down the street from where we were staying to get dishes upon dishes of homemade pad thai made before our very eyes. The ingredients would vary slightly depending on the lady cooking for us, but the result was always delicious. What’s more, the dishes usually cost around $1 to $2 CAD. It inspired me to try to make my own.
The other night, I finally tried my hand at making it. This recipe outlines how I made my pad thai and is simple to follow and straight forward, but does take some time. I’d recommend setting aside about 2 to 3 hours for prep and cooking time if it’s your first time making it – about 1-2 hours once you become more practiced.
Ingredients: (serves 5)
- 3/4 of a package of dried pad thai rice noodles (package will say “pad thai” on it)
- 2-1/2 tablespoons of dried tamarind powder or 3 tablespoons of pulp (add more if you like a touch more of a tangy, sour flavour in your pad thai)
- 1 cup boiling hot water
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
- 1 bunch of green onions (sometimes called scallions), chopped to 1 to 2 inches in length
- 1/2 a large carrot, finely sliced into strips or quarters
- 5 shallots, finely sliced in thin strips
- 1 package of firm tofu (or deep fried tofu), cut into inch-long strips
- 1/2 cup peanut oil
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can also use a full cup of either peanut or vegetable oil)
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped or crushed
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- pinch of salt
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt (from above) added
- 1 chicken breast, sliced
- 8 prawns, deveined and shelled
My process for making pad thai really breaks down into four main parts: prep, deep frying, making the sauce, and stir frying the rest of your ingredients. First the prep.
- Before you get started on anything else, remove your noodles from the package and soak in a large bowl of hot water. The noodles should be covered. They need to soak for at least 25 minutes. I let mine sit for around an hour or more while I prepared everything else.
- Prepare all your ingredients according to the list above
The next part of the recipe is deep frying some of the shallots and the tofu (picture below). If you picked up deep fried tofu, you can just deep fry the shallots. The outcome of this step is you’ll have shallot-infused oil to use for the rest of the recipe.
- If you’re using a wok, preheat it until it smokes on high heat and pour the oil in. Bring the oil to a near boil, but not boiling. Adjust the heat down so the oil doesn’t jump or boil. Throw in 1/3 of your sliced shallots. Let the shallots brown and get crispy, stirring them occasionally. Once they’re ready, scoop them out of the oil with a strainer or slotted spoon and place them to drain in a dish lined with a paper napkin.
- Place the tofu in the oil next. It should only be one layer deep for all the tofu strips to be immersed in oil. Turn them over occasionally until they’re a golden colour. Scoop them out with you strainer and place into a napkin lined dish or bowl to drain further. Repeat until you’ve deep fried all your tofu.
- (Optional) I poured all of the oil into a sauce bottle so I’d have better control of how much oil I used for the remainder of the recipe, but also to have for future use. You don’t need to do this, but do set it aside. You’ll need about 9 to 10 tablespoons of oil later.
Making the noodle sauce:
- Bring a cup of water to boil and put it in a measuring cup or bowl. Add the tamarind powder or pulp. If you are using pulp, you should work to break up the pulp and then cover the cup/bowl and let it steep for 5 minutes. You’ll then need to strain the mixture to get the pulpy fibres and any seeds out. I find the potency of the powder and pulp to be surprisingly similar, although I prefer the pulp.
- Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved completely.
- Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and Sriracha. Stir. Set the sauce aside for later.
Stir-fry and combining everything:
- Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil from your earlier shallot deep fry into your wok. Sauté the remaining shallots, garlic, and carrots until the shallots and garlic are slightly browned and carrots are softened.
- (Optional) In another pan, pour in 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of your deep fried shallot oil and heat it up on medium-high heat. Slowly pour in the lightly beaten eggs and keep moving the pan in a circular motion so the uncooked part of the mixture continually spills over across the hot pan. The eggs will gradually cook and fold over and get fluffy. Once most of the mixture has cooked through, take a wooden spoon and start breaking up the egg in chunks. Turn off the heat and cover the eggs.
- (Optional) If you’re adding shrimp or chicken breast, add them to the wok and lightly sauté them on medium heat until they’re just cooked. The shrimp will be pink and curl. The chicken will turn white – make sure to check that the chicken is cooked through. Remove the shrimp and/or chicken from the wok and set aside.
- Drain your soaking noodles. By this point, they should be relatively soft, pliable, and fully separated into individual strands.
- Back in the wok, add another 6 tablespoons of your shallot oil and throw in the noodles. Give them a few stirs in the wok and add the sauce from earlier (see pictures below, pre and post sauce added).
- Add the bean sprouts and green onion. Continue stirring to lightly cook the noodles, sprouts, and green onion.
- (Optional) Add the egg, shrimp, and/or chicken if you prepared it.
Serve your pad thai on a large platter or in a casserole dish. Set out the crunchy shallot slices, crushed peanuts, chopped cilantro, and lime on the side.