Pad Thai is probably the best-known Thai dish, and its fame is well deserved, thanks to the tangy, subtle flavour that makes this dish so unique.
Funnily enough, although regarded nowadays as the Thai national dish, originally it is not from Thailand, but it was introduced in Thailand in the 1940’s (from Southern China or Vietnam, I’ve heard different versions).
Pad Thai owes its characteristic and absolutely delicious flavour to a sauce that the Thais made mixing Tamarind (or lime juice), sugar and fish sauce (although I’ve seen recipe that use soy sauce instead).
This combination brings four tastes (acidic from the tamarind or lime, sweet from the sugar, salty and Umami from the fish sauce) to the dish. I will be giving quantities but they are just guidelines: it will be your task to get the proportions right in order to ensure the correct balance that, in turn, will result in an extremely pleasant flavour for you and your guests.
Another important thing to consider is the texture of the noodles. First, for this dish you should be using flat rice noodles, and then cook it in the right way to assure that the right texture is achieved. The tricky thing about Pad Thai is that the noodles should be chewy but not too much and making them too soft will spoil the dish, whilst keeping them too hard will make it inedible.
Obviously this comes down to the way the noodles are cooked -or, better, not cooked.
Purists suggest that, rather than being boiled, the noodles should be soaked in cold water until they’re soft enough to wind easily around your finger.
After that, they should be cooked quickly in the pan with the other ingredients adding the sauce little by little; at the end the dish should look quite dry.
A quick note before describing the process: I have come across loads of different versions of Pad Thai, each ones using different ingredients. I have used here only the ones that are, in my opinion, the common denominator, but other things can be added (chilli, even if I don’t think this dish should be hot, ginger, but it might be overpowering, dried shrimp or shrimp paste, sweet chilli paste etc). Eggs do not appear on every single recipe you will find online but, for what I’ve seen, in Thailand they tend to use it , so I’ve added them Note: The Thais prefer duck egg, so use them if you can find them.
Also, many recipes suggest adding tofu, but since I am already using prawns and eggs, I think it is enough protein, so I have omitted it.
Lastly, normally the dish is finished with some coriander but unfortunately it is a flavour I dislike, so I have used flat leaf parsley instead.
200 g flat rice noodles (Sen Lek)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp.shallot, finely sliced
10 prawn tailes, deveined
200 g bean sprouts
1 duck egg, lightly beaten
Peanuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp peanuts, roughly chopped
A handful of coriander, roughly chopped
100 mlTamarind water or 2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp/ Palm Sugar
2 tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
150 ml water
- First, make the sauce: for the tamarind water, mix the tamarind paste with water (the rate will depend on the paste you are using; the one I normally buy requires 100ml water for 2 tsp. paste), then add the fish sauce and palm sugar and stir until dissolved; After this, add 100 ml water
- On medium heat, shallow fry the shallot, and, when soft add the garliccook for 1 minute (making sure it doesn’t burn!), then add the prawn tails; when they start cjhanging color (from greyish to red), add some sauce, turn the heat on, drain the noodles and add them to the pan
- Keep adding the sauce little by little, stirring the noodles
- When the noodles start softening up and look translucent, add half of the chopped peanuts and the bean sprouts:
- Keep stir-frying for a minute, adding liquid if it gets too dry, then push the noodles to one side, add a scant tbsp oil and crack the eggs on to it. When the eggs have set, cut into small chunks with a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in with the noodles
- To serve, decorate with lime slices, chopped coriander and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts