authentic pad thai

Pad Thai with shrimp

I am always on the lookout for a good Pad Thai recipe and I think I’ve finally found “the one”. In general, I am not a fan of eating at Thai restaurants here in North America simply because I feel most of the Thai food isn’t “authentic” and the flavors too watered down or catered to the tastes of Westerners. Case in point, many Pad Thai versions I’ve seen/eaten here tend to be too soggy or saucy (eww). I’ve also had a version in Montreal where the sauce was red – yes, red. As such, I usually like to eat Thai food back home in Singapore. That being said, I’ve never been to Thailand so I can’t really tell if the Thai food in Singapore is authentic as well, but we are in South-East Asia so I think the authenticity is a lot closer than say, North America. I have had Thai people cook for me before and their food was delish. One of my favorites is a spicy chicken feet and dried flower noodle soup dish. I really need to find out the name of that dish.

I have posted a Pad Thai recipe in the past but after reading through The High Heeled Gourmet’s long but extremely informative explanation on what Pad Thai really is, I deleted my previous Pad Thai post and will only have this one and only Pad Thai recipe on my blog. This is it. The hubs and I both love this version. Since the hubs isn’t into the dried prawn flavor, I omitted the dried prawns in this recipe and it still turned out fantastic. A few tips, have all your ingredients prepared, cook the Pad Thai in small batches and only when you are ready to eat. Hot and piping Pad Thai is the best.

I would highly suggest reading The High Heeled Gourmet’s insight into Thai food. I also love her green curry recipe and now cook my green curry using her method.

Pad Thai

(taken from The High Heeled Gourmet; click here)

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate (or make your own using tamarind pulp and water)
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (try and get a good brand like Three Crabs – the lighter colored the fish sauce, the better it is)

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients and heat on stove till sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

For the noodles:

  • 1/4 chopped shallots, 1 tablespoon for each portion (if you can’t find shallots, red onions will do, but the flavor will not be the same)
  • 1/4 cup chopped salted preserved radish/turnip, 1 tablespoon for each portion (you can find this at most Asian grocers, picture here; make sure you buy the salted, not sweet one; they also come in large pieces or pre-chopped)
  • 1/2 cup pressed tofu (or the firmest tofu you can get) cut into a thin pieces (1/4” x 1/4” x 1/2”), 2 tablespoons for each portion
  • 1/4 cup salted small dried shrimps, soaked in water until softened, 1 tablespoon for each portion (you can omit this, especially if you are making a vegetarian Pad Thai)
  • Dried or fresh thin rice noodles, about 1-2 cups per portion. If noodles are dried, soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes. Be careful not to oversoak them, you do not want the noodles to be mushy. One packet from the Asian grocer usually makes about 6-8 portions, depending on the portion size.
  • An egg for each portion
  • Fresh/thawed shrimp, cleaned, peeled, de-veined (about 6-8 per portion); you can also use other meats like chicken/pork/beef. I would season the sliced meat with a little fish sauce and white pepper.
  • Bean sprouts (1-2 cups per portion; half to be fried into Pad Thai, half to be served fresh with cooked Pad Thai)
  • Garlic chives (Cut the bottom half inch off each chive and discard. Then cut the next 3-4” from the bottom from each, and save them to serve fresh with the finished noodles (the bottom bit is more pungent). Then cut the flat leaves into 1-1/2” long pieces. You will need about 1/4 cup for each portion.)

For the final touch:

  • Crushed peanuts, 1 full tablespoon for each serving
  • Wedges of lime
  • Granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon for each serving
  • Dried crushed chili pepper,  as much or as little as you want

Method:

  1. Soak rice noodles (if dried variety) in cold water. Noodles need to be soaked for at least 2 hours.
  2. Make the sauce: Combine all ingredients and heat on medium low heat on stove until sugar is fully dissolved.
  3. To fry the noodles, start by heating about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, add in the chopped shallots, preserved turnip/radish, salted dried shrimps (if using) and tofu sticks. Fry until tofu is lightly brown.
  4. Add in the noodles (one small handful per portion) and 2-3 tablespoons of sauce. Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. If using meat, add in the meat and fry till meat is ¾ cooked.
  6. Move noodles to a corner of the pan/wok and add in about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  7. Add in an egg and beat it lightly with your cooking utensil. Cook egg thoroughly and then mix it together with the noodles.
  8. Add in a small handful of beansprouts and the top leafy part of the chives. Stir for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  9. Turn off heat and serve hot.
  10. Garnish with more fresh beansprouts, bottom stems of chives and roasted ground peanuts. Serve with a small amount of sugar, dried chili flakes and a lime wedge.

Pad Thai – an overhead view

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