Easily the most recognised dish of Thai cuisine (in the West) is pad Thai. A dish that consists of rice noodles, a protein and the essential five flavours of Thai cuisine it is easy to see why these noodles are extremely popular not only in Thailand but across the Globe.
There are many variations in pad Thai recipes, but if you ever see one that calls for ketchup or tomato paste, run, run away as fast as you can. (This ingredient is not native to Thai cuisine.) The reason that some recipes call for ketchup is really as a substitute for the traditional tamarind paste that is used in Thailand. The tamarind adds that tartness (one of the 5 Thai flavours present in nearly every dish) to the noodles, but because it can be difficult to find people use the ketchup substitute. Now, I’m not an expert but I personally feel that ketchup does not belong in pad Thai. It will add a slight tartness but, really it adds not only tomatoey tones but also a sweetness which is already covered in most recipes. Since tamarind sauce is not always available to me I usually omit it and make up for that flavour elsewhere.
Another ingredient that you see in some recipes and not others is oyster sauce. When I was beginning to learn to make pad Thai I came across a video of a cooking school in Thailand where the instructor used it in her noodles. I’ve tested the recipe both with and without the oyster sauce and have to say that I prefer the noodles with the oyster sauce.
Below is how I’m currently making my pad Thai, of course you are free to adjust and play with the ingredients and amounts until you get it to your liking. Enjoy !
- 300 grams or 10.6 oz of dried rice stick noodles
- 300 grams or 10.6 oz of raw shrimp (devein them)
- 2 medium eggs, placed in a bowl and lightly beaten
- 150 grams or 5.3 oz of firm tofu, cut into small pieces
- 4 whole cloves of garlic, finely minced
- one fresh red Thai chile, finely sliced (substitute with 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
- one large handful of chopped chives
- one large handful fresh chopped cilantro leaves
- 4 Tablespoons of fish sauce
- 1.5 Tablespoon soy sauce
- one Tablespoon of oyster sauce
- 3 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
- one teaspoon of granulated sugar (I've used either brown or white, what ever you have)
- 3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
- bean sprouts (optional), lime wedges, crushed roasted peanuts, thinly sliced fresh chili, freshly chopped chives and cilantro leaves, and hot sauce, if desired
- Have all of the ingredients ready to use because this recipe moves quickly.
- Boil the water and soak the rice stick noodles according to the package ingredients. Once ready, drain them and run through cold water quickly then set them aside. In a small bowl combine the chives, cilantro leaves, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice, and the granulated sugar. Give the ingredients a good stir, taste and if necessary adjust any of these seasonings. If satisfied set the bowl aside and proceed.
- Heat the oil in a very large pan (large enough to fit all of the noodles), once hot add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Now add the shrimp and cook just until they begin to turn pink -- it should take about 5 minutes or so, keep a close eye on them. Now pour half of the sauce into the pan, stir, then add the tofu bits and cook for a minute. Push the ingredients to one side of the pan then pour in the lightly beaten eggs and allow to cook while you keep stirring to scramble them. Carefully combine all of the pan ingredients with the eggs, then add the cooked/boiled noodles to the pan. Pour the remaining sauce over the noodles and gently mix the noodles in the pan with the sauce and the other ingredients. Continue to toss/stir until everything is well combined and the sauce has been absorbed by the noodles and they are warmed through. Taste and if desired adjust seasoning.
- With each serving top the noodles with some of the crushed roasted peanuts, a slice of the lime and any or all of the suggested topping ingredients. Serve straightaway. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.