Pad Thai

Ah, pad Thai, that most stereotypically Thai dish – the one everyone’s heard of, the one you can always bank on being ok in a restaurant…

In Thailand, pad Thai is fast food – the equivalent of Maccas, but a few notches healthier than western junk food. It’s usually eaten as street food, not so much a sit-down restaurant meal as a plastic fork spearing noodles off a styrofoam tray kind of experience. And perhaps that’s part of its charm? That pad Thai can be so unashamedly unassuming, yet exactly what you know will hit the spot on a sweaty summer evening with an ice-cold beer 😛

You can eat pad Thai with any kind of noodles, and even Thais have been known to bastardize the dish with Maggi instant noodles…! But I prefer thicker noodles – linguine-thickness is the thinnest I’d be happy with, usually going for tagliatelle-thickness, and really fat noodles can be great. And, of course, you can dress your pad Thai up or down. I don’t see much point in gilding the lily, so I tend to keep mine nice and simple, celebrating the nature of Thai street food.

Here’s how to whip up an authentic pad Thai that’ll take you to the land of smiles in just minutes 🙂

Flavour: Salty and savoury

Serves: 2 as a main meal

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar – I use palm sugar or rapadura
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • juice of half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons unflavoured oil – I use sunflower
  • 200g rice noodles – any thickness will do, but I much prefer thicker noodles for my Pad thai
  • 100g firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch Asian green vegetable such as pak choi, choi sum, or gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
    • Amateur tip: chop Asian greens and sort into three batches according to thickness (stems will be much thicker than leaves) – this way you can add them to the wok in stages
  • 100g beansprouts
  • 4-6 garlic chives (or, if you can’t get them, 1 spring onion)
  • sprinkle of white pepper

To serve:

  • Crushed peanuts – sprinkle on top of pad Thai
  • Lime wedges – to garnish
  • Thin slices of cucumber – to garnish
  • Sprigs of mint and/or coriander – to garnish

Optional extras:

  • Snow peas or sugar snap peas (add along with beansprouts)
  • Shredded cabbage (add along with Asian greens)
  • Shredded carrot (add along with beansprouts)

Directions:

Amateur tip: make sure you have all your ingredients prepared, ready to go before you heat your wok. This preparation will enable you to keep up with the fast pace a good fried noodle dish demands in order to stay fresh and fried-tasting without going claggy and greasy.

  1. Mix tamarind paste, soy sauce, sugar and lime juice in a small bowl, and set aside
  2. Boil  small saucepan of water
  3. While water is coming to the boil, fry crumbled tofu in wok on high heat in 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil until golden
  4. Toss in garlic, and fry for 1 minute
  5. Toss in Asian green vegetables in three batches, starting with the thicker stems, and finishing with the outer leaves, stirring between each batch
  6. Put rice noodles in boiling water, and cook until softened but not cooked through – on the slightly-too-al-dente side is ideal – strain, and leave strainer over saucepan while you return to your tofu and vegetables
  7. Push tofu and vegetables to one side of the wok
  8. Tilt wok and add the second tablespoon of sunflower oil
  9. Toss noodles in the oil with chopsticks, turning to coat them thoroughly
  10. Pour tamarind, soy sauce, sugar and lime mixture into noodles, and stir with chopsticks to coat thoroughly
  11. Mix vegetables and tofu through noodles, and add the leftover water from the saucepan you cooked the noodles in (the starch from the rice noodles will act as a thickener for your sauce)
  12. Stir in beansprouts and garlic chives (or spring onions)
  13. Turn off heat and toss noodles one more time – they should now be cooked through, but still al dente and not sticking together
  14. Plate up noodles, and serve with crushed peanuts, sliced cucumber, and lime wedges

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