I’ve made a couple attempts at Pad Thai with different recipes I’ve encountered online. I can’t say previous attempts were failures, but while enjoyable enough, they just didn’t turn out quite right. This time around, I compared and contrasted a few recipes (including the one I had used the last time), and put together a list of ingredients based on what had worked and what hadn’t during my last attempts. I was quite pleased with the result:
8 oz rice noodles
1/2 cup crushed peanuts (or more, to taste)
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3-5 green onions, snipped or sliced
8 oz or 1 lb. of shellfish, meat, faux crab, tofu, etc.
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
Soak the rice noodles in warm water for about 30 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
At the same time, in a small non-stick skillet, toast the crushed peanuts dry on a low heat, stirring every so often.
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Snip the roots off the white ends of the green onions. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs (most recently my recipe for African Peanut Soup), I like to use kitchen scissors for snipping herbs and spring onions. Using scissors will make it very easy to separate the whites from the greens in this recipe. Just snip the onions, starting at the white end, into the saucepan. When you get to the green part of the onions, simply move to a bowl and snip the remainder of the onion to reserve the greens for later.
Saute the white snips of the onion with the minced garlic for a minute or two. Add your meat, fish, etc. and saute until cooked. I used an 8oz package of faux crab, chunk style (I don’t like how the flake style falls apart), and so did not have to cook it long, just to heat through.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce: lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind and sriracha. Mix until brown sugar is dissolved. Add the drained noodles to the pan; stir fry for a minute or two, then add the sauce. Reduce heat to low.
Mix about half of the toasted peanuts in with the noodles. Reserve the other half in a small bowl and set aside. Use the small skillet to fry the eggs (no need to wash first). I like to mix the eggs with a little extra fish sauce before scrambling. I used 6 eggs because I only used 8 oz of fish, but you can use fewer eggs if you’re using a larger amount of meat or fish. I also added a touch of additional vegetable oil to the pan before scrambling. Stir the eggs in with the noodles once they are scrambled.
Once your stir-fry is heated through, garnish with the reserved peanuts and green onions, and fresh cilantro if you have some on hand (I didn’t this last time and it was perfectly tasty without). Quarter your limes and serve with lime wedges to be squeezed over the noodles before eating.
I didn’t have terribly high hopes for this recipe since it is quite a complex dish and it comes from a cuisine tradition that I have otherwise found difficult to reproduce with great authenticity.
I must say, however, I was quite surprised with how this recipe turned out. It looked like Pad Thai I’ve had in restaurants, and it was extremely tasty. I found myself going back for more time and again throughout the day, eating much more of it than I had intended (sorry, diet!). Pad Thai itself varies from restaurant to restaurant, and I haven’t had a restaurant version terribly recently for comparison, but I found this recipe so delicious that I frankly did not care how close it was in authenticity to my favorite restaurants. I suspect I will be making this dish again very soon!