Pad Thai, until recently, was something I never considered making at home. The seemingly long ingredient list, coupled with my fear of not being able to recreate the dish I’m used to, kept me from cooking it for a long time. However, when I was browsing through the cookbook my friend Andrew got me for my birthday and found a recipe for Pad Thai, I knew it was only a matter of time before I tackled it at home. Last weekend, I told Eric that we couldn’t put it off any longer. After a trip to the Asian market (along with a couple texts to our friends Katy and Juli) and a small amount of our Saturday afternoon, we had a delicious dinner that we didn’t need to go out for.
Pad Thai is actually quite simple to make. All the prep work is done while the noodles are soaking, and the cooking process moves pretty quickly once it starts. That’s why it’s so important with this recipe to have everything in place before you start cooking. As far as flavor goes, we were blown away. The noodles, which can sometimes be sticky, were perfectly tender. The salty, spicy sauce was light and flavorful and just coated the noodles. The soft eggs, crunchy peanuts and crisp green onions all add texture to the final product. I’ll come right out and say that I changed the authenticity of this dish by substituting chicken for shrimp. If you prefer the shrimp version, simply substitute 12 ounces of peeled and deveined shrimp in place of the chicken.
- YIELD: 4 servings
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate*
⅔ cup hot water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
8 ounces dried rice noodles about ⅛-inch wide
¼ teaspoon salt
2 chicken breasts, 12-16 ounces total
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
6 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
3 cups (6 ounces) bean sprouts
5 green onions, green parts only, sliced thin on a sharp bias
Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
Tamarind concentrate can be found in Asian grocery stores. If you are unable to find it, substitute ⅓ cup of lime juice and ⅓ cup of water in place of the tamarind concentrate and light brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar. Do not serve this version with lime wedges.
In a small bowl, dissolve tamarind concentrate in hot water. Stir in fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne and 2 tablespoons of oil and set aside.
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until softened and pliable but not completely tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Whisk together eggs and ⅛ teaspoon of salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and cut into bite-size pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until just beginning to smoke. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Off heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to skillet and swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallot and return pan to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until light golden brown. Add eggs and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until scrambled, about 20 seconds. Add noodles and toss to combine. Pour the tamarind mixture over the noodles and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce.
Add ¼ cup of peanuts, bean sprouts, chicken and all but ¼ cup of green onions to the noodles. Continue tossing until well combined and noodles are tender, 2-3 minutes. If noodles are not yet tender, add 2 tablespoons of water to skillet and continue cooking.
Transfer to serving dishes and sprinkle with remaining green onions and peanuts. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.