Pad Thai is truly Thailand in a bowl as it beautifully captures the very essence of Thai cuisine. A tantalizing bowl of flat rice noodles simmered in sweet spicy and tangy pad Thai sauce with crushed peanuts sprinkle all over it, dash of fish sauce and lots of fresh mung bean sprouts to make it a healthy, wholesome and complete meal.
If you love stir fried noodles, then you need this authentic pad Thai recipe in your life. Its that good.
Pad Thai is such a versatile dish that it effortlessly accepts any kind of protein in it, from fried tofu, shrimps, chicken, each time it emerges as a winner. A truly one pot meal for weeknight dinners, for potluck or can be jazzed up for special occasions too.
This recipe of pad Thai has been inspired from our long vacation in Thailand (do read our travelogues on Thailand here) where literally almost everyday we survived on multi version of this noodle bowl, called pad Thai. No wonder that Pad / Phad Thai is rated as one of the world’s most delicious food. That’s the beauty of stir fried noodles, pad Thai may have its lineage tracing back to Chinese Kway Teow, but with a strong culinary individuality of its own. The use of tamarind, peanuts, and fish sauce all delineates the very essence of Thai cuisine. Salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter it hits all the right notes of flavour profile in the mouth.
While in Thailand, we have tried so many rich and varied Thai food, from street food to gourmet, we have relished everything that came across us but one dish which featured every time wherever we went is the Pad Thai – which claims to be Thailand’s national dish and so rightfully it is ! Pad Thai originates to minimize the influence of Chinese culture over Thai and one step forward in this direction was to use rice noodles instead of wheat noodles, a staple of Chinese cuisine in 30’s. A dish that is seeped into nationalism, is rightfully Pad Thai.
Thailand like other coastal countries boast of fresh sea foods which makes them an essential element in Thai cuisine, whether it is spicy Tom kha goong or a generous spread of fresh kalamari rings (squid) scattered all over the Pad Thai, with the hint of kaffir lime leaves which has the power to hypnotize you even from a distance.
Do check this ultimate Thai dish – grilled squid in Thai green sauce.
You can make any version of Pad Thai, but you will need an authentic Pad Thai sauce, and believe me homemade sauces are always the best. A basic four ingredient pad Thai sauce includes tamarind pulp, fish sauce, fresh cloves of garlic and palm sugar. Sorry, no substitutions will work out here.
Before heading straight to the kitchen, go to your grocery store and buy fresh packet of bean sprouts, believe me they are essential, without which you will not be able to enjoy it as much.
- Palm sugar : ⅓ cup
- Tamarind juice, extracted : ½ cup
- Shallot (finely chopped) : 1
- Sweet radish (chopped / optional) : ¼ cup
- Fresh cloves of garlic, minced : 2 tbsp
- Fish sauce / Nam Pla : ⅓ cup
- Water : ¼ cup
- Rice noodles : 1 box
- Scallions (chopped) : 4
- Garlic minced : 2 tbsp
- Egg (beaten) : 1
- Peanuts (coarsely crushed) : ½ cup
- Chilli flakes : 2-3 tbsp or as per your taste
- Bean sprouts : 2 cups
- Choice of cubed Tofu, or shrimps or squids or chicken : 1½ cup (sliced thinly for chicken)
- Sesame oil : 4 tbsp divided
- Lime wedges : 2
- Cilantro to garnish
- Heat a pan and add palm sugar, extracted tamarind juice (if you are using tamarind pulp, use 2-3 tbsp), garlic cloves, shallots, sweet radish if using, fish sauce and water. Bring everything to a rolling boil and then lower the heat till the sugar dissolves and it thickens a bit.
- At this point, you will want to check the sweetness and tanginess and accordingly add sugar or tamarind pulp. It should be a right balance of sweet and sour.
- Keep separate.
- Soak rice noodles as per package directions.
- In a wok, heat 2 tbsp sesame oil.
- Add the beaten egg and scramble softly, add the tofu or chicken or squids or shrimps now, if you are using.
- Stir fry them until cooked through.
- Add the remaining oil and add the drained out noodles.
- Stir fry the noodles for 4-7 minutes until firm but tender.
- Add scallions, peanuts and Pad Thai sauce.
- Stir fry for couple of minutes or until combined.
- Sprinkle chilli flakes all over it and mix well.
- Spread the fresh bean sprouts and mix well.
- Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
- Serve the hot Pad Thai as it is or enjoy with some soup or curry.