Citizens, Pad Thai or ผัดไทยกุ้งสด has become the most clichéd dish at a Thai restaurant – and it deserves so much more respect than it gets!
Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food and at casual local eateries in Thailand. It is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce (nampla น้ำปลา), dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar, and served with lime wedges and often chopped roast peanuts.
It may also contain other vegetables such as bean sprouts, garlic chives, coriander leaves, pickled radishes or turnips (hua chaipo หัวไชโป๊), and raw banana flowers. It may also contain fresh shrimp, crab, squid, chicken or other proteins. Vegetarian versions may substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce and omit the shrimp.
Thai political legend Plaek Phibunsongkhram promoted pad Thai in his campaign to establish Thai nationalism.
Thailand was a main exporter of rice, and the government hoped to increase the amount available for export.
As prime minister of Thailand between 1938 to 1944 and from 1948 to 1957, Phibun hoped to Westernize the country. In 1939, he supported the change of name of the country from Siam to Thailand.
At the time, wheat noodles were very popular in Thailand, but Plaek Phibunsongkhram sought to eliminate Chinese influence. His government promoted rice noodles and helped to establish the identity of Thailand. As a result, a new noodle named sen chan was created.
Pad Thai was made popular in Thailand during World War II. Pad Thai has since become one of Thailand’s national dishes.
Citizens, the following recipe is for REAL authentic Pad Thai – not the syrupy sweet, ketchup-based drek foisted off in most restaurants.
Accept no substitutes!!!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
8 ounces Thai rice noodles
¼ cup tamarind paste
¼ cup water
4 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 ounces super-compressed fried tofu – This can be found at most Asian grocers in a plastic bag, not in water. Some might be brown from soy sauce, but some white ones are also available. Pick whatever you like.
6 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts
3 tablespoons fish sauce (TFD recommends 3 Crabs brand)
2 tablespoons palm sugar, or more to taste (TFD note: you can use regular sugar, but this is more authentic)
2 teaspoons Thai hot sauce (alternatively, try Sriracha brand, or use Chinese Chili Paste with Garlic – TFD likes Fu Chi brand)
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ cup peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, cut into thin slices
8 large shrimp, shelled and deveined (5 oz)
Commercially-ground white pepper
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
red bell pepper strips
fresh coriander leaves
red pepper flakes
Soak noodles in plenty of cold water for at least 1 hour. Noodles should be somewhat flexible and solid, not completely expanded and soft. When in doubt, undersoak. You can always add more water in the pan, but you can’t take it out.
Combine tamarind paste with ¼ cup warm water in a small bowl and let soak for at least 15 minutes.
Slice the chicken into ¼-inch strips. If you find it difficult to cut thinly through fresh meat, leave it in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden slightly and then slice. Reserve.
Julienne tofu and cut into 1 inch long matchsticks. Reserve. Blend or process peanuts into coarse meal. Reserve.
Return to your reserved tamarind paste in its water. Mash it and transfer the mud-like mixture to a strainer set into a bowl. Mash and push with a spoon, forcing liquid to strain into the bowl.
Scrape off the juice that clings to the underside of the strainer. You will have about 5 tbsp of tamarind juice. Discard the solids left in the strainer.
Add to it the fish sauce, palm sugar, hot sauce and lime juice. Beat to thoroughly mix and reserve.
Use a wok. If you do not have a wok, any big pot will do. Heat it up on high heat and put some oil in the wok.
Fry the peanuts until toasted and remove them from the wok.
Add shallot, garlic and tofu and stir them until they start to brown.
The noodles should be flexible but not expanded at this point. Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Stir quickly to keep things from sticking.
Add ⅔ of the combined fish sauce mixture. Stir. The heat should remain high. If your wok is not hot enough, you will see a lot of juice in the wok at this point. Turn up the heat, if that is the case.
Make room for the egg by pushing all noodles to the side of the wok. Crack the egg onto the wok and scramble it until it is almost all cooked. Fold the egg into the noodles. The noodles should be soft and chewy at this stage. Pull a strand out and taste.
If the noodles are too hard (not cooked), add a little bit of water. When you get the right taste, add shrimp and chicken and stir fry until just cooked through. Sprinkle white pepper around to taste.
The noodles should be soft, dry and very tangled.
Add about ⅔ of the reserved ground peanuts and stir. Add about ⅔ of the bean sprouts, all the green onion pieces and the remaining tamarind juice mixture. Stir-fry for 30 seconds and take off heat.
Transfer noodles to a serving dish and sprinkle with red pepper flakes to taste. Top with the rest of the ground peanuts, the rest of the sprouts, some strips of red pepper and fresh coriander leaves.
Add lime wedges on the side of the dish (one or more per diner) and serve immediately.
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