HOW TO MAKE PAD THAI AT HOME
I once treated a friend to Thai food not knowing this was her first time eating Thai cuisine. While looking over the menu, I suggested we order pad Thai. I was surprised when she asked, “What is pad Thai?” In that moment I realized not everyone was familiar with one of the most popular foods in the world. It is at that point I decided I needed to find an authentic pad Thai recipe I could make at home as good, if not better, than the restaurants.
Pad Thai, is a street-food stir-fried noodle dish. Made with rice noodles. The pad Thai sauce is made from a mixture of tamarind, palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and garlic. Other fresh ingredients such as tofu, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables are stir-fried in as the ingredients absorb the slightly sweet pad Thai sauce topped with bits of peanuts.
Over ten years ago before food blogs were a real thing, I discovered a mother-daughter duo who posted their Thai family recipes on a site called Joy’s Thai Food. Inspired by their authentic Pad Thai recipe, I made an adapted version rivaling the best restaurant versions I had grown to love and were accustomed to.
When searching Google for a real authentic Pad Thai recipe online, I discovered many of them called for ketchup instead of tamarind and palm sugar. This type of substitution was not acceptable to me because the flavor of the two was in such contrast to one another. Back then most pad Thai recipes called for ketchup. I think this was because many Asian ingredients were not commonly accessible unless you lived near an Asian grocery store. If you ever find a pad Thai recipe online calling for ketchup or omits tamarind, click away.
For the record, I did try those ketchup pad Thai recipes, and I don’t care what people tell you, they are gross. This includes Mark Bittman’s pad Thai recipe. For the love of good food, do not make pad Thai with ketchup. I beg you.
My pad Thai recipe quest would only be satisfied when I could prepare this dish at home as good as our local Thai restaurant. I’m happy to report to report I’ve done it.
When it comes down to pad Thai, it boils down to how good your pad Thai sauce recipe is. This recipe calls for tamarind concentrate and palm sugar which can be found at most Asian grocers or online. I know 99 Ranch carries it.
The easiest and best way to make pad Thai is to make the sauce in advance and use as little or much as you need. The recipe makes just over a half a cup of sauce. You can refrigerate it up to a month.
If you do refrigerate the sauce and find it hardened, just microwave it for 30 seconds to soften it up. It will be perfectly warm and usable.
To be successful in making the perfect pad Thai YOU MUST UNDERSTAND this is about the art of stir-fry. This isn’t pasta where you pour sauce over the noodles and mix it up. NO, it’s all about understanding the nuances of how to stir-fry noodles and vegetables. Please, pretty please…read through the instructions first to understand how to stir-fry correctly so you can experience how amazing this dish is. Don’t forget to Pin this recipe to save it to your Pinterest recipe box!
- Pad Thai Sauce
- ¼ cup tamarind juice concentrate
- ¼ cup palm sugar
- 2 Tbl fish sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Pad Thai Stir-Fry Ingredients
- 8 ounces dried rice stick noodles
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- ½ smallish-medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lb protein (thinly sliced chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or cubed tofu)
- 1 egg
- 1½ cups mung bean sprouts, divided in half
- 1 cup carrots, julienned (match sticks), divided in half
- 4 green onions (scallions) cut diagonal in ½ inch segments
- ¼ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup toasted peanuts, chopped
- Lime wedges
- To make pad Thai sauce, heat a small pan on medium low and add the tamarind concentrate, palm sugar, fish sauce, and garlic. Cook the sauce until the palm sugar has completely dissolved. At this point, you will want to carefully taste the sauce and tweek the sweetness or tangyness by adding a tiny bit more palm sugar or tamarind. Be careful, the sauce will be hot.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes before storing it in a jar or plastic container.
- Boil the rice noodles on high heat for 2 minutes then drain immediately, rinsing the noodles with cold water for just a few seconds. Noodles should be slightly firmer than al dente. Don’t worry, they will continue to soften and cook later when stir frying.
- Using kitchen shears, cut the noodle clump in half. This will make it a lot easier to stir-fry and eat.
- In a wok of large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high heat. Add to the pan the protein and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the protein and transfer to a plate or bowl.
- Return the pan to heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Allow the oil to heat up and add the onions and stir-fry (stir + fry) for one minute then add the garlic and cook for another minute, making sure to stir often enough so the garlic does not burn.
- Add the noodles to the pan and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Stir fry the noodles for two minutes. This will help the noodles soften a tiny bit more but more importantly will provide enough surface texture for the sauce to adhere to.
- Add 3-4 tablespoons of the pad Thai sauce continually stirring the noodles until they are coasted with sauce - about a minute.
- Add the protein back in and fry for an additional 2-3 minutes, adding more sauce if necessary. You don't want to noodles to be "wet." Instead you want to add a little bit at a time allowing the noodles and the other ingredients to soak in the sauce.
- Move the pad Thai over to one side of the pan. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the bare side then crack an egg over it. Scramble the egg with a wooden spoon and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add half the sprouts and half the carrots along with the scallions. Mix and stir-fry everything for 1 more minute, frying everything together.
- Test the firmness of the noodle. If the noodle is too firm, continue to stir-fry for an additional minute adding a spoonful of sauce if necessary.
- Remove pad Thai from heat and serve and garnish with remaining julienned carrots, spouts, cilantro, toasted peanuts, and a wedge of lime. Enjoy!
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
If you love Thai food, this Chicken Coconut Curry Soup recipe is the my most requested recipe among my friends in real life because I make this soup so often and share it with them.