Pad Thai is a popular Thai dish which tastes best when bought from a street stall and shovelled into your mouth with chopsticks.
Recently, after a heated discussion with friends about what officially goes into a Pad Thai, I created a mess of prawns, noodles, peanuts and lime that satisfied taste buds but was certainly not traditional.
So, after pouring over old travel diaries and much Googling this has what I discovered:
Noodles were introduced to Thailand by the Chinese and became popular after WWII when the Thai government tried to boost the economy by helping people produce noodles and start noodle shops.
The Thai style developed from their love of mixing hot, sour, sweet and salty flavours together. A basic Pad Thai incorporates each of these flavours plus noodles. So you could swap granulated sugar for palm sugar or fish sauce for a light soy sauce.
That’s enough of a history lesson lets dig in, this is a pretty comprehensive recipe but you can skip a few ingredients as long as you stick to your four flavours:
- 1/2lb rice noodles
- 3TB fish sauce
- 3TB tamarind juice
- 2TB sugar
- 4TB peanut oil
- 1/3lb fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 3/4cup firm tofu, cut into thin strips about 3cm long
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute with half a medium onion)
- 1/4 cup small dried shrimp
- 1/4 cup chopped sweetened salted radish
- 3tsp ground dried red chillies
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
- 2/3 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Soak the noodles in warm water until they are limp but still firm.
- Combine the fish sauce, tamarind juice and palm sugar.
- Heat a large wok with 2tsp oil and quickly cook the fresh shrimp until pink. Sprinkle with fish sauce and remove from wok.
- Add more oil to the wok and fry the tofu until golden. Then add the garlic, shallots, dried shrimp, radish and chillies stir fry for one minute.
- Add the noodles and stir fry for one minute.
- Scramble the eggs, cut them into chunks and add them to the noodles.
- Add the sauce from step two. Check the flavour and add a bit more of something until it’s perfect
- Add the beansprouts, peanuts and the cooked shrimp.
- Once the beansprouts have wilted serve it up in bowls. Squeeze lime juice over is and add a lime wedge and peanuts if there are any left.