Pad Thai is most people's Thai Food 101 dish, right? So I didn't really expect to see much Pad Thai when I actually went to Thailand as I figured it was just one of those dishes that you see in the United States but not much in Thailand. But I was totally wrong—from nightmarkets to buffets to nice restaurants, there was seemingly always Pad Thai.
As soon as I talked food to people, they'd tell me that Pad Thai is the national dish and, seeing that it has all the major flavors of Thai food—sour, sweet, salty, funky—it's easy to understand why. I don't claim to cook the most authentic version of a dish because, honestly, that's a pointless endeavor in my mind.
divided, plus more for drizzling on noodles
cut into paper thin strips
sliced paper thin
cut into 1-inch pieces
or garlic chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
sliced for serving
For the sauce: Combine 1/4 cup water, fish sauce, sugar, tamarind paste, and chile flakes in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved then increase heat to medium. When it simmers, taste and add more tamarind if you want it more sour, add more fish sauce for more funk, or more sugar for more sweetness. Once it is where you like it, remove from heat and set aside.
Sauce can be made up to 1 week ahead. Store refrigerated until ready to use. This amount of sauce is good for 4 to 6 ounces of noodles.
For the noodles: Bring some water to a boil, remove from heat, then soak the noodles in the hot water for about 8 to 10 minutes until they are pliable and al dente but not totally soft. (You don’t want to over soak them here or they’ll become mushy when you stir fry them.) Drain, rinse with cold water, then toss with a drizzle of the oil (so they don’t stick and are easier to cook later) and set aside.
Before you begin, have all your ingredients prepared because things move quickly once you start cooking. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot (the garlic will immediately sizzle when added), add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper and cook, stirring a few times, until garlic is golden brown.
Add the shrimp and cook, stirring a few times until just beginning to turn pink. Push shrimp and vegetables to one side and pour in the eggs. Let cook until just beginning to set then stir into shrimp mixture. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, then add the tofu, noodles and sauce and stir and toss to coat everything in the sauce.
Stir in the bean sprouts, radishes, scallions, and chives, and cook for a few seconds, until chives just begin to wilt. Serve topped, as desired, with chile flakes and a sprinkle of peanuts. Serve a wedge of lime on the side.
You can find tamarind concentrate, paste, or pulp in many markets these days. If using tamarind concentrate, just add it to the ingredients called for in the sauce. If using tamarind pulp, soak it in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then squeeze the pulp to extract the juice. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids and using the juice. If you can’t find any form of tamarind, use 3 tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lime juice instead though it will result in a less complex sauce.
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