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 night markets 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. But this Classic Shrimp And Tofu Pad Thai recipe is close enough to the real deal.
Classic Shrimp And Tofu Pad Thai Recipe
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
- 1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 ounces rice stick noodles
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil (like canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil) divided, plus more for drizzling on noodles
- 4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 1 medium red, orange, or yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
- 12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 6 ounces firm tofu cut into paper thin strips
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 2 medium radishes sliced paper thin
- 4 medium green onions (aka scallions) cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bunch fresh chives or garlic chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 handful roasted salted peanuts roughly chopped
- 2 limes sliced for serving
- Make 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.
- Cook 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.
- Stir Fry The Pad Thai: 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.