This Pad Thai post is completely rewritten based on my previous wok two years ago, with an upgraded recipe and the inclusion of the video demonstration.
I have added more information as below:
- The authentic formula of the Pad Thai sauce
- The key ingredients and the explanation how to prep these items.
- The stir-frying technique required.
I am keeping the recipe as original as possible, and divide it into small steps that you can pause and continue.
Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish served and eaten as street food throughout Thailand. It has all the flavor of the signature Thai cuisine- the sourness of tamarind, the sweetness of palm sugar, the saltiness of fish sauce and the spiciness the chili pepper.
There is nothing that can compare to Pad Thai. If you have ever eaten it, you are likely can recall what it tastes like without having to experience it again, but it can be intriguing to put into words. You need to try it only to apprehend the complexity of this flavor.
Once you have all the ingredients ready, you can cook up the mouthwatering Pad Thai in less than ten minutes.
Let’s get started.
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Four simple steps to cook up an irresistible Pad Thai
Pad Thai regularly receives high praises from food critics around the world due to its complexity, affordability, and range of flavor.
This dish has a wide variety of textures that make it an absolute joy to eat. You will experience the soft noodles as well as the small pieces of crunchy pickles, nuts, plus the freshness of bean sprouts.
You will also experience a sourness of tamarind mixes well with the sweetness of palm sugar, and the spiciness of hot chili pepper.
Step 1- Soaking the noodles.
Noodles for Pad Thai come in two forms- the dry and the fresh one. Since the noodles are hard to get at where I live, I always use the dry one to prepare the Pad Thai. I think many readers will be in the same situation as me, so I’ll describe how to use the dry noodles in this recipe.
Pad Thai noodles will absorb the water and rehydrated when you soak them in water. Please take note that the amount of noodles in the recipe below is referred to the dry weight.
Start with soaking the dry noodles in lukewarm or room temperature water while preparing the other ingredients. The time required depends on the thickness and width of the noodles, as well as the temperature of the water. I have seen some recipes mentioned that it can soak for a few hours, but I prefer the noodles to be just al dente, as it can become too soft, mushy and less chewy.
You can use warm water to speed up the rehydration of the noodles.
Here are my steps:
- Put the noodles in a large container. Pour some boiling water until they are covered.
- Submerge the noodles entirely in the water.
- Leave to stand for five to ten minutes. The noodles are ready when they become flexible, and no longer transparent. Remove the noodles.
- Rinse the noodles with cold water or under the tap to stop further cooking by the residual heat. Drain and set aside.
You can do this step ahead of time. Toss the noodles with a little oil to prevent them from sticking together.
By far, the trickiest part is to soak the noodles. Noodles should be somewhat flexible and firm, not wholly expanded and soft. When in doubt, undercook is better overcooked them. You can stir-fry the noodles longer with some water if it is too hard.
Step 2- Preparing the Pad Thai sauce.
Pad Thai has a unique flavor. Many people cannot pinpoint why they love about Pad Thai because it has such an incredible flavor.
This exceptional flavor derives from the combination of three ingredients- palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind juice. Neither any of these ingredients are common in the western cuisine. In fact, tamarind and palm sugar are rarely used, although the fish sauce is an occasional seasoning for the Chinese. That is why the flavor of Pad Thai is so unusual for the non-Thai people.
Let’s take a look at these ingredients one by one:-
Palm sugar is derived from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut palm. It has a subtly sweet taste similar to brown sugar, with a more intense caramel taste. Many local cuisines and desserts in Sout-East Asia contain palm sugar as the sweetener.
Use palm sugar only to get the authentic Thai flavor. The closest substitute is brown sugar.
There is no substitute for fish sauce. Fish sauce is produced by fermenting the fish with salt over a few weeks or even up to two years. The process develops an intense umami flavor.
Fish sauce is the only source of salt for Pad Thai. It provides the unique flavor to the noodles. Therefore, a good quality fish sauce is an essential ingredient for producing the best Pad Thai.
Watch the videoRead on: Watch the video recipe at the end of this post
Tamarind provides the acidity to Pad Thai. You should not use vinegar as the substitute as tamarind has a distinctive flavor.
You can use the tamarind paste (or tamarind concentrate) for this recipe. However, I use tamarind pulp since it is easily available in any local grocery shops.
There is an easy way out if you think it is troublesome to get these ingredients just for a plate of Pad Thai. There is ready-made Pad Thai sauce available. The flavor can be significantly different from brand to brand.
Step 3- Get ready all the ingredients
Most of the Pad Thai recipes include a set of standard ingredients- tofu, peanuts, chili, sweet preserved pickles, dry shrimp, eggs, Chinese chives and bean sprouts.
As for the meat, it can be either chicken, prawns, crab meat or go meatless.
Let’s take a look at these ingredients.
The tofu for cooking Pad Thai should be firm as it can break easily into small pieces during stir-frying. This type of tofu is labeled as firm or pressed tofu.
Cut the tofu into small pieces, about 1 cm wide x 3cm length. The tofu should be lightly fried in oil over low heat until the surface becomes golden brown. The easiest way is to deep-fried the tofu, but you can pan-fry it with a little more oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. The fried tofu has a firmer texture which can withstand stir-frying with the noodles.
Crushed peanuts are the standard ingredients for Pad Thai. You can either roast the peanut in the oven or pan-fried with minimal oil in a wok over low heat until they turn slightly brown.
Remove the skin of the peanuts, and crushed them with a mortar and pestle. You can also put them in a plastic bag and crush with the rolling pin.
The crushed peanuts are added to the noodles during the last step of stir-frying or sprinkle on top of the noodles while serving. Serve the extra crushed peanuts as condiments and as garnish.
Note: You can omit the peanut if you are allergic to it.
Dry shrimps are slightly hard and chewy which add another dimension of texture to the noodles. It has a distinctive savory flavor which is similar to the dry scallop.
Rinse and clean the dry shrimp with water remove any shells and sand. Cut the dey shrimps into smaller pieces if they are big, or chop them finely.
I leave it as the whole shrimp, but it all depends on your preference.
There are two types of preserved radish available- the sweet and the salty type. Sweet preserved radish is the correct type for preparing Pad Thai. Most of the grocery shops in Malaysia are selling the preserved radish that has been chopped finely. However, there are places sell only the uncut preserved radish, and you need to cut it into small pieces before use.
Chinese chives and bean sprouts
Chinese chives and bean sprouts are added last in the stir-frying process. In fact, many fried noodles variations in Asia use both chives and bean sprouts too. For example, The Penang Char Keow Teow is one that uses a lot of chives and bean sprouts, and the Singapore fried noodles are of no exception.
Add most of the bean sprouts to the noodles while frying. The bean sprouts will help to prevent the noodles from sticking to the wok. However, they will wilt of and become soft. Therefore, reserve one-third of the bean sprouts and add to the noodles right before turning off the heat to preserve the crunchiness.
Step 4- Stir-fry and serve
Now we have everything in place and is ready to turn on the heat and start stir-frying.
Here are the steps:
- Heat up some vegetable oil in the wok. (Use a large frying pan if you do not have one.) Fry the tofu until golden brown. Remove and set aside. It is advisable to use a large wok than a small one. You need space to move around the morsel of food in the wok, and to push the noodle to the side when you add the egg to the center of the wok.
- Add some vegetable oil to the wok if necessary. Pan fry the prawns over low to medium heat until both sides turn golden brown. Do not move the prawns around in the wok so that they are sheared nicely. Flip over only once should be good enough. Remove the shrimps and set aside.
- Saute and chopped shallots and minced garlic over low heat until fragrant with the prawn oil. Add the dry shrimps, chili flakes, and preserved radish.
- Add the soaked, drained noodles to the wok. Stir and mix with the sauteed ingredients. Then add the Pad Thai sauce. Stir-fry over medium heat for a minute.
- Add 2/3 of the bean sprouts and continue frying over high heat to create the signature aroma of ‘wok-hei.’
- Push the noodles to the side of the wok. Add a small amount of oil to the center and make an omelet. When the egg is nearly set, fold the egg into the noodles so that part of the egg will stick to the noodles. Scramble the egg and mix with the noodles.
- Add half of the crushed peanuts.
- Add the Chinese chives.
- Finally, add the remaining bean sprouts to the noodles and turn off the heat immediately. Dish up and serve.
Note: This is the basic recipe for Pad Thai. Some people prefer to switch it up by adding chili sauce, Sriracha, tomato, ketchup or Thai shrimp paste. All are acceptable variation, and it is up to you how to tweak the basic recipe.
Now it is your turn to cook!
Watch this video
A picture worth thousand words, a video worth thousand images.
This video will show you how to prepare the authentic Pad Thai. (8.20 minutes)
(Note: If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link , which will open in a new tab)
The Pad Thai Recipe
This recipe is the upgraded version of the original recipe I posted in 2015. Please read the content of the post for full details.
- 100 g dry rice noodles
Cut the Chinese chives into 2cm length.
Wash the bean sprouts with water.
Clean and devein the prawns.
Cut the tofu into 2cm length julienne.
Heat up some vegetable oil in the wok. Fry the tofu until golden brown. Set aside.
Pan fry the prawns over low to medium heat until both sides turn golden brown. Do not move the prawns around in the wok so that they are sheared nicely. Flip over only once should be good enough. Remove the shrimps and set aside.
Saute and chopped shallots and minced garlic over low heat until fragrant with the prawn oil. Add the dry shrimps, chili flakes, and preserved radish.
Add the soaked, drained noodles to the wok. Stir and mix with the sauteed ingredients. Then add the Pad Thai sauce. Stir-fry over medium heat for a minute.
Add 2/3 of the bean sprouts and continue frying over high heat.
Push the noodles to the side of the wok. Add a small amount of oil to the center and make an omelet. Scramble the egg and mix with the noodles.
Add half of the crushed peanuts.
Add the Chinese chives.
Finally, add the remaining bean sprouts to the noodles and turn off the heat immediately. Dish up and serve.
You may also need the following items for this recipe:
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