I could eat Thai food often. Really often. My friend Tim’s very sound reasoning is that I should. After all, “Thai people eat it every night.” He’s right, but sound reasoning won’t pick up the mounting takeout checks, will it? And I’m a little intimidated by making Thai food at home. This doesn’t make so much sense, since I cook a lot and am rarely afraid to try new dishes. Nor am I intimidated by too many things (um, see recent post on butchering one’s own meat…). Put the word simple in the title of a book, though, and I’m all ears (and knives and cutting boards). This truly simple Pad Thai recipe is a game changer in my house. More Thai food, more often, less takeout. My family (and my bank account) will be grateful.
Simple Thai Food
Ten Speed Press
Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen
by Leela Punyaratabandhu
Photography by Erin Kunkel
- 4 ounces dried rice sticks, 3 millimeters (about ⅛ inch) wide
- 3 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar, or 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large shallot, about 1 ounce, minced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup finely chopped preserved radish (optional)
- 6 ounces extra-firm tofu (use the firmest one you can find), cut into matchsticks 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide and thick
- 2 tablespoons shell-on small dried shrimp (optional)
- 8 ounces large raw shrimp in the shell, peeled and deveined
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 6 Chinese chives or green parts of 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 4 ounces mung bean sprouts (about 2 cups)
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Granulated sugar
- Fish sauce
- Red chile powder
- ⅓ to ½ cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
- Immerse the noodles in room-temperature water to cover for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft enough to wind around your fingers without breaking. Drain and cut into 6-inch lengths with kitchen shears. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or a 14-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the drained noodles and stir until the noodles are coated with the oil and have become more pliable but not yet cooked through, about 1 minute. Add the prepared sauce and stir-fry for 1 minute to coat the noodles with the sauce. Push the noodles to one side of the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the empty side of the pan, and add the shallot, garlic, radish, tofu, and dried shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute on their side of the pan while the noodles are cooking in the sauce on the other side. Add the fresh shrimp to the shallot side of the pan and stir-fry until the shrimp are half cooked, about 1 minute. Stir the noodles around once while still keeping them on their side of the pan.
- Make a well in the center of the pan, add the eggs to the well, and scramble and shred them with the tip of the spatula until the egg bits are cooked through, about 1 minute. By this time all the moisture should have evaporated, the noodles should have become softened, and the shrimp should have been completely cooked. Do a strand check to see if the noodles are soft enough. If all of the moisture has evaporated and the noodles are still undercooked, add a little water as needed.
- Once everything is ready, remove the pan from the heat. Fold in the chives and half of the bean sprouts and let the residual heat wilt them.
- Plate the noodles and serve with the remaining bean sprouts and the table condiments and seasonings for adding as desired.