What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is basically a Thai noodle stir fry with a delicious sweet-sour sauce topped with peanuts. It is made with thin, flat rice noodles and includes bean sprouts, spring onions and scrambled eggs and either chicken , prawns or tofu. The sauce is what makes the dish and it includes fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and tamarind. What is tamarind you might be asking. It is THE ingredient that gives the sauce the flavour it is known for. Authentic Pad Thai is made with tamarind pulp which comes in a block the size of a bar of soap (easily available on Amazon) which is soaked in hot water before being pushed through a sieve to remove the fibers and seeds. You are then left with the paste. If you can find the tamarind puree in a jar, use that instead by all means.
Making Pad Thai is very easy but be sure to have all your ingredients measured and ready to go as you need to move quickly.
I have added peanut butter in my sauce which I think gives the dish an added creaminess and boost of yumminess.
I think this recipe tastes amazing but do not take my word for it… try it yourself and let me know what you think.
Let me tell you a bit about the history of Pad Thai. There is not a dish that screams “Thailand” more than Pad Thai. It is the national dish and eaten literally on every street corner in Thailand but would you believe that it actually did not exist before WW2?? Crazy isn’t it? But true.
Pad Thai was invented in 1938. Thailand suffered a shortage of good quality rice at this time due to the war and serious floods. Plaek Phibunsongkhram who was the PM at the time encouraged people to eat noodles instead. Noodles used only 50% of the grain so were more economical and cheaper to produce.
The government of Thailand created the dish Pad Thai to protect the rice resources. They told the public that by eating this new dish they were helping their country. Several sources say there was a competition to create a national dish using noodles and Pad Thai was the winner.
The government gave out recipes to restaurants and in mail boxes and even offered free carts to people willing to set up stalls and sell in the streets.
So let’s get on with the recipe.
- 7oz / 200g flat rice noodles
- 3 T oil (canola, peanut – not olive)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 8oz / 250g chicken cut into very thin slices or 8oz / 250g shrimp, raw, shelled and de-veined
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 200g / 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
- 5 spring onions or garlic chives (¼ cup) chopped
- 4 T dry roasted peanuts, chopped
- 2 limes
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
For the sauce
- 3 T nuoc mam / nam pla fish sauce
- 1 T low sodium soy sauce
- 3 T light brown sugar
- 2 T tamarind from pulp (see directions)
- 1 T sriracha hot sauce (optional)
- 2 T peanut butter (optional)
- Cut enough of the tamarind pulp to provide 2T after the following process. Pour ½ cup boiling water over the tamarind pulp, cover and place aside for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes break up the pulp in the hot water and then press the mixture through a fine meshed strainer/sieve. Discard the solids.
- Cook noodles according to package instructions, just until tender. Rinse under cold water
- Combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, sriracha, tamarind paste and peanut butter. Mix well and set aside.
- Heat a wok or large pan over high heat. Add oil.
- Add the bell pepper, cook until it softens slightly
- Add garlic and chicken or shrimp. If using shrimp they will cook very rapidly, about 1-2 minutes until just pink. If using chicken, cook until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes
- Push the chicken/shrimp to the side of the wok
- Add the eggs and stir as they cook but do not touch too much
- Add bean sprouts, noodles and sauce. Toss well.
- Switch off the stove
- Add spring onions, peanuts and coriander
- Serve immediately with wedges of limes