Try This! Pad Thai

Who doesn’t like pad thai? Anyone? If you’re like me, pad thai is the first thai dish that you tried. I instantly fell in love with the cuisine, and always have a hard time ordering something other than pad thai when I go out.

Over the years I’ve tried many different recipes and this one is my favorite. It is from the New Best Recipe (that huge, phonebook-like book) from America’s Test Kitchen (the Cooks Illustrated folks). It is an awesome cookbook and totally worth adding to your library. I admit that many of their recipes, while fabulous, are way too involved for most occasions, but this one is actually pretty easy.

The hardest part is finding tamarind paste. I finally made a trip to the local international grocery store, and there it was. One package lasts a LONG time, but be warned that after a few years mine got so hard that it became unusable. But that was a few years and so it is worth the special trip to make this.

I’m making this for the girls tonight for our Thai-themed pot luck at my house. I sometimes substitute chicken or shrimp. I bought the dried shrimp once (also at the asian market) and admit I was too creeped out to use it. I never found the dried radish and usually skip the tofu. So, other than the tamarind paste, you don’t need anything fancy to make this. Just use what sounds good.

Pad Thai (serves 4)

The New Best Recipe

2 tbsp tamarind paste or substitute (see note at bottom of recipe)
3/4 cup boiling water
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
8 oz dried rice stick noodles, about 1/4 inch wide
2 large eggs
12 oz medium (40-50/lb) shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tbsp dried shrimp, chopped fine (optional)
2 tbsp chopped Thai salted preserved radish (optional)
6 tbsp chopped, unsalted roasted peanuts
3 cups (6 oz) bean sprouts
8 oz tofu (optional)
5 medium scallions, greens parts only, sliced thin on a sharp diagonal
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (optional)
lime wedges for garnish

1. Rehydrate the tamarind paste in boiling water (see note below). Stir fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tbsp of the oil into the tamarind liquid. Set aside.

2. If using tofu, blot it well by wrapping it in a clean dish towel and pressing it until the towel is moist. Then cut into 1/2 cubes.

3. Cover the rice sticks with hot tap water in a large bowl and soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside. Beat the eggs and 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 12-inch skillet (preferably non-stick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque and browned around the edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

5. Off the heat, add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the skillet, set the skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the beaten eggs to the skillet and stir vigorously until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds. Add the rice noodles, the radish, and the dried shrimp (if using) to the eggs, toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour the fish sauce mixture over the noodles, increase the heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly until the noodles are evenly coated. Scatter 1/4 cup of peanuts, the bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup of the scallions, tofu, and the cooked shrimp (if using) over the noodles, continue to cook, tossing constantly until the noodles are tender, about 2 1/2 minutes. (If not yet tender, add 2 tbsp of water to the skillet and continue to cook until tender.)

6. Transfer the noodles to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining scallions, the remaining 2 tbsp peanuts, and the cilantro (if using). Serve immediately, passing the lime wedges separately.

Tamarind options: 1) use tamarind paste or pulp (preferred method), soaking 2 tbsp of it in 3/4 cup boiling water for 10 minutes, then push through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and fibers; 2) mix 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate with 2/3 cup hot water.



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