A better-than-takeout meal!
Pad Thai may be a common street food in Thailand but, contrary to popular belief, it’s not an ancient part of that country’s rich culinary culture – it actually dates back only to the 1930s. I love Pad Thai because it’s very flexible; I prefer mine with shrimp even though you’re more likely to find chicken or tofu in Pad Thai made in Thailand. It’s flexible for lots of dietary preferences too; rice noodles are naturally gluten-free and this is also an easy dish to make for vegetarians or vegans. Note that tamarind is an essential part of Pad Thai’s unique flavour profile – it adds a tangy saltiness with a hint of sweetness. If you cannot find tamarind concentrate, use an equal amount of tamarind paste mixed with 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of boiling water. Alternatively, another acceptable substitute is 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of Knorr Tamarind Soup base (powder), dissolved in 1/4 cup (60 mL) of warm water. Many North American recipes call for ketchup instead of tamarind but I prefer to play things down the middle by using a combination of tamarind and tomato paste. The cooking time for this meal is very short and you can get dinner on the table even more quickly if you prep and refrigerate the sauce components and the toppings ahead of time.
- 6 oz (170 g) medium-thickness rice noodles
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) vegetable oil
- 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined or 1 cup (250 mL) diced firm tofu or chicken
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) tamarind concentrate mixed with 3 tablespoons (45 mL) water
- 4 teaspoons (20 mL) tomato paste mixed with 2 teaspoons (10 mL) rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) fish sauce (look for gluten-free if needed; substitute with coconut aminos for vegan dish)
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Thai chili powder (or 1/4 teaspoon / 1.25 mL cayenne pepper)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup (500 mL) raw bean sprouts, rinsed
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated carrot
- 1/4 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) slivered green onion tops
- Lime wedges, to serve
- Place the rice noodles in a large bowl or broad, shallow casserole dish and cover with very warm water. Let soak until soft (at least 20 minutes) then keep in the warm water until ready to add to dish.
- Prepare the toppings and set aside before you start cooking.
- In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the shrimp for 2 -3 minutes, turning once, until they have curled up and become uniformly pink. If using tofu or chicken, stir-fry until golden brown.
- Sprinkle the cooked shrimp, tofu or chicken in the pan with tamarind mixture, tomato paste mixture and stir. Add fish sauce, sugar and Thai chili powder or cayenne and stir again.
- Drain softened noodles in a colander and add to the pan. Gently stir-fry for 2 minutes, adding a teaspoon or two of water if needed to keep noodles from sticking to each other.
- If using shrimp, place the shrimp on top of the noodles to protect them from the heat of the pan then push the noodles and shrimp to one side of the frying pan.
- Add the beaten eggs to the open space and when they begin to set, use a spatula to stir them and let cook until they are fully set. Stir the scrambled eggs into the noodle mixture.
- Transfer the cooked Pad Thai to two broad serving bowls (chopsticks or tongs are the best way to do this).
- Place the bean sprouts and carrots beside the noodle mixture then sprinkle the peanuts and green onions over top. Serve hot with lime wedges on the side.
Serves 2; recipe can easily be multiplied.