Pad Thai is popular street food in Thailand, and it’s likely the most popular dish at your local Thai restaurant. This renowned stir-fried noodle dish is Thailand’s national cuisine. But, exactly, what is it about Pad Thai that makes it so tasty? Pad Thai is a cozy dinner with bold, umami tastes and textures that everyone will enjoy. Let’s look at this popular Thai meal in more detail.
Pad Thai is a stir-fried Thai meal with eggs, vegetables, and tofu in tamarind, fish, dried shrimp, garlic, red chili pepper, and sugar sauce. Some of the ingredients, such as red chili pepper, lime wedges, and peanuts, are served as condiments on the side. This dish’s flavors are concentrated on a sweet-savory combination. It’s a pleasure for the tastes, salty, nuts, and that slightly sweet sauce! Of course, each Pad Thai dish is unique. Some use fish, others chicken, and yet others tofu.
What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is a stir-fry of rice noodles, eggs, tofu, and meat with a sweet-sour-salty and mildly spicy sauce and toppings of peanuts, fresh veggies, and cilantro, which are occasionally served on the side. Dried shrimp and fish sauce (which you can’t taste) are common ingredients in pad Thai sauce. Pad Thai may not seem like your typical noodle dish at first, but the result is a mouthwatering noodle dish that’s as excellent as they come.
Pad Thai, a Thai dish that incorporates features and techniques from Chinese cuisine, first appeared in the mid-twentieth century. Around World War II, it was declared a Thai national cuisine, and it soon gained popularity. Pad Thai is likely more popular than ever as a popular street snack in Thailand and Thai restaurants worldwide.
How to Cook Pad Thai?
Because Pad Thai is a fast-moving process, it’s essential to have all of your ingredients ready before you begin. As a result, you’ll need a robust and dependable wok pan that warms up quickly—a carbon-steel wok with a flat bottom is a terrific choice. Woks made of carbon steel are affordable and lightweight, and they carry heat well (crucial for stir-frying).
To avoid mushy noodles, undercook them slightly—during the stir-fry process, the noodles continue to absorb liquid from the sauce. Finally, scramble the eggs separately and combine them with the noodles at the end. You won’t overcook them, and their texture will be preserved.
Do you want to try your hand at making Pad Thai at home? To get that hot-off-the-wok flavor and the perfect balance of ingredients, traditional Pad Thai recipes are stir-fried one at a time. We don’t use it in our recipes because it’s too time-consuming and inconvenient. Here are a few simple recipes that you can attempt.
- 4 ounces dry pad thai noodles (rice noodles)
- Boiling water to cover noodles
- One large shallot, finely diced ( much better than onion here)
- Four chopped garlic cloves
- One teaspoon of chopped ginger (optional)
- Two eggs whisked with a fork with a generous 3-finger pinch of salt ( if vegan, leave it out)
- 6–8 ounces tofu, chicken breast, or peeled prawns
- salt and pepper to taste
- Two tablespoons of peanut oil, wok oil, or coconut oil
- One lime
- Cook noodles according to package directions (boil enough water to cover rice noodles in a shallow bowl or baking dish). Cover with boiling water and cook for 7–8 minutes, or until tender. They don’t have to be completely soft; they only need to be bendy and malleable.)
- Chop shallot, garlic, and ginger and set aside.
- Whisk the two eggs in a bowl with a fork and add a generous, 3-finger pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Make the Pad Thai Sauce Whisk fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce. (see notes) in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare the protein and cook it. Season the chicken with salt and pepper after slicing it into skinny strips.
- Crispy Tofu: Using paper towels, blot the tofu firmly. Cut tofu into 34-inch pieces, season with salt and pepper, then dredge in corn starch for additional crispiness. Peel the shrimp and season them with salt and pepper. COOK: In a wok with hot oil, sear the seasoned chicken, shrimp, or tofu until cooked over medium-high heat. Set aside some time
- Cook the pad Thai sauce. Gather your chopped shallots, whisked eggs, cooked noodles, cooked protein, and Pad Thai sauce around the burner. Heat two tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok over medium heat, then add the shallots, garlic, and ginger and stir for a few minutes until brown and aromatic.
- Make a well in the center of the wok and pour in the whisked eggs, pushing the shallot mixture to the side of the pan. Scramble and break them apart into minor parts with a metal spatula, allowing them to brown somewhat before incorporating them into the shallots and breaking them into small bits.
- Add the drained, semi-soft noodles and toss with the egg mixture, stirring, flipping, and constantly frying for 3-4 minutes until noodles become soft and pliable.
- Add the Pad Thai Sauce and cook for 1 minute. It will smell quite fishy at first – turn your fan on – but it will mellow out perfectly. Add the cooked chicken, tofu, or shrimp and turn and toss the noodles for a few more minutes. Cook until the noodles are soft (but still a little chewy), adding just a little water if it seems too dry.
- Toss in the bean sprouts and roasted peanuts (or serve on the side) and sprinkle with chili flakes and scallions. Squeeze with a bit of lime juice. Taste. Adjust salt, lime, and sweetness to your liking adding a pinch of salt, more lime, or a pinch more sugar to taste. Give one more toss and serve immediately. Divide among two plates.
- Garnish with more bean sprouts, fresh scallions, cilantro or basil, chili flakes, lime wedges, and roasted crushed peanuts. Or make this Peanut Chili Crunch!
- Preparation Instructions: Prepare your protein and vegetables ahead of time. Combine the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside until ready to use.
- 2 Tablespoons Tamarind Paste: Replace the vinegar with 2 Tablespoons of tamarind paste for a more authentic sauce. Tamarind can be purchased online or in an international market.
- Vegan vs. Vegetarian: What’s the Difference? Remove the egg from the equation. Substitute tofu for the fish sauce and extra soy sauce for the fish sauce.
- Peanut Butter: I add a large scoop of peanut butter to the sauce in my recipe since I think it adds creaminess and taste to the whole dish.
Here are Some Substitute Ingredients
- Use Chinese light/dark soy sauce and add an extra 12 teaspoon of sugar if you can’t find Thai thin, black, or sweet soy sauces.
- If you can’t find Thai preserved salted radish (like we couldn’t when we went grocery shopping for this recipe! ), Chinese Zha Cai (preserved Chinese mustard stems) can be used instead (zha can). Because the recipe only calls for a small amount of both, leave it out if you can’t find either!
- If you don’t like the notion of using dried shrimp, try substituting one tablespoon of oyster sauce. Nonetheless, the shrimp melds into the recipe and offers a fantastic umami flavor, much like a regular canned anchovy.
- Regular scallions can be used instead of Chinese chives, although only half the amount is required. They do, however, grow like grass, so plant them like grass in your gardens or pots!
What is Pad Thai Sauce Made of?
Fish sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, and tamarind make Pad Thai Sauce. The ingredient tamarind is the heart and soul of Pad Thai sauce, providing it the sour flavor that makes Pad Thai so popular. It’s a southeast Asian staple used in dishes like this Malaysian Beef Rendang.
Tamarind pulp comes in a block (about the size of a soap bar) and is soaked in hot water before being squeezed through a sieve to make tamarind puree for authentic Pad Thai. To make life easier, I purchase ready-made tamarind puree from stores in Australia. Or, presumably, Asian stores (which are less expensive).
What does Real Traditional Pad Thai Look Like?
You’ve tasted pad thai at a neighborhood restaurant, but it’s possible that it wasn’t the real kind. To begin with, it should not contain ketchup or any other tomato-based product. Second, it shouldn’t have a syrupy sweetness to it. Finally, it shouldn’t just be a sloppy, heavy clump of noodles with green onion chunks.
Pad thai should be as follows:
- Because the noodles are stir-fried in a hot wok, they come out dry with a hint of smokiness rather than wet. There is aA good blend of sweet, salty, and sour flavors, with no one flavor taking center stage.
- Loaded with beansprouts, which lighten and give freshness to the noodles.
- There should be a lot of “bits” in it to add complexity: shallots, garlic, tofu, dried shrimp, and so on.
- It should be a well-balanced dish that fills you up without being heavy.
Why is it So Hard to Find Good Pad Thai in Restaurants?
Pad thai is relatively simple to prepare; it’s a stir-fry! The fully loaded, traditional version, on the other hand, calls for a lot of components, not all of which are readily available. Many restaurants may be unable to obtain specific products, the preparation may be too complicated for their simple operation, or they must keep the cost of such a staple item low. As a result, items are left out and substituted.
However, each ingredient in pad thai has a distinct flavor. Nothing is added solely for “fluff”; thus, the less you remove, the less complicated the flavor becomes. Sure, you can leave out or swap a few components without much harm, but the flavor degrades dramatically after a certain point.
Pad Thai is a healthy recipe as long as it isn’t made with a lot of oil, which holds for many Southeast Asian dishes. We prefer to keep things simple and use natural components in ours. Calories in Pad Thai vary a lot depending on what’s in it.
However, the spices are vitamin-rich, the chicken and egg are high in protein, and the rice noodles will satisfy you. It’s a dish that’s delicious on all levels. Typically, pad thai isn’t hot, but I prefer the extra heat from the Serrano pepper, and I think it goes well with the silky tofu. I based my recipe on the one on the rice noodle box, and I enjoy it because it doesn’t require any unusual ingredients. Don’t be afraid to use fish sauce.