Homemade Pad Thai That’s Better Than Takeout

published Mar 20, 2022
Eat
Pad Thai Recipe

A handful of key ingredients makes this recipe the pad Thai of your dreams.

Serves2

Prep40 minutes

Cook10 minutes

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two plates of pad thai with shrimp, beansprouts, and green onions, with more of the garnishes in plates on the side.
Credit: Perry Santanachote

In the late 1930s, authoritarian leaders invented pad Thai and established it as the national dish of Thailand after changing the country’s name from Siam. Ironically the dish’s main ingredient, noodles, is very much a Chinese ingredient. It’s all the other ingredients that put the Thai in pad Thai — none of which are common to other Chinese noodle dishes. 

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Thai restaurant in America that doesn’t have pad Thai on the menu, but a lot of the time, pad Thai dished up Stateside isn’t what you’d get on the streets of Bangkok. That’s because imported ingredients, such as tamarind, get prohibitively expensive for restaurants — especially ones that have to meet an expected price point (diners generally won’t pay $20 for a plate of noodles). 

That’s one of the joys of being a home cook — you can make it however you want. That said, finding some of the ingredients will be the most challenging part of this recipe. But Southeast Asian groceries are abundant and available, and these pantry staples keep for a long time.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

Key Pad Thai Ingredients

There are several key ingredients that make pad Thai unique, and without them, the dish would taste incomplete.

  • Thin rice noodles
  • Preserved sweet radish
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Tamarind

How to Serve Pad Thai

Pad Thai is considered a one-plate dish, usually eaten for lunch or late at night. It’s not served during family meals as a shared dish. Serve it with fresh bean sprouts and garlic chives on the side and heaping piles of crushed peanuts and chili flakes. If you can find them, this dish is also enjoyed with banana blossoms

What Is Pad Thai Sauce Made Of?

Pad Thai sauce is made of the following ingredients:

  • Tamarind water (also called juice or concentrate)
  • Palm sugar
  • Fish sauce

Pad Thai Recipe

A handful of key ingredients makes this recipe the pad Thai of your dreams.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 2

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces

    dried rice noodles, preferably 1/8-inch wide

  • 4 ounces

    baked tofu, optional

  • 1

    small shallot

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 ounce

    small dried shrimp (2 tablespoons)

  • 1/4 cup

    preserved sweet radish (1 1/2 ounces)

  • 1 ounce

    garlic chives or scallions greens, plus more for garnish

  • 5 ounces

    mung bean sprouts (about 2 cups), plus more for garnish

  • 1/4 cup

    roasted peanuts

  • 8 ounces

    large uncooked shell-on shrimp

  • 3 tablespoons

    tamarind juice, water, or concentrate

  • 3 tablespoons

    chopped palm sugar or packed light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    fish sauce

  • 3 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, divided

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 2

    lime wedges

  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

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Prepare the ingredients and sauce:

  1. Soak 4 ounces dried rice noodles in room-temperature water until the noodles can bend without breaking, 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients and make the sauce.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Cut 4-ounces baked tofu into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks 1-inch long. Finely chop 1 small shallot and 3 garlic cloves. Rinse 1/2 ounce (2 tablespoons) small dried shrimp and finely chop. Finely chop 1/4 cup preserved sweet radish.

  3. Cut 1 ounce garlic chives or scallions into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup) and place in a second medium bowl; cut more for garnish if desired. Add 5 ounces (about 2 cups) mung bean sprouts and toss to combine.

  4. Finely chop 1/4 cup roasted peanuts. Peel and devein 8 ounces large raw shrimp (about 8 to 10 pieces), leaving the tails intact.

  5. Make the sauce: Place 3 tablespoons tamarind juice, water, or concentrate, 3 tablespoons chopped palm sugar or packed light brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons fish sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Cook the pad Thai:

  1. Drain the noodles and cut into 6- to 8-inch lengths with kitchen shears.

  2. Heat a wok or large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and swirl the wok to coat. Add the shrimp and cook in a single layer until the bottom halves are opaque, about 1 minute. With a metal or wood spatula, flip the shrimp and cook for another minute, until just cooked through. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil to the wok, increase the heat to high, and swirl to coat. Add the tofu mixture and use the spatula to toss and stir until the garlic starts to turn golden-brown, about 2 minutes.

  4. Add the noodles and sauce and stir and toss until all the liquid is absorbed and the noodles are soft, about 2 minutes.

  5. Make a well in the center of the noodles, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the well, and crack 2 large eggs into the oil. Scramble the eggs with the corner of the spatula until the eggs form curds, then toss them into the noodles before they fully set.

  6. Add the bean sprouts and chives and toss to combine.

  7. Divide the pad Thai between 2 plates, top with the shrimp, and sprinkle with the peanuts. Serve immediately with the lime wedges, more bean sprouts, garlic chives, and red pepper flakes if desired.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: If you can’t find preserved sweet radish or small dried shrimp, just leave them out — there are no substitutions and omitting them won’t affect your pad Thai too much. If you can’t find tamarind juice, substitute with watered-down ketchup and a splash of vinegar.

If you can’t find fish sauce, try to find a light soy sauce (not the typical Chinese or Japanese soy sauce you’d have with sushi).

If you can't find baked tofu, you can use pressed super-firm tofu. To press, remove the tofu and any liquid from its packaging. Line a plate with a folded paper towel and set the tofu on top. Set a small plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. Press for 30 minutes. You will see liquid collect around the tofu.

Make ahead: You can soak the noodles a day ahead of time. Drain and refrigerate in an airtight container overnight. You can also scale up the sauce and keep a jar of it in the refrigerator for quicker future pad Thais.

Storage: Refrigerate leftover pad Thai in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat, sprinkle it with water and microwave it with a plate or inverted bowl on top to steam and soften the noodles.

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Homemade Pad Thai