The sweet, sour, spicy, and savory blend of flavors developed in a classic Pad Thai make this one of the most popular dishes from a country known for delicious delights. Simple in process and authentic in flavor, even a novice cook can play with bringing these international flavors straight to your own kitchen.
Fun fact about Pad Thai – it was developed by Thailand’s prime minister in the 1930’s as a way to modernize and unify the country. In addition, it was a dish that provided an inexpensive and nutritious dish. Actually based in more traditional Chinese foods, Pad Thai quickly grew in popularity, and is now a staple on Thai menus around the world. And with this recipe, this delicious, healthy, simple, and economically friendly dish can be a staple in your home, too!
What Ingredients do I need for Classic Pad Thai?
It’s important to note that a classic Pad Thai Recipe does have some differences between what you may have tasted in some more westernized restaurants or kitchens. Classic Pad Thai is based in a Tamarind and fish paste sauce, sweetening it up with palm sugar, where more westernized versions will often replace this with a ketchup blend giving it a sweeter flavor. We’ll talk through some of the substitutes you can use if you’re struggling to find Tamarind or want a sweeter flavor to your recipe, but we’re going to give you the base for Classic Pad Thai. First off, your ingredients for the sauce.
Pad Thai Sauce Ingredients
The flavorings for this sauce start with Tamarind Paste, which can be found in Asian markets, Indian markets, and potentially in some specialty grocery stores. If you’re looking in your local supermarket, it might be a little more challenging to find. It typically comes in a small jar and will last you for a while!
The other potentially challenging ingredient to find is palm sugar. This might be carried at your local supermarket, but you may need to take a trip to a more specialized health food chain. If you cannot find palm sugar brown sugar can be used as a substitute.
There’s just a few additional ingredients to finish off the sauce. First off, fish sauce. This is not as challenging to find and should be carried in your local market, often times in the Asian food section. We love adding Sriracha to the sauce to add a bit of heat. This can also be done with a little bit of flaked red pepper.
You will also need minced garlic, which you can cut fresh or buy pre-minced. Finally, you’ll need some water.
OK – those are the ingredients for the sauce, let’s take a look at the Pad Thai itself.
Pad Thai Ingredients
From the Asian/Internationnal section of the grocery store , pick up a bag of Pad Thai or Rice Noodles. Either will work.
Next, let’s hit the produce section. Here you’ll pick up bean sprouts, red onions, green onion, carrots (you can get pre-shredded), cilantro, lime, and garlic.
For your protein you can choose shrimp, chicken, tofu, pork, or a beef, whichever makes you happy. If you aren’t excited about a protein, you can also definitely do a vegetable pad thai, with broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini… you might be getting the idea that there is definitely some flexibility here.
Finally, you’ll want to get some crushed peanuts and an egg.
OK! You’ve got everything you need! Let’s get ourselves cooking.
Assembling Pad Thai
Let’s get cooking! Here’s the thing with Pad Thai, while it might seem like there’s a lot of ingredients, it’s a quick and simple assembly that goes pretty quick once you get moving. For this reason, make sure you prep everything first and have it out and ready to go.
If you have bought fresh produce instead of pre-prepped, go ahead and mince your garlic, slice your red onion into slivers, shred the carrots, and chop the green onions and cilantro.
Cut your protein into bite sized pieces.
Making the Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together the tamarind paste, fish sauce, two cloves of minced garlic, palm sugar, sriracha, and water.
The sauce should be a consistent liquid with the sugar fully dissolved when finished. Taste it to determine if you want to add any additional tamarind or sugar to either make it more bitter or sweet. OK – that simple- your sauce is done!
Now for the Pad Thai. First off, cook your rice noodles per the instructions on the package. Cook them just below al dente. Al dente, which means they are cooked but firm. These will have just a little more firmness at this point, because they will continue to cook once you put them into the pad thai. If you overcook the noodles at this point they can present with a mushy texture.
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a wok or large skillet on high heat. Add your protein and cook to about 3/4 done(It will finish during the stir-fry step). This will be about 2-4 minutes, flipping halfway through. The protein will have different cook times depending on the size of the chunks that have been cut. The tofu should be cooked to golden brown and slightly crispy for texture.
Once your protein is finished, scoop out of the pan and set on a side plate.
We’re going to go pretty quick through here, so be ready!
Heat another tablespoon of oil back up in the pan on high. Add the red onions. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring periodically to keep from burning. Add the rest of the garlic and cook for another 45 seconds.
Add 1/2 of the sprouts, carrots, green onions, and peanuts and stir together for 2-3 minutes. Push the mixture to the side of the pan.
Add the rest of the oil to the bare section of the pan and crack the egg into it. Allow the egg to begin to cook, starting to scramble it as it begins to firm. Fold it into the rest of the Pad Thai, mixing everything together.
Add the noodles, the protein, and the pad thai sauce, stirring as you add so everything is coated and mixed together. At this point, check your protein for proper cooked temperature. (Chicken to 165 degrees and others to 145 minimum internal temperature).
The Thermopro Digital Instant Read Thermometer is an incredibly useful tool that we use regularly to make sure meat is cooking at temp.
Remove from heat and portion out into serving bowls. Garish with the remainder of the sprouts, carrots, green onions, and peanuts, along with the cilantro, and you are ready to eat!
A Few Tips and Tricks
A couple of things that might come in handy as you’re cooking.
Cooking the noodles: If the noodles get mushy, it could be because they were overcooked in the pan. A way to help minimize this is to boil the water separately, put the noodles in a glass bowl, then pour the boiling water over the top of the noodles and soak until they reach the desired consistency. This gives you a little more control over how quickly the noodles are cooking.
Plating and Eating the Noodles: In order to keep the noodles easier to serve and eat, you can cut them in half after they have cooked. Having them in this smaller form allows for getting easier forkfuls with more additional ingredients on them.
Playing with flavor: This is a great dish with multiple options to enjoy. You can definitely play with adding different vegetables, protein, levels of spice… There’s a lot of fun to be had with this dish, so mix it up and have some fun!
Please visit our Resources page if you are interested in finding some of the tools and gadgets Dre uses to make cooking accessible while cooking.
Simple Classic Pad Thai Recipe
Pad Thai Sauce
In a small bowl, mix together the tamarind, fish sauce, water, sriracha , palm sugar and garlic. Whisk until fully incorporated. Taste the mixture, and add more sugar or tamarind as your taste dictates.
Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Cook noodles to just below al dente, as they will cook more in the stirfry process.It may help to cut the noodles in half after cooking. This makes it easier to eat and easier to manage in the pan.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or large skillet on high heat. Add the protein and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from heat and set aside
Returne the skillet or wok to the heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and allow to get hot. Add the red onions and stirfry for 1 to 2 minutes until they begin to Soften. Add the garlic for 45 seconds.
Stir in half of the sprouts, carrots, green onions and peanuts.
Add the rest of the olive oil in the bear spot. Once hot, add the egg and scramble for about 30 seconds, mixing into the vegetable blend.
Add the noodles, the protein and about half of the pad Thai sauce and stir until fully coated. Mix well and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until everything is incorporated and the noodles are al dente.
Remove from heat, place portions in an appropriate dish and garnish with remaining sprouts, carrots, green onions, cilantro and peanuts. Enjoy!