I remember the first time I had Pad Thai I was in Cape Cod as a kid and my aunt was so excited to make it for us. It was the first time I had ever heard of (let alone tried!) Thai food, and I really liked it. Since then, the number of Thai restaurants in the country has grown, and I have tried many Thai dishes including Pad Thai lots of times. I'm sure as with Chinese food in this country, this Thai "classic" is very Americanized, but given how delicious it is, I'm fine with that!
When I first had Pad Thai I got the impression that it was difficult to make because it required a bunch of unique ingredients. Luckily, stores today have a lot more "exotic" ingredients compared to 15 years ago, and this version of Pad Thai is actually pretty easy to put together. The ingredients you will need that you might not have bought before are fish sauce (a dark brown liquid that comes in a bottle and is extremely salty- this is traditionally how Thai food is salted) and dried rice noodles (they come in different widths, and I prefer the thick ones). You should be able to find both of these in the Asian foods aisle of your grocery store. I make Pad Thai with a ridiculous amount of bean sprouts (as noted in the ingredient list). I find that when the bean sprouts cook they blend in with the noodles, which means you get to have a pretty large serving of Pad Thai without having a ton of noodles.
Tofu Pad Thai
Note: Although I use tofu instead of chicken or shrimp in this recipe, it is not a vegetarian recipe due to the fish sauce. I have not done the research to find a vegetarian alternative to fish sauce that would still make this taste like Pad Thai.
- 8 ounces dried rice stick noodles (the width of linguine)
- 1 14 ounce package extra-firm tofu
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 6 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
- 6 cups bean sprouts (12 ounce bag) (or less, if preferred-- it will look like a TON of bean sprouts, but once they are softened they blend in with the noodles and add a lot of bulk to the dish)
- 5 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
1) Put rice sticks in a boll and cover with very hot tap water (as hot as it gets). Soak until softened and pliable, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.
2) Meanwhile, press liquid out of tofu and cut tofu into small cubes. Put a medium sized nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add tofu and cook, stirring every so often, until most sides of the tofu cubes are browned. Note: I don't find I need oil to cook the tofu in a nonstick skillet in this way. Once tofu is browned, remove pan from heat.
3) As tofu is cooking, make sauce: combine lime juice, water, fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
4) In a small bowl, beat eggs. Set aside.
5) [Don't start this step until tofu is done] Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch (or 14-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.
6) Add eggs to skillet with garlic and shallot. Let cook for about 10 seconds without stirring. Then, start folding the eggs over themselves until cooked (about 10 more seconds). Add noodles to eggs, and use tongs or two wooden spoons to toss to combine.
7) Whisk the sauce ingredients together and then pour over the noodles. Increase heat to high and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated (about 1 minute).
8) Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, and tofu over the noodles. Continue to cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles and bean sprouts are tender and cooked through. Taste and make sure the seasoning is right. If you want it spicier, add more cayenne pepper.
9) Serve with additional chopped peanuts scattered on top and a vegetable of choice on the side.
(recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
(recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated)