Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pad Thai: The Recipe

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website: thewalkingcookbook.com

It's going to be a special Family Dinner this Thursday... I will have just completed the first day of the fourth year of my teaching career. For someone who wasn't even sure that she would make it through two years, my school and students have become an invaluable part of my life. As my NYC "family" (roommates, friends, visitors, etc.) and I say goodbye to our summer days, I have to admit that I'm not quite ready to start cooking the real comfort food. My pot pies, mac & cheese, and other sources of warmth will have to wait a little longer. This week, I will be having fun with Pad Thai.

As common as Pad Thai is in my gastronomic repertoire as a consumer, it is not even close to my culinary comfort zone. Woks are involved, measurements are not precise, and to top it off, the ingredients are going to be a beast to find, even in the Big Food-Mecca Apple. However, if I am truly to become a Walking Cookbook, I have to jump this hurdle sometime. For this, I turn to the experts. Chef McDang, the king of Thai cuisine according to most of my sources, offered up his complex recipe on his website. Impressive, yes, but I ended up going the training-wheel route with Pim Techamuanvivit's wordier but somehow less intimidating version. Pim is a blogger, so her conversational style gave me just enough hand holding that I felt I could take on the task. Of course, I pared it down to my own virgo-esque list format.

I hope I am able to find the ingredients needed for a true Pad Thai, because as open as I am to substitutions, I don't want my entire meal to be made of replacement ingredients. So it's off to Kalustyans I go to search their shelves for the more esoteric (read: authentic Thai) ingredients in the recipe. Oh yeah, and I have to buy a wok...

Pim's mouthwatering results

The Recipe: Pad Thai for Beginners, adapted from Chez Pim
Yield: 6 servings
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup tamarind pulp (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar (about the color of cookie dough)
  • 2-4 tsp Thai chili powder or paprika
Pad Thai Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. thin rice noodles (aka: Rice Sticks, Banh Pho, or Chantaboon)
  • 42 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • 2 packs firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces (picture the size of a Starburst candy)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
  • 12 garlic chives (or the green part of a green onion), cut into 2" pieces
  • 3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cups peanut oil

Sauce Preparation:
  • In a small saucepan, melt the tamarind pulp, fish sauce, and palm sugar together over a low flame.
  • Add the chili powder or paprika teaspoon by teaspoon until reaching the desired level of spice.
  • Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Pad Thai Preparation: Make no more than 2 portions at a time
  • Soak the rice noodles in water until they are very al dente. Drain.
  • Prepare all other ingredients as described in the ingredients list and set in containers near the stove.
  • Heat a large wok over high heat until very hot, to the point of smoky.
  • Add a splash of oil, about 3-4 tablespoons.
  • Add 1/3 of the tofu to the pan and cook for one minute until the tofu is crisp and slightly brown at the edges.
  • Add about 4 loosely packed cups of noodles, and ladle about 1/2 cup of warm sauce. Stir vigorously, keep everything moving in the wok, and cook the noodles until soft. Remember to break up the noodles and don’t let them lump together. If the sauce evaporates too quickly and your noodles aren't quite ready, sprinkle a bit of water and keep stirring. Add a bit of oil if the noodle still stubbornly sticks together. 
  • When the noodles are ready (taste to be sure), push them up to one side of the wok and crack 2 eggs into the middle. Let set for 10-15 seconds and toss everything together.
  • Add 1/3 of the shrimp, ground peanuts, and bean sprouts and cook for 1-2 minutes, until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Keep things moving. Add more sauce if it looks a little pale.
  • Add a handful of garlic chives. 
  • Turn the heat off, and quickly give the wok a good stirring to mix everything together.
  • Add the finished Pad Thai to a plate and serve. 
  • Give the used wok a quick rinse with warm water, wipe off any excess bits of food with a warm towel, then put the wok back on to the fire.
  • As soon as the wok heats back up to a smoking point, you’re ready to do another portion. Repeat this process until all your dinner guests are fed.

Time to Memorize: 3 days


  1. I demand avocado conference photos!

  2. The thai dish is GREAT! Just follow the recipe and have everything ready and you just put the ingredients in. EASY, yet special.