This is easily one of our favorite dinners in my home. It is my husband’s favorite dish I cook, and he only gets it when he’s REALLY good ;). This dish is perfect because it is so versatile with what vegetables you can add in, as well as the protein you could use which could be shrimp, chicken, tofu, or beef- or you could simply load it with fresh vegetables for a vegan/vegetarian take. I prefer to make my pad thai with chicken or shrimp, and I like to add in some tofu for extra protein because the kids don’t even notice it. Traditionally in Thailand, pad thai is made with shrimp. The typical ingredients you should use include the tamarind paste and fish sauce (which you can find in the international food aisle in most grocery stores such as Whole Foods), shallots, fresh bean sprouts, scallions or garlic chives, lime, and rice noodles. The rest of the ingredients are pretty delicious, but you could play around and use substitutions to best suit your preferences. I started loading up my pad thai with a variety of fresh vegetables because, as I mentioned, this dish is a favorite in my home so I can easily get everyone to consume some extra vegetables. Pad thai’s zesty sweet-sour flavor pairs perfectly with the fresh crunch of vegetables; I toss in red and green cabbage, shredded carrots, red bell pepper, and as always some scallions! 😛
I prepare my sauce in advance by combining fish sauce, tamarind paste, fresh squeezed lime juice, brown sugar, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper. Beware, the crushed red pepper and cayenne make this dish very spicy, so I tend to limit this or omit it if I know the little ones will be eating it. I make the sauce in advance because getting your pad thai right is highly dependent on cooking the rice noodles just right-not too smushy and not undercooked. So once you are tossing all of these ingredients (it is a long list after all!) you really should have the sauce prepared and ready to pour. The sauce recipe produces a large quantity, enough for 2-3 batches of pad thai. It stores well in the fridge.
The rice noodles do not need to be blanched or boiled, instead just soak in hot water for 8-10 minutes. To ensure your noodles are perfect, do not over soak. They should be just pliable, and not too soft. They should be al dente but flexible. Remember, they will cook more once in the pan. Once in the pan, constantly move your noodles around and quickly add all the ingredients so that the noodles do not stick to the pan or clump, or get too soft. In order to do this successfully, you should have all ingredients prepared and ready to go. From the moment you sauté the scallions and garlic, the entire dish cooks within 5-10 minutes.
When cooking the pad thai, want to keep the noodles loose and nice. To ensure this, you want to make sure you have a nice wide pan for cooking. If you use a wok or something with a small base diameter, the ingredients will pile on top of each other and noodles will likely get sticky and clumpy ( I speak from experience). I use a 14inch diameter pan that I cook paella in and my results have improved dramatically than when I used to cook in my regular 10-12 inch omelet pans! Again, once the noodles are added to the pan, you need to keep them moving around so have all of your additional vegetables and tofu chopped and ready to go!
There is so much flavor in this dish from wonderful natural whole food infusers such as ginger, garlic, shallots, and the tamarind and lime in the sauce. The dish is also loaded with protein: eggs, tofu, and chicken or shrimp. Combined with the plentiful crunchy vegetables, this is a great healthy and filling meal! I only use 2 tablespoons of olive oil to sauté the meat then vegetables and noodles in, so fat is very minimal in the dish.
I start by sautéing the garlic, ginger, and shallots in olive oil. I then sizzle the meat in the infused oil for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Then, I add the eggs and scramble them, toss in the noodles and the sauce, toss in the tofu, and finally the fresh vegetables and bean sprouts. It all cooks and comes together pretty quickly, so remember the key is to have everything washed and chopped before you begin sautéing!
I hope you and your family enjoy!
- 1/2 c fish sauce
- 1/2 c tamarind paste
- juice of one-two limes (1/4 cup)
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- pinch of crushed red peppers (optional)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 lb raw deveined and peeled shrimp or thinly sliced chicken breast strips
- 1/2 c diced extra firm tofu
- 2 eggs
- 1 package of rice noodles
- 1 c fresh bean sprouts
- 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (optional)
- 1/2 c red cabbage, shredded (optional)
- 3/4 c green cabbage, shredded (optional)
- 1/2 c chopped scallion or garlic chives
- 1/2 c shredded carrots (optional)
- half a red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 shallot, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1/2 c pad thai sauce (see above recipe)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (optional)
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- lime wedges for garnish
- crushed peanuts (optional)
- Marinate the sliced chicken or raw shrimp in the soy sauce for about 15 minutes.
- Soak the rice noodles in hot water for 8-10 minutes (or boil according to directions on box) until al dente- still firm but flexible enough to wrap around your finger. Drain and wash with cold water to prevent sticking.
- In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and sautee the shallots, ginger, and garlic briefly until golden and fragrant. Add the chicken or shrimp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind the pad thai sauce is salty. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until the shrimp is pink (or chicken turns opaque white/golden).
- Once the chicken or shrimp is turned and cooked on the other side, reduce heat to medium-low and scramble the eggs in.
- Add the remaining oil, toss the noodles in, and pour the sauce over the noodles. Stir and lift noodles gently with tongs, being sure to keep the noodles moving so that they do not stick or get overcooked.
- Add the tofu if using, the sliced red pepper, half of the scallions, 3/4 of the bean sprouts, half of the carrots, half of the cilantro, and half of the cabbages. Toss gently. Remove from heat after 1 minute.
- Spoon onto individual plates, adding remaining sprouts, scallions, and cilantro on top and the cabbage and carrots on the sides as garnish. Place lime wedges on the plate and squeeze fresh lime juice over before eating.
- If you like crushed peanuts over yours, sprinkle on top along with the cilantro and scallions.
- To make this vegan or vegetarian, you can use soy sauce in place of the fish sauce, and omit meat and eggs.