Ordering Pad Thai in a restaurant can be hit or miss, but making it from scratch will allow you to taste and experience the explosive combination of flavors: the tanginess of tamarind juice, a hint of sweetness from palm sugar, and the pungent flavors of fish sauce.
My former neighbor, Breeda Ryan, who I spent many nights breaking bread with in Brooklyn shares with us step by step how to make this traditional street food dish. She’s perfected the method using a combination of recipes from friends and professionals. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Incidentally, Breeda now owns a fabulous yoga studio in Limerick, Ireland which you must visit.
If you are looking for the RebelMom Dinner Club feature, I’ve decided on alternate weeks to focus some space to kitchen tips & tricks, more involved recipes, and must-haves for your kitchen. So, RMDC will return next Friday.
Breeda’s Pad Thai
8 oz Rice noodles (1/4 inch).
1/4 -1lb Fresh Shrimp
4-7 Garlic cloves, finely chopped.
2-3 Shallots (or half a small red or purple onion)
8 oz Firm tofu
1-3 tsp Dried red hot pepper flakes (I use 1 tsp)
1 cup Dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1 cup Bean sprouts
2-3 Tbsp Peanut oil
6 Tbsp Fish sauce
3 Tbsp Palm sugar [equals about 1 tbsp or so of white sugar]
1 Tbsp White sugar
3 Tbsp Tamarind juice concentrate
Shrimp Marinade *Per 1lb of peeled shrimp
2 tsp cornstarch to
1 tsp Sesame Oil
Soak Rice Noodles in warm water between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on preferred softness – do not par-boil.
Peel shrimp and add them to water that has some salt (and lemon which removes the fishy taste). Leave for a few mins. The salt flavors and plumps the shrimp.
Marinate the shrimp – mix cornstarch and oil, add shrimp, mix well and refrigerate for an hour.
Thinly slice the shallots and cut the scallions tops (green) into 1 inch lengths and the bottoms are thinly sliced (white)
Cut tofu into small cubes.
Use a mortar and pestle or a food processor for the dry roasted peanuts and grind into a coarse consistency
Simmer sauce ingredients 1-2 minutes, until dissolved. Set aside.
Deep-fry the tofu in the wok in a cup or so of oil until it browns, then set aside.
Remove the oil from the wok, and wipe the wok clean.
Pan Searing Shrimp
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet/fry pan on high heat until smoking. Spread the shrimp and sear until edges turn pink (about 1 min), flip with tongs. (Depending on amount of shrimp used and size of pan, you may need to divide into two batches). Leave for about 30-45 seconds until the center is opaque. Cover and let stand until shrimp are cooked through (approx.1-2 minutes)
Heat the wok over high heat until it smokes. Add the peanut oil and swirl it to cover the pan. Add the chopped garlic, shallots and thin-sliced scallions. Stir fry for about 20-30 seconds. Push to the side, then crack the eggs into the oil, when the egg starts to cook scramble it all together and cook some more. Add the hot red pepper flakes.
Drain the soaked noodles and add them to the pan. Stir fry for about 1 – 2 minutes, depending on when the noodles begin to soften. (Add a little more oil, if necessary). Add the tofu and sauce, holding back at least a third !!!!!. This way you can adjust it to your taste. Mix well.
Add half the chopped peanuts and mix. Add half or so of the bean-sprouts and scallions (green part) and cooked shrimp. Stir well, and wait for the vegetables to wilt, while testing and adjusting flavours.
Serve with remainder of bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, lime wedges and hot red pepper flakes on the side.
Note 1: Be careful not to add too much of the sauce for your taste. The sauce might be better with a little more tamarind juice, or a touch of vinegar – but it is the key to tasty Pad Thai.
Note 2: Instead of dropping in half the ingredients, all the ingredients can be dropped into the pan, and some lime juice can be used instead of the wedges.