This is a really great dish and I guarantee that it will match ANY take-out you order. Try it once and you will be hooked! This recipe may not be completely traditional, but I do like all the contrasting textures and flavours. The one piece of advice I could offer is to get all your ingredients prepped and lined up in order. Once this is done, dinner is ready in less then 10 minutes... There is no single component to Pad Thai that really makes it, but rather it is the perfect harmony between all the components and to leave any one of them out would change it.
Here's what you'll need
I've made Pad Thai many times and I've always used the wet tamarind that you get in the grocery store. All you need to do with those is soak in a bit of hot water and strain. Well my new neighbourhood grocery stores don't seem to have any wet tamarind, but instead had the whole pods. Not one to be intimidated by much in the culinary world, I bought them.
Tamarind pods are slightly alien looking and when you crack one open you will definately get this impression. They resemble a long peanut shell and when you crack it open you'll see a long sticky fruit attached by long strings that run along the sides. It's easy to take them out of the shell and get rid of the strings. Toss them all into a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. When they are bubbling take the pot off the heat and let them soak for half an hour to an hour.
When the water is cool enough to touch, start smooshing. You'll feel around for hard black seeds and fish them out. When you're sure you got them all, toss the whole mess into a blender and puree. Then strain in a wire strainer. You'll end up with a thick brown paste that will resemble anything from ketchup to pudding consistency. That's it! I just do a huge batch, keep it in the fridge or the freezer and I'm ready to use it whenever I want.
- 1 cup tamarind paste
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1 chunk palm sugar
- 1 cup water
- as much Sambal Oleek as you like
In a saucepan, heat until slightly thickened (about 5-10 minutes, but not too thick)
The brilliance of this dish, in my opinion is the contrast of textures as well as temperature. The spicy, sweet and salty sauce, the sloppy noodles, the tender shrimp, the raw crunch of bean sprouts, cucumber and cilantro and the nutty flavour of peanuts all come together for a truly unique experience. Getting everything in one bite is the best way to eat this and use how ever much of these as you like.
- 1 small cucumber (julienned)
- ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts
- 1 lime (cut into wedges)
Sautee all the ingredients in this order and cook each item until fragrant
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 2 red chilies (thin slices)
- 1 package shrimp (about 240g)
- 1 egg (lightly whisked)
- sauce (see above)
- 200g rice noodles (1/2 package and soaked in cold water for 45 minutes and drained)
- bean sprouts (at the last minute)
Pour the lot into a nice big bowl and top with all the garnishes. Squeeze fresh lime juice over top and a cold beer alongside...this should feed 2 or 3 people