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Pad Thai

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Does anyone have any tried and tested recipes for pad thai that approximate this restaurant style dish? I am thinking of trying Cook's Illustrated version for an upcoming dinner party but wanted to know if there was something better out there.

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  1. Chez Pim has a good recipe for Pad Thai on her blog - I recently did an authentic Thai cooking course and it was pretty much the same as this:
    http://chezpim.typepad.com/blogs/2007...

    1 Reply
    1. re: alexthepink

      I've tried Pim's recipe and it was excellent. More precise quantities for a very similar recipe can be found here:

      http://www.templeofthai.com/food/one_...

    2. If you can find the tamarind, the Cook's recipe is the best I've ever made. It's one of my favorite CI recipes of all time----before they started doing safe, mainstream recipes every issue.

      1. I can't see the Cook's Illustrated recipe - I guess you need a login. I got to see a 'teaser' which recommended soaking in hot water. That's a good idea if you want a big soggy mush of noodles when you fry it. If you want your noodles to be separate strands, soak them in room-temp water instead. My recommendation when making Thai food is to stick to sites which are either written by Thais, or specialize only in Thai food. I've seen way too many recipes on the web which were scary to say the least. :)

        I have a recipe for a vegetarian version here:
        http://www.realthairecipes.com/recipe...
        You can make it non-veg by using fish sauce instead of white soy sauce, and adding some dried small shrimp. You can add larger fresh shrimp too. I also have a pic up on Flickr with hover comments:
        http://flickr.com/photos/_cee/431508815/

        I just checked out Pim's recipe. It's good and worth a read for sure. She has a lot more theory than my recipe. I don't recommend adding garlic tho.

        I think my best advice is to cook only one portion at a time, and make sure your pan is very hot.

        9 Replies
        1. re: cee

          It doesn't turn out like a soggy mess. It turns out exactly like the Pad Thai I've had in restaurants, both in the U.S. and Thailand. You soak in hot tap water, not boiling, and only for 20 minutes.

          Cook's usually "borrows" (I use that term loosely) from authentic recipes, so I think there's no need to denigrate the recipe just because you don't see a Thai name beside it. Especially if you haven't tried it (or, um, even read the thing). Some of the worst cooks of any cuisine are native eaters, anyway!

          Pad Thai
          7/2002

          A wok might be the implement of choice in restaurants and the old country, but a large 12-inch skillet (nonstick makes cleanup easy) is more practical for home cooks. Although pad thai cooks very quickly, the ingredient list is long, and everything must be prepared and within easy reach at the stovetop when you begin cooking. For maximum efficiency, use the time during which the tamarind and noodles soak to prepare the other ingredients. Tofu is a good and common addition to pad thai. If you like, add 4 ounces of extra-firm tofu or pressed tofu (available in Asian markets) cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup) to the noodles along with the bean sprouts.

          Serves 4 as a main dish
          2 tablespoons tamarind paste or substitute (see Tamarind options in related articles)
          3/4 cup water (boiling)
          3 tablespoons fish sauce
          1 tablespoon rice vinegar
          3 tablespoons granulated sugar
          3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
          4 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
          8 ounces dried rice stick noodles , about 1/8 inch wide (the width of linguine)
          2 large eggs
          1/4 teaspoon table salt
          12 ounces medium shrimp (31/35 count), peeled and deveined, if desired
          3 cloves garlic , pressed through garlic press or minced (1 tablespoon)
          1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)
          2 tablespoons dried shrimp , chopped fine (optional)
          2 tablespoons Thai salted preserved radish (optional)
          6 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
          3 cups bean sprouts (6 ounces)
          5 medium scallions , green parts only, sliced thin on sharp bias
          1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
          lime wedges

          1. Soak tamarind paste in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes, then push it through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fibers and extract as much pulp as possible. Stir fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil into tamarind liquid and set aside.

          2. Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in large bowl; soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside. Beat eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small bowl; set aside.

          3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until shrimp are opaque and browned about the edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to plate and set aside.

          4. Off heat, add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and swirl to coat; add garlic and shallot, set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes; add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds. Add noodles, dried shrimp, and salted radish (if using) to eggs; toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated. Scatter 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and cooked shrimp over noodles; continue to cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are tender, about 2 1/2 minutes (if not yet tender add 2 tablespoons water to skillet and continue to cook until tender).

          5. Transfer noodles to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, and cilantro; serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.

          1. re: wittlejosh

            From my brief perusal that looks a lot like Kasma's recipe.

            http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/reci...

            Pretty much all of her stuff is good.

            Disclosure: I have taken most of her classes and am a huge groupie.

            1. re: Louise

              I thought Kasma Loha-unchit's pad thai was one of the best dishes I made all year.

               
            2. re: wittlejosh

              I have also made that Cooks Illustrated recipe and it was excellent. It is very similar to a recipe I have from a great (but now gone) Thai restaurant in Maryland right outside of D.C. The dried shrimp and salted preserved radish are the key to authenticity in this recipe. They help with the fishy/sour/salty taste components, as does the tamarind and fish sauce.

              1. re: AmyH

                I have made the recipe from C.I. several times, and it is great, and much better than those from my many cookbooks. I leave out the radish, as I don't have it, but if you follow the recipe for the sauce and get everything in order for a flash wok cook, it will be wonderful, trust me.

                1. re: pitterpatter

                  If you can find the tamarind and dry shrimp, you probably can find the preserved radish at the same store. My asian market sells it in small foil packages for less than a dollar.

                  I agree that the CI recipe is a very good one.

              2. re: wittlejosh

                INGREDIENTS COMMENTS:
                1. Ingredients list:
                As you can see above, this recipe has about 20 ingredients for Pad Thai. To me, I like the above recipe's list of ingredients, or something similar. About 3 ingredients are those you may have to go to a Thai/Asian grocery store to buy on purpose for this recipe specifically, like (dried shrimp, sweet preserved radish daikon, and tamarind paste). And, a few ingredients, are southasian ingredients that you may have, that can be used on multiple other dishes, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, peanut oil. And, then, of course, the other ingredients can probably be bought at a nice grocery store/produce place.

                2. Soy sauce or sweet versions are bad:
                If you choose to just buy half the ingredients, or just substitute soy sauce, or a sweet sauce, you will have a pile of Chinese stir fried noodles, or a sweet mush of noodles. It would be similar to ordering Pad Thai from a place that does Chinese/Thai takeout and doesn't use all of the correct ingredients. I think it is very important to have at least some of the preserved radish, that probably is one of the stronger flavors, if you don't like too much of it, start out with just a bit in the beginning. It counters the sweet taste of the rest of the dish. As for the tamarind, there are probably multiple options, from making it on your own, to buying a little container in a jar, and I would probably go with something easy in the beginning.

                3. Leaving ingredients out:
                Ok, if you don't have scallions/shallots, that would be fine. Once you start removing peanuts and bean sprouts from your garnish, it gets a bit lonely. You could probably substitute lemon for lime. You maybe could skip the rice vinegar and peanut oil. You could kind of use some pre-made pad thai mix if you carefully check the ingredients to make sure it includes tamarind and dried radish somehow, but not an imitation soy sauce blend. Basically, I would buy the dry ingredients one day to stock up. ANd, then right before you want to make it, get your bean sprouts, lime, etc....

                Good luck. Don't make your rice noodles mushy. :) ENjoy!!

              3. re: cee

                I want to apologize for the tone of my original post above. I re-read it now and it sounds awful bitchy, which was not my intention at all. I wrote it quickly and didn't think about it. I read 'hot water' in the recipe and dismissed it because I've read so many Thai recipes online which were totally incorrect. Again, sorry for the tone!

                1. re: cee

                  No prob---and I'm sorry I was so quick to defend vehemently. It's just one of my favorite recipes!

              4. I made Chez Pim's recipe tonight after seeing this thread - it was great! I do have one question - I saw palm sugar at my Asian grocery store but figured I would just use plain white sugar since I had plenty of that at home. Is there much difference in the final product if you use palm sugar, and if so, what's the difference?

                5 Replies
                1. re: seconds

                  Palm sugar has a really nice flavor. It reminds me of the maple sugar candy I used to eat when I was a kid (but less sweet). It gives a certain flavor to the food along with the sweetness. I recommend trying it and seeing if you can taste a difference in the final product. You can also use the leftovers to make Thai sweets. :)

                  There are usually two types sold -- hard cakes in a plastic bag, and plastic tubs with a lid. I recommend the tubs because they are sealed and don't dry out -- a lot easier to use the sugar that way. They are sometimes sealed with wax too to prevent drying.

                  1. re: cee

                    Thanks cee! The only type they had at the store was the hard hockey puck type, but maybe I'll try that the next time and experiment.

                    1. re: cee

                      yes brown sugar can be a sub for palm sugar or Mexican Piloncillo but palm sugar really has a different taste. It reminds me of eating cotton candy with that sightly brunt sugar taste.

                    2. re: seconds

                      if you have to sub, rather brown sugar than white.

                      1. re: seconds

                        Yes, there is a difference in flavor. However, pad thai is not something that is carved in stone like the ten commandments. There is allowance for variation in preference, and white sugar is one perfectly acceptable variation.

                      2. I was surfing youtube when I ran across this user named "thaifoodmaster". If you are looking for some serious authenticity, his videos are the best (he lived in thailand for quite a while). Here's one of him making pad thai,

                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4antbw...

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: takadi

                          Regarding that video, it would have been more useful to westerners if quantities had been specified, and I think that the amount of noodles added was too small relative to the amounts of other stuff.

                          Note that there was NO ketchup or other tomato-based ingredient as is becoming far too common here in the U.S. Also note that when everything was on the plate the cook added little piles of sugar, ground peanuts and ground hot pepper on the side. This allows the eater to mix in as much or as little of those things as he/she wants and does away with another major problem of most stateside pad thais in that they come to the table much too sweet. Lastly, note that the dish is quite dry when done. It is not swimming in some gloppy sauce.

                          Obtaining the banana flowers mentioned as a garnish is impossible here in the states. They are not canned and no one has them fresh. But they add a rather sharp bitterness that is nicely toned by the palm and granulated sugar.

                          1. re: ThaiNut

                            I'm pretty sure you can find banana flowers in asian grocery stores like H mart or Grand mart, I believe I've seen them around. Even then, I've seen so many thai and vietnamese restaurants use banana flower that it would seem that it had to come from somewhere

                            1. re: takadi

                              Thanks for that info. I'll look for them locally. I just came back from my annual monthly stay in Thailand and I loved getting them there fresh with my Phad Thai.

                            2. re: ThaiNut

                              It depends where you are. In the SFBA, you can find them in SF or Oakland Chinatowns, also Berkeley Bowl, and I may have seen them in my local Lucky's/Safeway/whatever they call it these days.

                              1. re: Louise

                                I tried Chez Pim's recipe last night, my first attempt at a homeade pad thai. I used "tamarind concentrate" together with the fish sauce, sugar and paprika to make Pim's suggested sauce.

                                The tamarind concentrate had a very strong smell was I supposed to dilute it by any chance? I looked around the web but nothing seemed to point me to adding water.

                                I wasn't happy with my end result, I'm trying to figure where I went wrong. It didn't taste the way the tamarind smelled (fortunately) but something was off, seemed almost to sour and tarty.

                                1. re: ios94

                                  Her recipe uses tamarind pulp, which is different than tamarind concentrate. Not surprisingly (and not trying to be snarky here) -- tamarind concentrate is a lot more concentrated! The Cook's Illustrated recipe has adjustments depending on whether you're using pulp, concentrate, or lime juice -- for concentrate, you'd use less and add some water, as you suspected. I think the ratio they suggest is something like 1 tablespoon concentrate to 2/3 cup of hot water.

                                  1. re: Pia

                                    Not snarky at all, the fact that the jar said concentrate led me to belive that I should add water (no instructions on the jar). I did a quick search for tamarind concentrate and nothing popped up about adding water and as the consistency didn't seem too thick out of the jar I went with it. I should have asked the person at the store if I should add water.

                                    1. re: ios94

                                      You don't necessarily need to with every recipe, but if you're substituting for tamarind pulp in a recipe it usually helps because tamarind pulp is reconstituted in water. So you want to use less concentrate than you would use pulp, and you also want to add some water to make up for the lesser amount of liquid. But I occasionally use tamarind concentrate in Indian dishes without adding water.

                          2. The Chow website actually had a quite decent recipe some while ago: I made it twice and thought it was great, a bit drier than the usual USA restaurant versions, but very well balanced:

                            http://www.chow.com/recipes/28369-pad...

                            1. Bobby Flay had a Pad Thai throwdown against Nongkran Daks.

                              Has anyone tried her recipe?
                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ku...

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: dave_c

                                That's the episode that drove me to try Pad Thai at home, I looked up Flay's recipe as a reference but dummy me didn't think of looking for hers. PS - The whole Tamarind "concentrate" vs Tamarind "sauce" and Tamarind "juice" is confusing me. That recipe you linked to calls for Tamarind juice yet below states, "You can buy premixed tamarind concentrate or make your own tamarind juice." I'm assuming they make the juice from the tamarind pulp.

                                1. re: ios94

                                  Funny story about tamarind from a book I read--

                                  from "A Primate's Memoir" by Robert M. Sapolsky

                                  "...I planned for a desert trip. I went to one of the spanking new supermarkets in Nairobi, got my salt tablets and crackers and fluids. I wanted dried fruit; dried fruit is perfect in the desert, I'd decided. ... It was damn expensive. The dried pineapples or dried coconuts or dried bananas were going to bankrupt me. ... Suddenly I spotted a block of dried tamarind. Had no idea what tamarind was, but it was phenomenally cheap. Bought two bricks--two kilos of the stuff.
                                  First evening...set up my tent...settled down to eat, unwrapped my block of tamarind, and bit off a hunk. A stupefying gustatory sensation screamed through my head at that instant. Imagine opening up an entire salt shaker into your mouth. Quick, before swallowing, pour a bottle of mustard in. Then, just a second, toss in a hunk of Marmite, some fetid French cheese, and an old fish. Multiply by a hundred thousand. That begins to approximate how strong the taste was. "Taste" almost stopped making sense as a term. It transcended taste. ... It turned out I had brought enough dried tamarind along to give gustatory hallucinations to every man woman and child south of Cairo. ... I lay up all night, trying to spit the taste out."

                                  1. re: blue room

                                    Sapolsky's dried tamarind is certainly not the same as you get in Thailand. There it also comes in bricks but it tastes sweet and actually pretty good, and it's not salty whatsoever. I once brought a brick of it home from Bangkok in my check baggage and when clearing U.S. Customs the inspector found it. Now the stuff is a very deep brown color and it is sticky. It looks quite a lot like a brick of raw opium, which I know what looks like as I was once in the counter-narc business. So the Customs guys got together and opened and poked and prodded and smelled it and even called in a sniffer dog who reacted not at all so after I tore of a small piece and ate it in front of them they relented and let me and my tamarind go. I probably ruined their whole day.

                                    1. re: ThaiNut

                                      Yea, I was gonna say, tamarind certainly does not taste like cheese ,lol. I'd say a cross between limes and raisins.

                              2. I'm still hunting for a recipe that is good restaurant quality. I tried the CI version, thought it was good, but still didn't match the better restaurant versions I've had. Tried the version in "Thailand - The Beautiful Cookbook" and that didn't do it either. Even tried the version in "It's All American Food" and that didn't get there either.

                                So I'll try some of the ones listed here to see if I have better success. CI is good for technique. Their recommendation on how to soak the noodles works greats.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: pianola

                                  My pad thai, IMHO, is better than restaurant quality. I basically follow the recipe in David Thompson's Thai Food. Here are my most important tips.

                                  The noodles should be al dente to begin with--just slightly less cooked than you'd like to eat them, but cooked enough so it's not gross to eat them. I don't think it matters whether you achieve this by soaking or boiling, but I usually boil. The most important thing here is not to blindly follow a recipe saying 5 minutes of boiling or 15 minutes of soaking in hot water or 2 hours of soaking in cold water (I've seen all of these variations and more).

                                  The flavoring sauce should be roughly equal parts fish sauce, tamarind water (soak a chunk of tamarind in about the same amount of hot water for 15 minutes, then press and strain), and palm sugar. Other than rice noodles, these are the most essential ingredients of pad thai. For a handful of rice noodles, it should be about 2 Tbsp of each. I add ground roasted red chilis to the sauce.

                                  Stir fry the noodles until they're as brown as you like. Lots of recipes call for stir frying them for 1 minute or less. I like the additional flavor that comes from stir frying them for longer.

                                  Controlling temperature and making sure things are dry are vitally important. What you want to avoid at all costs is steaming instead of stirfrying, so try to remove as much moisture as you can from the things you put into the wok/skillet/pan (including the noodles) with kitchen towels and paper towels.

                                  1. re: sushigirlie

                                    Do you use fresh tamarind or the tamarind "wet" block they sell at asian grocery stores?

                                    1. re: takadi

                                      I use chunks of block tamarind pulp soaked in hot water. I've also tried jarred tamarind paste, but found it sour and unpleasant. Though I've seen them before, I've never purchased fresh tamarind pods.