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Apr 27, 2010 10:07 AM

REAL Pad Thai recipe?

I'm looking for an honest-to-goodness, real, straight-from-a-Thailand-streetcart pad thai recipe.

I've heard tamarind is a must, palm sugar is a must, and shrimp brains are a possibility. I don't care how exotic the ingredients are, or how hard (or easy) they are to find. I want it to taste exactly how it does in Thailand -- well, as close as I can get, anyway.

I have the noodle part down, but the rest is the mystery. There are a hundred thousand recipes online but something about them seems so American, even the ones with the dried shrimp and palm sugar (definitely not American ingredients).

Anyway, even if the ingredients are relatively tame, if somebody could quite simply provide the recipe and validate its authenticity, that would be awesome!

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  1. Kasma Loha-unchit is a highly regarded Thai cooking teacher whose recipes are very authentic. You can find her recipe for Pad Thai at--

    As Kasma points out in the notes to her recipe, "there are as many ways to make Pad Thai as there are cooks, geographical regions, moods, and creative entrepreneurial spirit."

    2 Replies
    1. re: charliemyboy

      I second Kasma's recipie/technique. Especially pay attention to the noodle prep -- her noodles are more al-dente and not super mushy/flabby as a restaurant prepared pad-thai. And if you have the option of taking one of her cooking classes, don't hesitate!!!!

      1. re: charliemyboy

        I follow a recipe very much like this. I use a little more palm sugar because tamarind is unpleasantly tart to my tastes unless balanced with a lot of sugar.

      2. I've always wanted to make an authentic pad thai. I even have some tamarind paste in the freezer but I've never actually done it. I do have a recipe somewhere, but I can't find it. I got it from an old co-work who has a Thai wife, so I suppose it's authentic. I can't find it but the Alton Brown one has all the same ingredients. It calls for the dried shrimp which I couldn't get at the local foodmart, but I didn't look too hard.

        1. Here's the one we learned recently at a cooking school in Thailand. It was a fantastic class - the best I've ever done. We've cooked it since getting home and it was just as good as I remembered, and very "authentic", but there are lots of ways of making Pad Thai!

          6 Replies
          1. re: greedygirl

            Hi GG,
            I tried your link and it isn't working for the recipe. Could you fix it, I am dying to try it.

            1. re: mcel215

              Hi there.

              It works for me???

              Here it is again:


              Otherwise, google "Reflections of the Hendo" (my OH's blog) and it's the third post down.

              1. re: greedygirl

                Well perhaps I wasn't clear enough.

                I can go on that site, but I cannot find the recipe. Can you?

                1. re: mcel215

                  It's in the picture. I saved it. Thanks

                  1. re: mcel215

                    As BamiaWruz says, he's scanned it in so just click on the picture to enlarge it.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Thanks to both of you, I never thought to click on the picture, lol!

            2. Do you think that it is possible to make this without tamarind paste, or can you think of a substitute? I was actually able to find the noodles and fish sauce in Cairo, but the tamarind paste has proven to be very elusive. Thai food is not big here, and my son is really hankering for Pad Thai.

              21 Replies
              1. re: roxlet

                I'm surprised about that - isn't tamarind indigenous to Africa?

                Anyway, you could try using lemon or lime juice with a touch of brown sugar.

                1. re: roxlet

                  No tamarind in Cairo?? that's very odd!! I'm pretty sure they've heard of it.

                  Tamar Hind or tamar hindi, ask someone in the market.

                  They make a drink out of it and also put it on fish and in some recipes from what I know and searched in arabic just now.

                  1. re: BamiaWruz

                    I was just going to reply to gg that maybe it is either called something else in Arabic or it is in packaging in entirely Arabic writing. In any event, whether it is here or not, I haven't been able to make myself understood in terms of what I am looking for. Calling my Arabic rudimentary would be generous, and when people in the stores speak English, they rarely know the names of ingredients or foodstuffs in English, which makes it difficult when searching out a more unusual ingredient. I will try asking for tamer hindi. Thanks for the tip, BamiaWruz.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      I used to have that problem at the Chinese supermarket. Now I translate the food's name into Chinese on Google Translate, print it out (large), and take the printout to the shop. It works a treat. Google can also translate into Arabic, so that's a possibility for you.

                      1. re: Channa

                        Good idea. Now if I could only get my printer to work...

                      2. re: roxlet

                        تمر هندي - تمر هند

                        Not sure if you write arabic but maybe google that and print it or something, if you want it in arabic.

                        1. re: BamiaWruz

                          So I asked for tamer Hindi, and this is what I came home with. It's a drink? When I open the package, it's sort of little redish-brown crystals -- almost looks like brown sugar.

                    2. re: roxlet

                      You might have luck at an Indian grocer, if there is one.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        I have not seen one, though yesterday we drove through a part of Cairo where I remarked on the women wearing these hood/cape type tops, and my son's coach remarked that they were Indian, and that lots of Indians lived it this part of Cairo, so I will have to go back there for a look-see.

                        1. re: roxlet

                          Mark Bittman suggests subbing tamarind with ketchup and lime juice. Google his "pad thai-style rice salad" for the exact proportions.

                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                            The Thai lady who ran the place we stayed in Ko Mak, who was a great cook, used ketchup in her pad thai sauce, as well as tamarind, so it's defnitely not just a Western thing.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              Yes, I'm beginning to understand the international ubiquity of ketchup living here in Cairo -- potato chips come with little packs of ketchup inside, and they serve pizza with ketchup. In fact, I've been served ketchup with a really weird assortment of things, so a Thai cook using ketchup in a Pad Thai recipe doesn't surprise me at all...

                              1. re: roxlet

                                And don't forget the Vietnamese fried rice in the Mae Pham book we did for COTM, which I love, and I'm not a great fan of ketchup.

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Well, I like it on a burger, but I may just have to expand my usage. Didn't do that COTM, so I will check it out!

                      2. re: roxlet

                        I know some places do a successful Pad Thai with vinegar and some other stuff replacing the taramind for the sour taste.

                        I know this isn't very helpful, but google "Tara Thai" and "Pad Thai recipe" or something. They are a restaurant in Virginia who published their recipe in a magazine this year. It's the best non-tamarind pad thai I've ever had, and I've cooked it a lot of different ways myself.

                        1. re: Russel Shank

                          I have made delicious, but inauthentic, pad thai substituting Pomegranite molasses for tamarind paste. Presumably this is far easier to find in Cairo.

                          1. re: relizabeth

                            Yes, but I finally did find tamarind -- I think. I followed BamiaWruz's suggestion and asked for tamer hindi. I got something that is meant to be made into a drink and instead of a paste, is little crystals. But the pomegranate molasses is a good idea and I happen to have some.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              crystals? that sounds strange. I see tamarind candies and sugar drinks in the asian food stores, which sounds closer to what you found, than what you'd need. Tamarind is to pad thai sauce what tomatos are to a vodka sauce.

                              Give ie a shot though. Mix it w/ a tiny bit of water and see if you can get a sauce/paste. It sound have some sweet taste, but the overwhelming taste is supposed to be an astringent on -- a little different than straight sour, it does to mouth and swallowing areas what a teenager's facial astringent does to their skin, sucks it in.

                              You can definitely swing Pad Thai by substituting rice vinegar, but find a recipe that gives the correct measurements.

                              Maybe try the pom molasses w/ some vinegar, and you'll get that sweet/sour thing going.

                              1. re: Russel Shank

                                My response up thread has a picture of the box that the 'tamer hindi' came in. The box has a picture of a glass on it, and the writing is entirely in Arabic.

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  weird. I've seen tamamrind drinks, but never the crystals for making your own. If I were making PAd thai and only had a tam drink for tamamrind, I'd probably just do a vinegar pad thai, and splash the drink on for the hell of it.. maybe cook off some of the water to concentrate it, basically ending up with what you found at the store.

                                  If you're really determined about this, find a picture of a tamarind fruit, and pictures of packaged tamarind product (the pulp block, and the blue topped jar from Thailand are pretty ubiquitous.) Try bringing those to some stores along with your Arabic translation. And/or, find a Thai restaurant (or a Chinese one if Cairo has none) and ask where they get their suppliers. There's likely some little shop in the city. Worst case, you find all the ingredients for asian cooking you need, but can't find, and place an internet order. Also look up Cairo expat websites/message boards and you'll find people similarly trying to track down foreign food items, and their answers.

                                  I'll find and post that vinegar Pad Thai recipe for you. I'm cooking tomorrow, and have been meaning to try the recipe anyway.

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    Here is the TAMARIND-FREE PAd Thai recipe (it substitutes vinegar w/ success)

                                    3 Tbs fish sauce
                                    3 Tbs vinegar (or tamarind juice)
                                    1 Tbs soybean oil (or your preferred cooking oil)
                                    1 clove garlic
                                    1 egg
                                    Handful scallions, chopped
                                    Handful sprouts
                                    Handful tofo, (liquid pressed out of it, and diced)
                                    2 tsp sugar
                                    Crushed peanuts
                                    Cabbage or carrots, shredded
                                    rice noodles
                                    lime for garnish

                                    They recommend soaking the noodles for 4-5 hours in room temp water. That sounds nuts to me -- I soak for an hour in cold -- but I've never tried it so who knows (they are a successful restaurant after all.)

                                    Mix fish sauce and vinegar, and place to the side.
                                    Heat wok and add oil (they use soybean, but use what you like.)
                                    Toss in garlic and shrimp and cook it up, push to the side of the wok.
                                    Toss in an egg and cook.
                                    Mix the scrambled egg up with the garlic and shrimp.
                                    Toss some scallions and sprouts into the mix, stir fry for a minute and set aside.
                                    Put rice noodles in cook and cook till soft.
                                    Push noodles to the side and cook tofu for a minute.
                                    Add the srimp garlic stuff back in and mix eeryhting up
                                    sprinkle sugar in
                                    add crushed peanuts
                                    garnish with more peanuts, shredded cabbage or carrots, and lime wedge.


                                    You can really do this however you want though. Maybe cook scallions with the garlic and shrimp, or put some scallion and garlic in the initial fish/vinegar sauce.

                                    Its whatever you want. Have a ton of ingredients prepared, and try designing the Pad Thai recipe you like best. It's like making a burrito, it's whatever you like.

                        2. Most of the Thai bloggers I trust have only given rough outlines to leave you room to flavor the pad thai as you like. For 4 servings, I make a sauce of 2 heaping teaspoons tamarind, 2 tbsp. fish sauce, 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. lime juice or rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp. chili.

                          In a separate smoking wok, I brown the tofu, then add garlic, a tiny bit of sauce, scrambled eggs, cook through, noodles, add the rest of the sauce, mix thoroughly, add shrimp, bean sprouts, continue tossing and once the mixture is dry, I add sliced garlic chives. Everything is topped with crushed peanuts.