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REAL Pad Thai recipe?

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

    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.

        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

        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!

          http://hendoman.blogspot.com/2010/03/...

          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.
            Thanks.

            1. re: mcel215

              Hi there.

              It works for me???

              Here it is again:

              http://hendoman.blogspot.com/2010/03/...

              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?
                Thanks.

                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.
                          http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2007/01/...

                          1. I have a question about the tamarind. Last night I made Bittman's pad Thai recipe that was in the April 21 Times. The tamarind I have is in a solid block. I basically had to chip off a piece and try to dissolve it in the other sauce ingredients, which worked imperfectly. Is there a good way to deal with tamarind in that form? (The recipe still came out well, by the way. Not perfect but a pretty darn good weeknight meal.)

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: NYCkaren

                              Is it a block of tamarind pulp, with seeds et al? Like this:

                              http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3127/2...

                              If so, you should dissolve it in hot water - about a tbsp for a cup of water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes or so, then strain. The tamarind paste in the recipe is a processed product that comes in a jar and is like a very thick syrup or thin paste.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Yes, what I have is the block of pulp. I should buy the stuff in a jar. It just seems kind of silly to have two tamarind products in my refrigerator when I rarely cook with tamarind.

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  My question is...when you strain the tamarind which part of it goes in the recipe...the pulp part or the liquid part???

                                  1. re: shaebones

                                    The liquid part. Squeeze the pulp first to get all the juice out though.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      Thank you!! I've been pondering that question for years. :)

                                      1. re: shaebones

                                        I don't know if you were referring to your pondering with regard to pad thai or not but you can use the pulp in other recipes, just letting you know.

                              2. Well, I made my first Pad Thai, and it was OK. Not fabulous, just OK. First of all, I think that I was skittish about soaking the noodles too long, so they could have used some more time in the hot water. I used the Bittman NY Times recipe as my outline. I couldn't find scallions, so I used thinly sliced leeks instead, which seemed to be fine. No tofu in Cairo, so I skipped that, and I couldn't find either beansprouts or savoy cabbage. The fish sauce was breathtakingly salty, Bittman has you fry the scrambled eggs and leave them in the pan as you cook the shrimp. Next time I would remove it and add it back when the shrimps are cooked. I will definitely try it again, but use another recipe I think.

                                20 Replies
                                1. re: roxlet

                                  Pad thai without bean sprouts is a very tough challenge--I'm not sure how the texture could be got. (I hear that it's not hard to sprout your own beans, by the way.) For all that I admire Bittman, he would not be my go-to guy for Asian recipes or really anything with much spicy heat.

                                  About eggs. I've always been happy cracking them raw over the almost finished pad thai--before adding sprouts--and then stirring them underneath once or twice and letting them cook in residual heat.

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    Hmmm. Maybe I will try to sprout my own beans. And Bittman is not usually my go-to guy for most recipes, but this seemed quite simple, so I went with it. I did amp up the spice, though.

                                  2. re: roxlet

                                    I would say don't soak the noodles in hot water - use cool or lukewarm water. Otherwise your noodles will be too soft and will stick when you put them in the wok.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      Ok, then I guess you have to soak them much longer?

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        It depends on your noodles, I think. They should be pliable, but not totally soft. I normally count on about half an hour.

                                        As for the egg, we were taught to push the shrimp etc to one side and pour the beaten egg into the pan. Allow to set for a few seconds and then stir them in.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          So you cook the shrimp first. That makes sense. Other than bean sprouts, do you generally add any other vegetables?

                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            some people use thin shredded carrots, but that's primarily for texture, and rarely cooked.

                                            Preserved radish or turnip are used in some versions also, but that's more like garnish along the lines of peanuts and cilantro.

                                            Best to think of it as a noodle dish w/ protein. Everything else in it, is there to flavor the noodle.

                                            P.S. -- Always soak in cold water.

                                            1. re: Russel Shank

                                              Thanks for all your tips!

                                            2. re: roxlet

                                              Shallots at the beginning, then Chinese chives or spring onion at the end, and preserved radish, although that might be hard to find in Cairo! Have a look at my link above for the authentic recipe I got in Thailand a couple of months ago - our excellent teacher used to run a restaurant in Bangkok.

                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                Yes, I saw that a while back. I guess the dried shrimps and the preserved radish threw me off! Also, the recipe does not say anything about the amount of noodles. How many ounces of noodles do you generally make for this recipe?

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  Same as if I was making spaghetti - about 75g per person or thereabouts.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    Don't know, but google "rice noodle package" or something and look for the measurement on it.

                                                    I cook the whole package, which is like 4+ large servings, just cause. Doing about half the pack in a single batch, two batches total, is the smarter move though. You'll get the tastes evenly coated on the noodles this way.

                                                    The most time consuming thing about Pad Thai is the prep, so if you really want to learn and hone your skills, invite a handful of friends over and cook for them. Just prep enough stuff, and you can get practice making half a dozen individual batches (which is how they're cook on the street carts.) Youll leanr how to cook the noodles very well this way, Also, some people will want their's done differently, so you'll be able to taste and see how the different choices affect the taste.

                                                    Pad Thai is fun because its quick and you can really manipulate it by what you cook it with. Plus, its something just hit and miss, and you'll inexplicably make a crappy batch, which is kind of funny. That weird element of chance is great for chalking up your failures to, because, you know, you're an awesome Pad Thai cook, there was just somehting funky going on. Either way, it always gets eaten.

                                        2. re: roxlet

                                          soak the noodles in COLD water, anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

                                          When you cook them in the wok, make sure there's enough oil so that they really cook, and laddle in some water. You're actually sort of frying them quickly, then almost boiling them. The water will disappear, and after you add and cook all your other ingredients, itll be hot and dry enough in there that you can successfully crisp some of your noodles.

                                          1. re: Russel Shank

                                            As the water here is much colder than in Thailand, for obvious reasons, I use water that is slightly warm as that seems to work better, especially with the ambient temperature in the UK most of the time. You shouldn't really need to put water in the wok to cook the noodles (I've learned to make Pad Thai twice in Thailand - never used water, just oil).

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              yeah. water in the wok is just for when you realize your noodles weren't soaked long enough, or you want to un-clump them faster than adding more oil.

                                              I've heard cold is ideal, because it relaxes the whole of the noodle w/o making the outside softer or even a little cooked. Less likely to clump or get a little sticky. Either way, slightly warm to cold is good.

                                          2. re: roxlet

                                            I think the ho-hum aspect may have come from it being a Bittman recipe. His recipes have always seemed a little oversimplified and deracinated to me.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Yes, I agree. I usually tend to avoid him, but it seemed simple (ho-hum simple as it turned out) and I had most of what went into it. I'm not sure I understand why his recipes get so much play. This was a first time for me and will likely be the last.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                I agree that Bittman's not great for ethnic (meaning non-European) spicy dishes. But I trust him on German, Italian, French and other dishes. I challenge anyone to beat his recipe variation for veal/beef shanks (osso buco) with tomato anchovy sauce.

                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                  I meant to refer to his non-European recipes primarily but his are not the first books I pick up for anything. The osso buco sounds awfully good nonetheless.

                                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                                    It sure seemed as if very few of his recipes got any love last month when his book was COTM. Glad to hear that there is a recipe you like. ANd BTW, I don't trust him on Italian :-)

                                              2. chez pim's blog gives a detailed recipe:
                                                http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2007/01/...

                                                and here is a blog where Pim's pad thai is made:
                                                http://userealbutter.com/2009/07/06/p...

                                                1. Pad thai is really simple. In essence, it's just noodles fried at high heat in pad thai sauce. Pad thai sauce is tamarind paste (which you can buy in jars at Whole Foods), sugar (preferably, but not necessarily, palm sugar), and fish sauce in roughly equal parts (I actually prefer something like 2:3:3).

                                                  Everything else is extra. Don't let the extras make pad thai seem complicated. Common extras:

                                                  Garlic and shallots/onions to flavor the oil.
                                                  Tofu at the beginning for texture and flavor and to prevent the garlic and shallots/onions from burning.
                                                  White pepper and chili flakes for flavor. Put them in the pad thai sauce.
                                                  Pickled radish for flavor (especially saltiness). Put them in the pad thai sauce.
                                                  Bean sprouts and chopped scallions for texture and earthy flavor. Throw them in at the end.
                                                  Eggs for flavor. Scramble them in near the end.
                                                  Peanuts for a finishing touch, Sprinkle crushed roasted peanuts on the finished product.
                                                  Lime for a finishing touch. Squeeze lime on the finished product.

                                                  Soaking the noodles is trivial. Put them in lukewarm water until they're flexible enough to stir-fry but still inedible. Perhaps cold water will do as well, but lukewarm water for about 7 minutes always works for me, whether the noodles are vermicelli-like or fettucini-like in shape.

                                                  1. Check out hot thai kitchen with Pailin. She is pure Thai born and raised but speaks very good english. So she knows what is needed in authentic Thai dishes. I love her!