Have you ever tried making pad thai or pad see ew and ended up with a lump of noodles that all stuck together or crumbled?
As these Thai noodles are made with rice (or rice sticks as you may find written on the packaging), my dish ended up looking more like fried rice than a noodle dish - the slippery, amazing noodles ended up crumbling into bits. Discouraged, I basically gave up trying to make this for a while. BUT 2020 quarantine life really took me for a spin, and I was a little tired of eating take out all the time. I decided to give homemade Thai food another whirl, and WOW this attempt did not disappoint.
What Even Is Pad Thai?
If you have never had pad thai before, you are missing out! This dish is made with rice noodles, stir-fried with a portein of choice like shrimp, beef, chicken, or tofu, with an added scrambled egg and a handful of crushed peanuts, spring onion, and bean sprouts in the mix. The ingredients are cooked in a wok and topped with an amazing sauce.
A Little Background on Myself
I was born in Shanghai. My family and I moved to Vancouver when I was very young, but we still kept to our roots when it came to food. I grew up eating amazing Shanghainese dishes, such as Shanghai-style braised pork pork belly, homemade dumplings and baos, and a variety of Chinese noodles dishes (soup noodles are always the winner here). Just thinking about all these dishes makes me hungry! As I grew older and became exposed to global cuisines, I also grew to loveeee other Asian countries' local cuisines too, such as Korean BBQ, Vietnamese banh mi's and vermicelli bowls, and Thai food like pad thai, pad see ew, and Thai curries! I think my love of these foods came from my Shanghainese palette of liking "sweet" foods. You would be surprised how much sugar in some of the so-called savory dishes! Pad Thai is definitely not an exception, as there is actually quite a bit of sugar that is added to this dish. For the rest of this article, I will focus on how to make the perfect pad thai, but some tricks that I share definitely also apply to other Thai noodle dishes as well.
Trick #1: Soak your rice noodles in lukewarm water for 30 min before you start cooking
Do not, I repeat, do not boil the rice noodles. The chewy, bouncy texture of the rice noodles that we all grew to know and love is created through this soaking method. Boiling the noodles will cause them to break apart and (you guessed it) crumble once you add them to the wok. This is the main reason why many first attempts to make pad Thai fail.
Trick #2: Create your sauce beforehand before you start cooking
Nothing is worse than scrambling to find the right sauces in the middle of cooking on a wok on high heat. Your dish could easily be ruined if you do not thoroughly incorporate sauce ingredients throughout the noodles. Therefore, it makes sense to take 5 minutes to prep all your sauce ingredients and mix them all thoroughly in a bowl first. Then, you can pour the sauce effortlessly over the noodles for the noodles to soak up all the goodness.
Trick #3: Don't worry if you can't find the traditional Thai ingredients
Strictly speaking, pad Thai requires using fish sauce and tamarind paste, both of which you can find at select Asian grocery stores. If you are like me and prefer not to commute 1+ hours to the nearest Asian supermarket, you can actually make these with ingredients you can find at most grocery stores, with sauce ingredients found in the International Foods aisles. Therefore, you have no need to worry if you cannot find specific recipe ingredients that are usually stated in a traditional pad thai recipe. The recipe I will be sharing with you does not include fish sauce or tamarind paste, but is equally delicious as a traditional pad thai.
My Personal Pad Thai Recipe:
Ingredients for the wok:
- 2 handfuls of bean sprouts
- 2 stalks of green onion (chopped)
- 8-10 medium sized shrimp (peeled)
- 1 lime
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cups of roasted peanuts (crushed)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp sriracha
- 2 tbsp ketchup
1. Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 30 minutes, as mentioned above.
2️. In a small bowl, add in all the sauce ingredients and mix well.
3. In a large wok or pan, add about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and turn the stove to high heat. Add the minced garlic cloves and 1/3 of the spring onion for the aromatics. Cook for about 1 min.
4. Then, add the shrimp to the armonatics and cook for about 2-3 min. Move the cooked shrimp to one half of the pan. On the other half, crack 2 eggs into the pan. Let the eggs cook for 1 min without scrambling, then mix with the rest of the ingredients.
5. Now it's time to add in the softened rice noodles. You can use your hands to grab them out of the bowl you were soaking the noodles in and place them directly into the wok. No need to strain out the water, as the water that comes with the noodles softens them to just the right texture in the wok. Mix the noodles with the rest of the ingredients and cook for 2-3 min until softened. You can use tongs during this step to prevent the noodles from sticking or tangling up.
6. Finally, pour in that awesome sauce you mixed earlier. Mix well with the noodles and ingredients and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The noodles should soak that sauce right up while you mix in the sauce. If the noodles feel kind of dry, add some water to adjust. If the dish looks soggy, cook for slightly longer at this step.
7. Add in 1 handful of bean sprouts, half of the crushed peanuts, and your remaining green onion. Fold gently into the noodles.
8. You’re done! It’s that easy. Use the rest of the bean sprouts, lime, and peanuts for garnish.
Hope this article helps clarify the mysteries that come with cooking the perfect Thai dish right from the comfort of your home!