Pad Thai epitomizes all that is good about Thai food – fast, fresh, vibrant in taste and in colour, and when done well a little sweet, a little spicy, a little sour and all these epic flavour sensations zinging round your mouth. This dish or officially phat thai should not be taken lightly. When done well, it is a meal of soul restoring, life fortifying proportions. Done badly and its your edible worst nightmare. This dish is loved in Thailand as much as it is all over the world and I agree with anyone who argues that it is a true signpost of a kitchen – get the pad thai right and you’ve got people who can cook. I like to keep the majority of elements separate –savoury mix-ins so you can control the sweet, sour, nut and heat flavour profiles to your liking. You can replace the fresh prawns with chicken but if you use prawns, make sure you keep the tails – nothing better than a built in handle for your food. I learnt this dish from many months spent cooking under chef tutelage in Thailand so here are some failsafe tips from my pad thai loving belly to yours.
- Make sure you soak your noodles in room temperature water for two hours for optimum texture – you want to be able to wrap the noodles around your finger. This soaking also helps to stop the noodles clumping
- Always use a large flat pan the larger surface area encourages evaporation, which is a must for noodle strands that are cooked while retaining that bit of chewiness. Use a wok if no large pan available
- Use rice stick noodles or noodles that are 3-8mm in width
- Make the pad thai sauce first that way you can taste it and adjust for the balance of sweet, salty and sour. Adding the elements to the noodles will always result in overcooking
- Prep all the ingredients and have them laid out ready before you start cooking.
250g green prawns, peeled, deveined, tails in tact
A very generous handful of rice noodles softened in room temperature water for 2 hours
½ tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp tamarind water
2 tbsp fish sauce
grapeseed oil for frying
25g firm tofu, cubed
1 tbsp dried prawns (if unavailable substitute with plain fish furikake flakes – works just as well in my opinion)
1 small bunch of chives
1 stalk of green shallot
½ cup bean sprouts
2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
½ tbsp. roasted chilli powder
Drain the softened noodles then add to a bowl with the dark soy sauce, toss to coat and set aside. Add the palm sugar, white sugar, tamarind water and fish sauce to a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 1-2 minutes until dissolved
Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat and flash fry the tofu. Gently remove and set aside. Crack the egg into the pan, turn down the heat and stir. Mix in dried prawns then add the noodles. Turn up the heat and stir fry for about a minute, you want the noodles to darken in colour slightly. Add the sauce and simmer for another minute or so, adding extra oil if you fear the noodles are clumping. Keep the pan moving. Check seasoning. Remove from heat.
In a separate pan, flash fry the prawns over high heat cooking 1-2 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking.
Serve the noodles immediately topped with sprouts and surrounded by all the elements.