One of our favorite Thai dishes – Pad Thai – gets a vibrant Spring makeover, enlivened with fresh Spring veggies- peas and asparagus. For many, making Pad Thai at home has been challenging and disappointing, only to discover that after all the work, “something was missing”. It is my hope that this recipe will help change that. With authentic ingredients and a little practice, the recipe will teach volumes about the extraordinary balance of flavors – sweet, sour, pungent and salty- that makes Thai food so delicious. I think of this as a teaching recipe, because once it’s mastered, it really expands our reach in the kitchen.
You may be wondering what makes this recipe authentic? Simply a few ingredients that will require you to take a trip to your nearest Asian Market: tamarind, dried shrimp, fish sauce, and salted radish. Yes, you probably could substitute other ingredients, but then, it wouldn’t really be authentic, and again, “something would be missing”. Most of the other ingredients you can purchase a normal grocery store, but while you are at the Asian market, you might as well explore, look around, soak it up and experience it
In this older post, Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, I have written down a list of ingredients that I always take with me to the Asian market, so I don’t forget things- as it’s easy to get sidetracked and distracted there at times. Prices are generally less expensive than at a grocery store, so I stock up on staples like coconut milk, rice wine vinegar, tofu, fresh turmeric, lemongrass and sesame seeds. The list is really helpful.
So before you begin, make sure to have all the ingredients out and ready. Then the recipe is fast and easy.
Read the recipe all the way through to get the general idea. Its seems like a lot of steps, but it’s really not hard or complicated. The prep takes 20 minutes, the cooking takes 10 minutes. It’s a fast meal really–but the key is to have everything ready, before you start the wok. If you don’t have a wok, use a large skillet- turning the heat down a bit.
The first step is to soak the rice noodles. Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water, break the noodles in half and soak the noodles for 20 minutes. Time this. When 20 minutes are up, they will be bendy but not soft. Don’t worry that they are not soft, they will get soft in the wok. While the noodles are soaking get your other ingredients ready.
In a medium bowl, mix the tamarind, fish sauce, warm water and brown sugar ( or palm sugar) .
Cut extra firm tofu, that’s been patted down hard with paper towels, into thin strips.
Heat peanut oil (or vegetable oil), on high heat. Swirl it around the edges of the wok, coating it. When you begin to see smoke, crack the egg in the center. It will bubble and spatter. Add the tofu, radish and dried shrimp, around the edges of egg, stirring them constantly with a metal spatula, careful to keep the egg intact, for a minute, until they get golden. When the edges of the egg are golden brown, flip, and break it apart into a few pieces with the metal spatula, and then stir it all together, letting it brown up a bit, for another minute.
Add the noodles and bean sprouts –constantly stirring and flipping for one more minute. Add the prawns, peas, asparagus and tamarind sauce. Stir until the prawns are cooked through, the noodles are soft, and the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the scallions ( or garlic chives) and ½ of the peanuts.
And serve immediately, garnishing with lime, more peanuts, scallions ( or chives) , fresh bean sprouts and chili flakes.