Despite having visited Thailand, my knowledge of Thai food is exceptionally limited. I am a creature of habit, and from the first time I tried Pad Thai, I came to the conclusion that nothing could surpass it in my favour. When faced with a choice of Thai food, I will consistently return to Pad Thai unless I have somehow mustered an exceptional amount of willpower. Admittedly I only had a brief experience of food in Thailand, as my time there coincided with the worst case of strep throat the world has ever seen. Eating, drinking, talking and breathing were almost insurmountably difficut. Most of my time was spent in a room that I’m pretty sure the grisly scene from The Beach with Robert Carlisle was filmed in (complete with blood stains and a helpful recommendation from the owners that it was haunted). I would also not recommend Thai or Laotian painkillers for those who value their livers or sanity.
Moving swiftly on, I have been looking for a good recipe for Pad Thai for years, without ever having any success. The amount of recipes without tamarind are baffling given that is the key flavour. This is the first recipe I have tried that actually tastes like what Pad Thai is meant to taste like. The sauce is pretty pungent before it is cooked, and I have to admit the amount of fish sauce I put in scared me, but it worked out as a beautiful aromatic dish with just the right balance of sweet, sour and salt. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, so I left them out, but the Saveur recipe I adapted them from has instructions if you want to add them in.
Serves 4 generously
- 200g dried flat egg or rice noodles
- 3 tbsp. tamarind pulp
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp chili powder, or 1/2 chopped mild red chili
- 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3 small shallots, peeled and sliced
- 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 200g peeled raw prawns
- 4 spring onions (scallions) green part only , trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
- 100g bean sprouts
- 100g salted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander
- 1 lime, quartered
- Cook or soak the noodles according to the instruction on the pack.
- Prep the vegetables as described on the ingredients list.
- Dissolve the tamarind pulp in 225ml of water (Mine was vaccum packed to within an inch of its life, so I ended up having to heat it on the stove to dissolve it, next time I’d use boiling water).
- Strain through a sieve, pushing it with a spoon to get the maximum amount of pulp through.
- Add the nam pla, vinegar, sugar and chilli.
- This may seem like a large amount of sauce, but trust me, it will all be absorbed nicely and is just enough.
- Heat the oil in a very large wok or frying pan over a high heat.
- My electric stove was not able to provide a very high heat so I have amended the times, please use the times in brackets if cooking with gas or a stove that was not a wedding present to your parents thirty years ago.
- Add the garlic, ginger and shallot and stir fry for 20-30 seconds (10 if cooking on a gas stove).
- Add the prawns and fry for another 20-30 seconds.
- Add the spring onion, half the peanuts, bean sprouts, noodles, and sauce.
- Stir fry and cook for about 3 minutes, until the sauce is absorbed and nicely coating all the noodles.
- Garnish with the remaining peanuts, coriander and lime wedges.