Pad Thai - ผัดไทยกุ้งสด

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Pad Thai - This Pad Thai recipe is how you actually find it in Bangkok and comes from testing hundreds of different variations from food carts all over the city. Pad Thai is the ultimate street food. While "street food" may sound bad, food cart cooks are in such a competitive situation, with such limited space, ingredients and tools they need to specialize in a dish or two just to stay in business. The best of these cooks have cooked the same dish day-after-day, year-after-year, constantly perfecting it.

Great Pad Thai is dry and light bodied, with a fresh, complex, balanced flavor. It should be reddish and brownish in color.  Not bright red and oily like I've seen in the US. The ingredients listed below can be somewhat intimidating but many are optional. If you would like to make authentic Pad Thai, just like in Thailand, use all the ingredients.

Pad Thai is another perfect vegetarian dish, just omit shrimp and substitute soy sauce for fish sauce. Add more tofu if you like.

From street carts, you can also often find an older, more traditional version of Pad Thai made with dried shrimp.

2-3 Servings, Prep Time: 40 Minutes, Total Time: 40 Minutes

Tips and Techniques

  • By far, the trickiest part is the soaked noodles. Noodles should be somewhat flexible and solid, not completely expanded and soft. When in doubt, undersoak. You can always add more water in the pan, but you can't take it out.
  • Shrimp can be substituted or omitted.
  • In this recipe, pre-ground pepper, particularly pre-ground white pepper is better than fresh ground pepper. For kids, omit the ground dried chili pepper.
  • Tamarind adds some flavor and acidity, but you can substitute white vinegar.
  • The type of super firm tofu or pressed called for this recipe can be found at most oriental groceries in a plastic bag, not in water. Some might be brown from soy sauce, but some white ones are also available. Pick whatever you like.
  • If you decide to include banana flower, cut lengthwise into sections (like orange sections). Rub any open cut with lime or lemon juice to prevent it from turning dark.
  • The original Pad Thai recipe calls for crushed roasted peanuts. Thailand is hot and humid and storage conditions are often sub-optimal, so a certain fungus can grow on peanuts. This fungus is linked to cancer, so many people in Thailand avoid eating peanuts.  
  • One of the big challenges with Pad Thai's measurements is that the flavor densities and characteristics of the 3 core flavor ingredients: fish sauce, tamarind and lime juice vary greatly from brand to brand and purchase to purchase. Plus the salt content of your fish sauce, dried shrimp and preserved turnips will likely differ from ours. You will need to taste this as you're making it and keep the 3 flavors, salty, sweet and sour, in balance to your liking.
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