Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Practically-restaurant-style Pad Thai.

Yesterday I was excited to find that my grocery store carries fresh bean sprouts! So naturally I decided I had to make Pad Thai. It wasn't super authentic - no tamarind paste or anything - but definitely the closest to what you get at Thai restaurants that I've ever managed at home. And although it has a lot of ingredients, the only important one that's not fairly standard in American kitchens is fish sauce.

(Sorry for the terrible picture. I can't find my camera lately so my phone has to do.)


  • Package of wide rice noodles. (These may actually be labelled pad thai noodles.)
  • One small steak (I just bought what was on sale), or chicken or pork or shrimp....
  • Half a block firm tofu. Or more if you want.
  • One egg.
  • Oil for frying - I used mostly canola with a bit of sesame seed oil.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Lime juice.
  • Vinegar.  (I used rice vinegar but you could substitute regular white vinegar.)
  • Fish sauce. (Grossest-smelling thing in the asian aisle.)
  • Brown sugar.
  • Paprika.
  • Ginger.
  • Crushed red pepper.
  • Garlic.
  • Green onions and/or cilantro.
  • Unsalted dry roasted peanuts.
  • Fresh bean sprouts.
  • Fresh lime.
  • Thai chili sauce. (Not the sugary sweet chili sauce, the spicy kind that basically looks like crushed red pepper.) Optional but adds a lot to the dish in my opinion.

  1. Prep your tofu by slicing it up and cooking it over very low heat for a while to get the water out. It's important to keep the heat low because you want the water to evaporate before the tofu browns (it will brown later and soak up flavor when you fry it), and also you don't want to use oil here so keeping the heat low means your tofu doesn't stick to the pan.
  2. Put your rice noodles in to soak as per package directions.
  3. Make the sauce! Start with equal parts soy sauce, lime juice, and vinegar. I didn't really measure but probably 1/4 cup each? Then add around a tablespoon of fish sauce and a tablespoon or two of brown sugar. Season to taste with paprika, crushed red pepper, and ginger.
  4. Chop up some cilantro and green onions and grind or chop some peanuts. (However much you want.)   Slice your lime into wedges. Chop up a couple cloves of garlic. Set aside.
  5. Heat up a skillet or wok over high heat with some oil. Slice your steak as thin as possible and fry it. Add the tofu, the garlic, and some soy sauce for color. Let it get a little brown, which should only take a few seconds really.
  6. Drain your noodles and add them (and maybe a bit more oil) to the pan. Stir them around so they all get at least a bit of oil on them which is by far the most unhealthy part of this dish but it's important. Then add the sauce and let it cook, while stirring, until it's all evenly soaked up.
  7. Put the noodles in bowls or plates, however you're serving them, and then mix in the cilantro/bean sprouts/green onions/peanuts. You don't want them to get warm and you don't want the noodles to get cold, so serve it right away.
  8. Lime wedges and chili sauce on the side add a ton to the flavor of the dish. Mmmmm chili sauce.
I added up all the calories on this and it makes four servings at around 650 calories each, depending on how much oil you use. (Unfortunately if there's only two of you and you each eat half because Pad Thai doesn't keep well, you will get fat. This is what happened to me and Kurt.) Anyhow as far as the oil goes - you need to use enough so all the noodles get a little oil or they won't taste right, but as long as you don't deep-fry them you should be ok. Like, there should be a spot of bubbling oil in the pan when you add the noodles, not an entire layer of oil across the whole bottom of the pan. Explaining this would be a lot easier if I measured my ingredients...