Don’t fret — pad thai is pretty much just stir fry that uses noodles instead of rice and comes with it’s own special sauce.
And what’s in that sauce? Well, they key ingredient is tamarind paste. Which might be wildly popular in Asian markets, but I’ve never seen it in the grocery store. Wegmans’ web site claims it’s in stock at my store, but I didn’t have a recipe for pad thai sauce. For that, I’ll refer you here.
So we’re just using this stuff. But by all means, start from scratch! If nothing else, it will save you on the sodium.
But enough about the sauce … let’s get cooking!
The first thing you have to do is bring about 5 cups of water to a boil. We’re using rice noodles, which are conveniently located right next to the pad thai sauce at our supermarket. It has it’s own Thai aisle! But no worries — if your supermarket is not so awesome, just head to the international aisle. Most of this stuff will be there. If, however, you still can’t find rice noodles, just use the fresh, refrigerated linguine. It’s not exactly the same, but it’ll do.
Rice noodles cook a bit differently than ordinary pasta. Once the water is boiling, drop in half a box (about 7 or 8 ounces) in the water and turn off the heat. That’s right — off. Just let the noodles sit in their hot water bath for 5 to 7 minutes. When they’re all nice and soft, drain them and set aside while you work on the rest of the dish.
A note: seriously drain the noodles as soon as they’re soft. These little rice buggers stick like nobody’s business to the hot pan. So get ’em out of there!
While that’s happening, however, it’s time to start on the sauce and stir fry.
To do so, mix 8 ounces pad thai sauce with 1/4 cup of Thai stock in a small bowl. There’s not much difference between Thai stock and chicken stock — so you can use that with a splash of hot sauce and be good to go. Set it aside.
You also want to defrost about 1/2 a bag of frozen shrimp — 8 ounces in total. Just put the shrimp in a colander and turn on some cold water. Let the water run over the shrimp and they’ll be un-frozen in no time.
OK, get out your wok or the largest pan you can find. This recipe makes a TON of food, and you’re going to want some room to flip and move everything about.
To start, crank the heat to high and warm up 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. I happened to have some stir fry oil (which is like peanut oil flavored with garlic and ginger) on hand, so I used that. Any oil will do, except olive oil, which will smoke MUCH faster that the other oils and just make everything a big, burnt mess.
Once your vegetable oil or whatever starts to smoke (about two minutes), drop in one egg and scramble it around. It will cook in no time. When the egg is set, remove it to a small plate and wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Careful! It’s hot.
Now, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, moving it about until the oil again starts to smoke. Once that happens, throw in about 1/2 of a large onion, sliced. Not too thick, not too thin here. You want them to be about 1/4 inch. Stir that about for two minutes or so, then add to the pan the defrosted shrimp, 8 ounces of bean sprouts (find ’em in the produce section) and stir for two more minutes, or until the shrimp are turning pink and curling up.
Next add the rice noodles and the sauce mixture, moving around for two minutes or so. Finally, finish up by cutting up one bunch of green onions into the pan and putting the scrambled egg in as well. Stir about to heat through.
That’s the basic stir fry. But to really make this dish sing, we added the following:
Once the noodles were out of the pan and onto the serving plate, we topped with a bit of Sriracha sauce (don’t go crazy – this stuff is hot!) and added chopped peanuts and lime wedges to each plate. The fresh lime juice really adds a nice touch.
So there you have it — exotic stir fry just in time for dinner. This is pretty basic for Thai food, but it’s definitely a welcome change of pace for the weeknight. There’s nothing so crazy in here that a meat and potatoes kind of guy wouldn’t eat it. Give it a whirl — and try out some variations! Chicken would be awesome here, as would tofu for our vegetarian friends.