Pad Thai


First published in 2022
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John says: "Pad Thai could well be the most famous culinary export from Thailand, despite being a fairly recent addition to the Thai kitchen repertoire dating from the late 1930s. Over the years, the dish has been adapted to suit Western palates and the soul of the original dish has become lost along the way. It should come as no surprise that pad Thai is a dish centred around noodles, and that the noodles should be the star of the show. In this instance, we use wide, flat rice noodles that go by the name ‘rice sticks’. Look for Thai brands: you want a noodle that’s 3 mm (1/8 in) wide. "

"Aside from the noodles, there is a seasoning sauce that is equally sweet, tart and salty, while other staple ingredients include dried prawns (shrimp), firm tofu, salted radish and bean sprouts. These are all available at Asian supermarkets, and I recommend buying them the first time you cook this recipe so you can see how a true pad Thai should taste, before making your own adjustments and substitutes. If you wish to add proteins to the recipe, then tiger prawns, chicken and pork are all fine choices, but their appearance in pad Thai is something I associate with gentrified versions of the dish that take the focus away from the noodles."




Pad Thai

Tamarind water


Soak the noodles in a large bowl of cold water for 20 minutes until they become soft and pliable, then rinse them of any starch under cold running and drain well


Make the tamarind water by breaking up the tamarind pulp in a bowl, then pouring over the warm water. Use your hands to mash and break the pulp further so that it becomes a thick liquid. Leave to stand for 15 minutes for the pulp to loosen with the water


Pour the liquid through a sieve (fine-mesh strainer), using the back of a spatula or wooden spoon to press and scrape the pulp, extracting the thick tamarind purée. If the fibrous pulp looks as though it still has plenty of tamarind flesh attached to it then repeat this soaking and straining process, but this time use caution and only add enough water to just cover the pulp, mashing well with your hands to release all the remaining flesh


Discard the fibrous pulp and stones (pits). Stir the collected purée to completely incorporate the water. You want this to be quite thick and very sour, as it can always be diluted to the desired thickness and sourness later. When using in a more diluted state, remember that it will ultimately dilute the dish you are seasoning, be that a curry, soup or salad, so use your intuition and keep this base thick and powerful in flavour. The tamarind water will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or can be frozen in portions for up to three months


In a bowl, stir together the sugar, tamarind water, vinegar and fish sauce until the sugar has completely dissolved. This is your pad Thai seasoning sauce. Set aside


In a pestle and mortar, pound the shallot, garlic and 1 tsp of salt together to a coarse paste. Heat the pork fat or vegetable oil in a large wok over a medium heat, then add the paste and fry for 1 minute until fragrant and beginning to brown

  • 3 tbsp of pork fat, (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of Thai shallot, chopped

Crack the egg into the hot fat and stir so that the yolk breaks. Cook for 20–30 seconds until the egg resembles a soft omelette


Add the drained noodles and stir to break up the egg, distributing it among the noodles. Add the seasoning sauce, along with the diced tofu, dried shrimp, shredded salted radish and crushed peanuts. Stir and toss all the ingredients well, then leave to simmer for 1 minute until almost all the sauce is absorbed and the noodles are completely tender


Add the bean sprouts and spring onions, then toss and stir one final time so that all the ingredients are well combined and distributed. Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle with some more bean sprouts

First published in 2022
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