Pad Thai is THE signature dish of Thai cuisine. There are different pad Thai recipes for every cook in Thailand. This recipe is from the my friends at the Thai Gardens in Milpitas California. This recipe is chili and tamarind rice stick noodles with chicken, shrimp and fried tofu, Thai style.
When my friends of the Thai Gardens first started out, they had a postage sized shop on the corner in a large shopping center. Mom and dad took turns cooking. Rory Babb introduced me to Thai. He had lived in country for four years while serving in the Air Force. He ordered for us in Thai and we always got exceptional friendly service. When he ordered for me he would say “Pad Thai pet pet mac, mac” and the dish would arrive fragrant and incredible spicy. It was hotter, in fact, than anything I had ever eaten but was so delicious I finished every bite. Fifteen minutes later, the heat has dissipated completely. They did not speak English and when they saw me show up alone, they would say “pet pet mac, mac” smile and ask me where Rory was. Achieving the American dream, their success lead to the launch of a full scale restaurant, then two restaurants. By now, I was welcome in the kitchen, where their Americanized son would translate ingredients into English. I find now, when I need to make this for guests, the easiest place to get the ingredients is from the restuarant directly. The one exception is tamarind paste which I always have on hand in 4 inch bricks cakes. Their original recipe used a Thai tamarind drink concentrate.
If this is the first time you make Pad Thai, read the whole recipe first. There is nothing hard about it but there are many steps and quite a significant amount of preparation work. Start the noodles right away. Put the mung bean sprouts on ice water. This recipe is the work of seven years of work but never the less, you can play with it, joining the ranks of the 14,885,784 Pad Thai chefs.
Garnish (Per Person)
(I prepare all the plates ½ hour ahead, cover with wrap, place in cool spot in kitchen.)
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts per person, soak in ice water, pat dry
1/2 cup finely julienne Napa Cabbage per person
2-4 Slices of cucumber, per person
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped roasted peanuts3
2 Wedges of lime
1 Orange slice
Serve with Ajad Thai Cucumber Garnish (See recipe)
Banh pho1 - Medium Thai Rice Noodles
If using dried “Rice stick noodles” soak noodles in a pot of warm water until are just firm, about 30-40 minutes. To hasten the process, pour in boiling water to raise the temperature to about the temperature of a hot bath (100 F). Taste the noodles periodically and remove to a strainer when they are still al dente, completely limp but not mushy. Use Chantaboon Rice Stick Noodle1, Size: M, 14 ounce pack (3~4 persons) or the equivalent
1/4 cup bean sprouts
Topping 2 green onions, julienned
3-4 ounces of diced Chicken Thigh meat per person (some chopped fine, some course)
6~8 peeled tiger prawns per person
1 clove crushed garlic per person
1/3- 1/2 cup firm tofu diced (cut in 1/8 by 1/8 thick pieces)
1 tablespoons rice wine or Marin4
1 dash of fish sauce (1/2 teaspoon)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Paprika
1 level tablespoons MSG
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons liquid Thai tamarind fruit concentrate (see Tamarind Sauce)
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste. (Use 1 teaspoon to start. I use 2 tablespoons in mine.)
1 tablespoons of sugar (some places use orange honey)
Salt - as required
Take a large brick of extra firm fried tofu. Cut away exterior surfaces and discard. Cut it into 1/8 layers and cut into stripes 1/4 wide and cross cut 1/4 inch long. Preheat frying pan with three tablespoons of peanut or canola oil. Bring oil to high heat, fry tofu until firm and it has taken on some color. (7-12 minutes) Set to drain on paper towels. Prepare medium wide (1/16th~3/32nds inch) rice noodles - May be done hours ahead and refrigerated. (The noodles will take on the flavor of whatever they are cook with the hence rice noodle is superior for this purpose). There are so many ingredients, it may be a good idea to load up cups or small dishes with the: sugar, garlic, rice wine, tamarind sauce, red pepper, salt, fish sauce, paprika, MSG. (Take inventory against the recipe.) I have found that I inadvertently have left one or more ingredients out until I started doing this in a more methodical way.
In a very very hot wok, add peanut oil, and when it smokes, quickly cook the chicken. Repeat the process until all meat is cooked. Set aside. This step may be done ahead
Individual Preparation of Each Plate
Individually prepare each portion. In a very very hot wok, add peanut oil, and when it smokes, quickly cook the shrimp, garlic, and add in the chicken. Then add paprika, msg, tamarind sauce, crushed red pepper, sugar or some honey for sweetness. Add fried tofu. Add garlic, rice wine and a few handfuls of noodles. Add in green onions and bean sprouts. Quickly heat. Add chopped cilantro toss and turn out on a plate, top noodles with a pile of chopped peanuts, accompanied noodles with bean sprouts, very fine julienned Napa cabbage, and sliced cucumbers garnish. Serve with lime wedges and a few slices of orange.
The bright red coloring of this dish derives from the ample amount of paprika. The choice of this sweet paprika is one without a lot of flavor of its own less it over power the plate due to the quantity in which it is used.
1. Tamarind Sauce- is a critical ingredient in many Thai foods, and will be found in many steak sauces including mine. If using a package of tamarind paste, combine with hot orange juice and blend with a spoon. Sieve the sauce to remove any hard or stringy bits. When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds embedded in the brown edible pulp. If using fresh pods, shell pods like a peanut, pull off fiber stems along fruited seed pods and place in orange juice over a slow simmer to soften. When softened, cool, then rub paste off seeds, Discard seeds. Sieve and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can scrape seeds with fingernail to remove raisin colored paste. Combine with orange juice, If making a large batch, and storing is desired, use lime juice and orange juice. Sieve the sauce to remove and hard parts. Store the sauce in refrigerator until ready to use.
Tamarind: The 3 - 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pods are abundant along the new branches. As the pods mature, they thicken and the pulp turns a reddish-brown. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste threaded by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods contains numerous glossy brown seeds embedded in the brown edible pulp that remain viable for months and will germinate in a week after planting. The pulp has a pleasing sweet/sour flavor and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also rich in vitamin B and high in calcium. There are wide differences in fruit size and flavor in varietal trees. Indian types have longer pods with 6 - 12 seeds, while the West Indian types have shorter pods containing only 3 - 6 seeds. Most tamarinds in the Americas are of the shorter type. The premium tamarind is graded “AA” and sold in a box as the pods’ brittle casings are easily broken.
Origin and Distribution
Native to tropical Africa, the tree grows wild throughout the Sudan and was so long ago introduced into and adopted in India that it has often been reported as indigenous there also, and it was apparently from this Asiatic country that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it "tamar hindi" (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names. Unfortunately, the specific name, "indica", also perpetuates the illusion of Indian origin. The fruit was well known to the ancient Egyptians and to the Greeks in the 4th Century B.C.
The tree has long been naturalized in the East Indies and the islands of the Pacific. One of the first tamarind trees in Hawaii was planted in 1797. The tamarind was certainly introduced into tropical America, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the West Indies much earlier. In all tropical and near-tropical areas, including South Florida, it is grown as a shade and fruit tree, along roadsides and in dooryards and parks. Mexico has over 10,000 acres of tamarinds, mostly in the states of Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca and Veracruz. In the lower Motagua Valley of Guatemala, there are so many large tamarind trees in one area that it is called "El Tamarindal". There are commercial plantings in Belize and other Central American countries and in northern Brazil. In India there are extensive tamarind orchards. The pulp is marketed in northern Malaya and to some extent wherever the tree is found even if there are no plantations. The Thai make the fruit into a beverage concentrate.
- Import foods, on line, shows a picture of the Bahn Pho package in case you get lost in the sea of noodles your oriental market shelves. See http://importfood.com/nogl4001.html
- Fish sauce is the single, most important flavoring ingredient in Thai cooking and is available in premium and standard editions - see http://importfood.com/gourmet_fish_sauce.html for premium varieties. The common brand for this is the Tiparos brand. All of these contain a bit of sugar and salt and are made from anchovies.
- Unless you chopped the roasted peanut by hand with a knife, you may get them too fine. I use both 1/3rd salted and 2/3rds unsalted peanuts, place them in a plastic zip lock bag and roll over them slowly with a wooden rolling pin. I then sieve the results. The fine powder falls through the sieve and is discarded.
- Marin is Japanese sweet cooking wine. Since it is effective in masking the smell of fish, mirin is often used for cooking seafood. The highest quality mirin, referred to as 'Ajino-haha' in Japan is made from rice. Well-known Japanese brands for mirin are Takara and Mitsukan, and the Aji-Mirin is also marketed by Kikkoman and is found on most supermarket shelves.