Pad Thai or Phad Thai is a rice noodle dish that is commonly served as a street food and in most restaurants in Thailand.
I was introduced to it long before I visited Thailand by Chef Pon who had a lovely Thai restaurant in Cape Town when he presented Thai cooking demos at my cookery school in the Waterfront over 30 years ago! At that stage our supermarkets did not stock most of the ingredients and experiencing these flavours in restaurants was so exciting. How times have changed, thankfully we can easily purchase all the authentic ingredients!
I love the flavours of Thailand and always have the basic ingredients in my pantry and a range of chillies in my garden. I usually buy the fresh coriander as my usage exceeds the pace of growth!
One iconic flavor used in Pad Thai is tamarind paste.
It adds a unique sweet-sour flavor that is balanced by the saltiness of fish sauce and the sweetness of the palm sugar (or you can substitute with light brown sugar). The beansprouts and peanuts add another dimension and texture.
This dish is made with the mild red Thai chilli. As with so many Thai dishes it adds flavour rather than heat. Heat can be added with extra chilli on the side.
Because the flavours are mild it is the ideal dish to serve to those who are chilli averse or those unfamiliar with Asian flavours.
It is versatile in that it can serve vegetarians with the addition of tofu and egg, or you can use chicken or seafood, especially prawns.
It cooks quickly and other than the pre-soaked noodles, it must be cooked and served immediately, making it an ideal dish if you want to treat your guests to some live action in the kitchen or using a wok on your outdoor gas unit.
Pad Thai noodles are always the flat rice noodles.
The recipe is gluten free, uses a little oil and lean chicken or seafood, ticking off a few healthy eating boxes! Just be aware of guests who have a nut or sesame allergy as you simply cannot make Pad Thai without adding peanuts. The sesame oil, also an allergen, adds a delicious flavor but can be omitted.
When I first visited Bangkok I went to what was recommended as ‘the best restaurant for Pad Thai’ at the time.
We joined the long queue of locals and tourists and that was part of the fun as you viewed this huge pavement kitchen with steaming woks and clockwork efficiency!
Their flavours were sublime and the Pad Thai was enrobed by a paper thin omelet which you only find at the best Pad Thai spots!
The authentic recipe puts whole eggs into the side of the wok and one breaks them up as the white sets and then stirs it in, preferably using your chop sticks, but I mix the egg ahead as my personal preference is a ‘scrambled or omelet egg’ texture.
If you don’t have limes, use lemon. But limes do give the authentic flavor. A friend gave me a couple of real Thai limes. They don’t have much juice, but I used the grated zest in my dish and then cut an ordinary lime for the juice. The leaves of the Thai limes are used to give fragrance to other dishes and soups.
Conventional onions are seldom used in Thai cookery. Spring onions are used in the cooking and as a topping when serving.
Enjoy the recipe: Pad Thai Chicken