Pad Thai is a delicious rice noodle dish you can make at home is about 30 minutes. It’s made with chicken or shrimp, rice noodles, vegetables, eggs, peanut, cilantro, and irresistible Pad Thai sauce. This homemade sauce is they key to make this whole dish incredibly tasty.
WHAT IS PAD THAI
Pad Thai is Thailand’s national dish that’s often sold as street food. Here, in United States, it’s probably the most popular dish in Thai restaurants. It’s a Thai rice noodle stir fry with common ingredients like rice noodles, eggs, tofu (or chicken, or shrimp), garlic, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, lime wedges, cilantro, and of course, the sauce.
Pad Thai sauce is the most important part for the vibrant flavors of this dish. When making Pad Thai, you want to make sure to include, Tamarind paste, fish sauce, and some sugar. This will give the sauce it’s signature sweet, tangy, and salty taste. Tamarind paste is they key to the good, true sauce, so don’t skip it.
This sauce will give your Pad Thai the best bold flavors. There is a pleasant combination of textures here too, that compliments all the sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Note the crunch from crushed peanuts, light crisp from bean sprouts, soft cooked onions and peppers. Thought there are a lot of ingredients, this is a truly easy dish with big flavors.
WHAT IS IN PAD THAI SAUCE?
Tamarind paste: it’s a pulp of the tamarind fruit that is often used in Indian and Asian cuisines. It tastes sour, tangy, and a little sweet. This is the most important ingredients in this sauce, so don’t skip it. Check your local Asian market to find it and I often find mine at Whole Foods. (It’s also available on Amazon.) You may see options for tamarind concentrate or tamarind paste. The paste (or puree) is a little easier to use because you just scoop and add it to the sauce. Tamarind concentrate has to be mixed with hot boiling water to create the paste.
Fish sauce: it’s a staple sauce in many Asian recipes and another important ingredients that adds a lot of flavor to the dish. It smells quite funky but it will taste so good in the sauce!
Brown sugar: sugar will provide a perfect balance to the strong, salty and tangy ingredients.
Lime juice: squeeze fresh lemon into the sauce, it will taste much better than store-bought.
Soy sauce: use low sodium soy sauce so it’s not as bold and overpowering.
Want it spicy? Add some crushed chili peppers to the sauce. Decide how much to add based on your own heat tolerance.
To prepare the sauce, simply whisk all these ingredients in a bowl and set aside until ready to add it to the noodles.
MOST IMPORTANT STEP…do not smell the sauce! Yes, the sauce mixture will smell unappetizing because of the fish sauce but it will taste incredible in the dish.
OTHER INGREDIENTS IN PAD THAI
Protein: tofu is the most traditional choice but in the Western version, we are more used to chicken or shrimp.
Rice noodles: Thai rice noodles are sold almost in every grocery store, so you won’t have trouble finding it.
Vegetables: garlic, bell peppers, green onions, and bean sprouts are the vegetables you will most often find in Pad Thai. Other vegetables you can include are carrots, cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms, and even zoodles.
Red Pepper Flakes: because you need a little spice. How much spice? You can adjust it to your own heat tolerance.
Eggs: scramble the eggs right in the same pan, near the vegetables, so the eggs pick up those flavors.
Peanuts: it won’t be right without including some crunchy crushed peanuts to the finished dish.
Limes: squeeze of fresh lime juice into the cooked dish will be the perfect finish.
Cilantro: just like the lime juice, cilantro is a great flavor compliment to the finished dish.
HOW TO MAKE PAD THAI
Pad Thai is a quick cooking dish so make sure to get your ingredients ready before starting to cook. Dice, slice, and measure the ingredients first. Place bean sprouts into the bowl of cold water for about 15-20 minutes before cooking. Whisk eggs in one bowl and whisk ingredients for the sauce in another bowl. You will want to cook the noodles first too.
Tip: to prevent mushy, overcooked noodles, under-cook rice noodles slightly when boiling them.
Rice Noodles: cook rice noodles according to the package instruction but under-cook them slightly. Drain off water and set aside.
Chicken: saute diced chicken thigh meat in the pan with some peanut oil until it’s just done. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside.
Vegetables: saute bell peppers with some oil until they start to soften and then add garlic, red pepper flakes, and bean sprouts. Stir and saute for just a couple of minutes and move veggies to the sides of the pan.
Eggs: pour whisked eggs into the center of the pan. Let them cook a little and then scramble and mix with vegetables.
Combine: add chicken back in and add cooked rice noodles to the pan. Pour in the sauce mixture and toss everything together to combine. Stir in green onions and cook for a couple more minutes.
Garnish: Sprinkle crushes peanuts, cilantro, and squeeze a couple of lime wedges over the noodles. Mix and serve!
CAN I USE SHRIMP IN PAD THAI?
Yes, absolutely! Sear shrimp first over medium-high heat until opaque on one side and then flip each shrimp. Cook just until they turn opaque on the other side and set them aside just like you would chicken. Shrimp will cook much faster than chicken.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT PAD THAI
Store any leftover Pad Thai in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container, for up to 3 days.
It’s a little tricky to reheat it because rice noodles tend to dry out a little. I found that the best way to reheat Pad Thai is actually in a pan with a little chicken broth to reinvigorate the noodles. Add a little oil to the pan first, before adding cold noodles. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of chicken broth (more if reheating a large amount), toss, and let it heat through over medium heat.
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- 14 oz rice noodles
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 1.5 lbs chicken thigh meat - boneless skinless
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 6 oz bean sprouts
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion
- 2 eggs
Pad Thai Sauce:
- 1/4 cup tamarind paste
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp minced dried chili peppers - OPTIONAL more or less according to personal preference
- 1/2 cup crushed peanuts
- 2-3 wedges of limes - lime juice only
- 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
- Cook rice noodles according to the package instruction but under-cook them slightly. Drain off water and set aside. (While pasta is cooking prepare other ingredients.)
- Prepare all ingredients before starting to cook:Place bean sprouts in a bowl of cold water to soak. (Take bean sprout of the water and shake off excess water before adding it to the pan.) Slice bell pepper, smash and mince garlic, and dice green onions. Dice chicken and set aside. Whisk eggs in a bowl and set aside. Combine all ingredients for the sauce, whisk, and set aside.
Cooking Pad Thai:
- Preheat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp. of peanut oil and saute diced chicken thigh meat in the pan until just done. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside.
- Add a little more oil to the pan and saute bell peppers until they start to soften. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and bean sprouts. Stir and saute for just a couple of minutes and move veggies to the sides of the pan.
- Pour whisked eggs into the center of the pan. Let them cook a little and then scramble and mix with vegetables.
- Add chicken back in and add cooked rice noodles to the pan.
- Pour in the sauce mixture and toss everything together to combine. Stir in green onions and cook for a couple more minutes.
- Sprinkle crushes peanuts, cilantro, and squeeze a couple of lime wedges over the noodles. Mix and serve!
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles April 17, 2013. Updated April 20, 2020.