Pad Thai

I love Thai food.  If I could only bring one ethnic food to my desert island it would be a close tie between Indian and Thai. But since Thai has less detrimental effects on my GI system I think it would win the battle.

I love Thai food so much that Royce bought me a 3-series Thai cooking class at our local cooking school about a year ago.  I learned how to make many of my favorites; Drunken Noodles, Green Curry with Chicken, Spring Rolls, Panang Curry (if you ask nicely I can add the recipes for those too).  However, the Pad Thai we learned how to make was über disappointing.  Ever since I have been on a search for the perfect recipe and by golly I think I found it!  This comes straight from Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton; a fantastically hilarious book on feeding children that I highly recommend.  The notes are my own from experience with working with Thai food products.  Your first order of business will be to find a reputable Asian market…maybe even one with a silly name like the one I visit here in Maryland:

Photo courtesy of my friend John Pence

Pad Thai Sauce
recipe from Matthew Amster-Burton

4 oz tamarind paste (see note 1)
1.5 cups boiling water
0.25 cup peanut oil
6 tablespoons fish sauce (see note 2)
1 table spoon rice vinegar
0.25 cup (2 oz) palm sugar, crushed (or substitute white sugar)

Place the tamarind paste in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  Let sit 5 minutes, then stir gently, pressing the paste against the side of the bowl to break it up.  Let sit another 5 mins and stir again.  Repeat until there are no large chunks of paste, then strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing gently on the tamarind paste and scraping the bottom of the sieve.  Discard the contents of the sieve.  Add the peanut oil, fish sauce, rice vinegar and palm sugar to the tamarind liquid and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Note 1: Tamarind paste is sold 14-16 oz blocks at asian markets.  It looks like poo…really, it does.  I went through the water/sieve process outlined above for my first attempt at this recipe but I also noticed that next to the blocks of tamarind poo-paste there was ‘Tamarind Concentrate’.  I’m thinking someone has already done this inglorious work for us!  Next time I will buy the ‘concentrate’ and add 1.5 cups of it too my sauce and see how it turns out compared to the hot water/sieve process as mentioned above (which was sort of a pain in the ass).

Note 2:  Fish sauce is gross, but it is necessary in Thai cooking.  Thankfully my teacher of the Thai cooking class did all the work for you and  all the best Thai restaurants and they use “THREE CRABS Brand”. It’s a 24 oz bottle with a pink and white label and guess what?…it has 3 green crabs on it, below which you will find in tiny writing “THREE CRABS Brand”.  Why they don’t make this bigger I have no idea.  There is a ton of large asian writing above the 3 crabs but I don’t know what that says.

Note 3:  This sauce recipe will make enough for several batches of Pad Thai (see recipe below).  You can keep extras in your fridge for 1 week or they can be frozen up to 1 month according to Mr. Amster-Burton.

Simple Pad Thai
recipe from Matthew Amster-Burton
serves 2 adults (see note)

4 oz rice stick noodles, soaked in hot tap water 20 minutes and drained
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 large egg
0.25 cup Pad Thai Sauce
lime wedges, for serving
chopped peanuts, for serving

Heat the peanut oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet until shimmering.  Add the egg and scramble vigorously until nearly cooked, about 15 seconds.  Add the noodles and Pad Thai sauce and cook, tossing with a spatula and wooden spoon, until the sauce is nearly all absorbed and the noodles are tender and well coated, about 2 minutes.  Serve immediately with chopped peanuts for sprinkling and lime wedges for squeezing.

Note:  I doubled this recipe.  I also added tofu, green onions, and bean sprouts.  If you want to add shrimp, chicken or tofu just saute it (unseasoned) prior to starting the recipe then toss it in when you add the noodles.  I added more sauce as well, just do a quick taste and figure out your liking!

So there you have it.  A super simple (seriously if you cut out the tamarind paste circus this goes together in a flash) Pad Thai reminiscent of something that I would order from my favorite Thai restaurant here.  Now if I could just perfect my Panang Curry recipe I seriously think we would never have to go-out for Thai food ever again!


  1. Julie, thanks so much for sharing – this is one of the reasons i started coming back to your blog (can’t remember the first cooking-related post, just remember that i appreciated it!). Definitely need to find a copy of the Hungry Monkey… Nolan has entered a period of preferring pretty much cheese. And bread. We call it our little prisoner’s diet.

    • midwestkids says:

      Yay! I’m so glad you enjoy the recipes. I sometimes blog them because it’s easier to catalog stuff (and I have access from home and at work and on vacation). I admit I should probably blog more cooking-related stuff…especially since dinner time is pretty much what our house revolves around!

      LOL re: prisoner’s diet. Hungry Monkey may not make you feel any better but it may make you laugh! His daughter was adventurous as a baby but then became pickier as a kid. He does shed some light on many of the fables about picky eaters and to why kids become picky eaters in the first place.


  1. […] A few friends asked me for a recipe so I’m posting it here to keep track.   Having these things online is sometimes amazingly helpful when traveling.    Much of the details on my love of Thai food comes from another post for my Pad Thai. […]

  2. […] You can find it in chunks (size of thumbs) in the freezer section of most Asian marts *** see my Pad Thai post to read about fish sauce **** coconut cream is thicker/sweeter than coconut milk it can be found […]

  3. […] tiny red chili’s.  Can find in freezer & can keep in freezer once opened. ** See Pad Thai post for notes about fish sauce. *** I use the brand with the pink dragon-fly on the bottle. **** The […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: