I’ve recently come to realize I’m very much a meal-in-a-bowl girl, and rarely orchestrate a meat-and-two-veg meal. Pad Thai is right up my alley – a tasty tumble of crunchy, salty and sweet that makes great use of leftover shredded chicken or pork. Even if I have none in the fridge, I always have a couple of eggs and make a habit of keeping shrimp in the freezer to toss into dishes such as this. It can easily be made vegetarian, or even vegan, by using cubed firm tofu. Customize it to suit your taste. I love my Pad Thai topped with crunchy, salty peanuts or cashews.
Pad Thai is a fast and tasty meal, which is why it’s so commonly sold (made on-the-spot) by street vendors in Thailand. Once you have your ingredients ready to go, it takes under ten minutes to pull together. This recipe halves easily if you’re only cooking for two, but if you like to make pad Thai often, mix up the full amount of sauce and keep it in the fridge (or freeze) for next time it keeps well for at least a week.
For a vegetarian version, swap the chicken and/or shrimp for cubed firm tofu. To make the dish more authentic, add a spoonful of tamarind paste to the sauce – it can be found in the ethnic section of grocery stores or in Asian markets, and is well worth seeking out – tamarind paste (or concentrate) will keep in the fridge for a long time, so don’t worry about buying a whole jar just to use a spoonful.
1/2 1 lb. (250-500 g) package rice noodles, thin or thick
canola, peanut or sesame oil, for cooking
1/4 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 cup lime juice or rice vinegar
2-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. chili sauce or sambal oelek
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-3 small red chilies (optional)
1 cup chopped cooked chicken (optional)
3 green onions, roughly chopped
a big handful of bean sprouts
chopped peanuts or cashews, for sprinkling on top
lime wedges (optional)
Soak the rice noodles according to package directions. Rinse them with cold water and drain well. Drizzle the noodles with a little oil to keep them from sticking, and toss to coat.
In a small bowl, stir together the ketchup, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and chili sauce.
Heat a good drizzle of oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into one side of the pan, and add the shrimp to the other side. Flip each around until just cooked through. Add the garlic and chilies to the pan and cook for another minute, then add the drained noodles (add another drizzle of oil first if the pan seems dry), cooked chicken, green onions, and pour over the sauce to taste. (Some like their pad Thai saucier, some like it dry.) Toss the mixture about in the hot pan with tongs, until well coated. Add the bean sprouts and toss again, then divide among large, shallow bowls right away – you don’t want to give the sprouts, which are mostly water, a chance to wilt.
Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped peanuts, with lime wedges to squeeze over top. Serves 4.