It has been a long time since I've ordered Thai take-out food, much less eaten Pad Thai. I used to pick it up quite regularly as a single girl living in the city, but now that I'm a suburban housewife my Thai take-out days are gone. And now that I know how to make Pad Thai, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Its hard to find good Thai food, so I was of course super excited to see Cook's Illustrated take it on.
Some might think that this requires advanced kitchen skills, or fancy ingredients. Well, as long as you can chop, you can make this. I'd highly recommend having everything chopped and prepped before you start cooking since it comes together very quickly. As for the fancy ingredients... well, I had to substitute some things, and omit others, but the result was still fantastic! I couldn't find tamarind, so I used their substitute of 1/3 cup lime juice + 1/3 cup water. I also couldn't find the dried shrimp or Thai salted preserved radish. I completely spaced out and forgot to add the bean sprouts as well. It still tasted great, but I'm going to be on the lookout for these ingredients from now on, so I can try the real thing.
Joey was a little skeptical when I told him what I was making for dinner, but he actually loved it. And what's not to love? Sauteed shrimp, rice noodles, crunchy peanuts, and a wonderfully delicious sauce - smooth, nutty, with enough heat to keep it interesting and addictive.
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
- 2 Tablespoons tamarind paste or substitute (1/3 cup lime juice + 1/3 cup water)
- 3/4 cup boiling water (if using tamarind)
- 3 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons sugar (use brown sugar if you use tamarind sub)
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 8 ounces dried rice stick noodles
- 2 large eggs
- 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 Tablespoons dried shrimp, chopped fine (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons chopped Thai salted preserved radish (optional)
- 6 Tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
- 3 cups (6 ounces) bean sprouts
- 5 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on a sharp diagonal
- 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
- lime wedges, for serving
Cover the rice sticks with hot tap water in a large bowl. Soak until softened, pliable, and limp, but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.
Beat the eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a large (preferably nonstick) skillet or wok over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with walt; cook, tossing occasionally, until the shrimp are lightly browned and opaque, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Off heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and shallot, and saute over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring constantly, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the beaten eggs and cook, stirring vigorously, until scrambled and barely moist, less than 30 seconds.
Add the rice noodles, dried shrimp, and salted radish to the eggs. Toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour the fish sauce mixture over the noodles. Increase the heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until all the noodles are coated.
Scatter 1/4 cup of the peanuts, the bean sprouts, the cooked shrimp, and all but 1/4 cup of the scallions over the noodles. Continue to cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are tender, about 2-3 minutes. If they are still not tender, add 2 Tablespoons of water and continue to cook until they are.
Transfer everything to a serving platter, and top with the remaining scallions, the remaining 2 Tablespoons of peanuts, and the cilantro. Serve immediately, passing the lime wedges separately.