One of my New Year’s resolutions was to experiment more with non-Korean Asian cooking. Since then, I’ve fully immersed myself in Thai cuisine, taking cooking classes, purchasing various beginner cookbooks, and stocking up on essential ingredients. So if anyone needs some coconut milk or red curry paste (among other things) give me a holler!
The first dish I set out to master was Pad Thai. For so many years, this dish alone validated my self-proclaimed “Thai food-lover” status. I don’t know why, but I was always intimidated to cook this at home, as I thought it required much skill and knowledge, not to mention time. I was able to cross off all those excuses after my Thai cooking class.
Pad Thai has now become my go-to quick & easy weeknight meal. With a little prep work in advance, you will be downing this deliciously complex, yet comforting, noodle dish in no time. Sweet, salty, sour and oh so tasty!
So the things you can prepare in advance are the sauce and the veggies.
For the sauce, the major ingredient is tamarind, which is found easily in Asian supermarkets packaged as a block. The key is to look for one that is soft to the touch. It is incredibly sour by itself, and therefore, the flavor needs to be balanced by adding sugar (or sweetener of choice) to whatever recipe you’re making.
This recipe calls for tamarind water or juice, and here’s how you prepare it.
Take about a golf ball size of tamarind and put it in 1 cup of boiling water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Immediately it will start to expand. To extract the juice, use your fingers to mash the tamarind into the water until it is well dissolved. Strain the extracted water into another bowl and repeat the process until most of the juice has been isolated. The tamarind water will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
As for the veggies, the common ingredients include bean sprouts, shallots, and green onion, which can be cleaned, prepped, and stored for future use. I know it’s good to keep the dish simple, but I’m always tempted to throw additional vegetables into the mix. Why not? The husband protests, but since when did that stop me?
I chose shrimp and tofu as my sources of protein, but you can add whatever you’d like. Chicken would be good too. I’m not so sure about beef, but maybe it would work. One thing to keep in mind is that on the day you’re going to make this dish, soak the noodles in cold water for about an hour in advance. So there you have it! Homemade Pad Thai in a flash. Hope you enjoy.
Pad Thai with Tofu and Shrimp
- 2 handfuls of dried thin rice stick, soaked in cold water for an hour
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 2 tablespoons tamarind water*
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 eggs
- 4 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes, pan-fried
- 8 to 10 medium shrimp
- 1/2 teaspoon roasted Thai chili flakes (can substitute with red pepper flakes) + more as desired
- 2 handfuls bean sprouts
- 2 small bunches green onions, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
- Cilantro and Lime Wedges (garnish)
*Place a golf ball sized clump of tamarind paste in 1 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes. Mash lightly using fingers and then strain. Repeat process to get tamarind out. The resulting tamarind water (sometimes referred to as juice) will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month or it can be frozen.
- Drain noodles.
- Combine fish sauce, palm sugar, white sugar and tamarind water in a small saucepan over med-high heat and simmer until sugar has dissolved.
- Heat oil in a wok or big pot over medium heat and fry shallots until softened. Crack in egg and stir. Mix in tofu, shrimp, and chili flakes. Stir fry until tofu is thoroughly heated through and then add noodles. Turn up heat and stir fry until noodles get softer, translucent, and brown in color. Add the prepared sauce and another pinch of chili flakes.
- Stir for just a few moments. *Do not overcook.*
- Finally, add about 3/4th of the bean sprouts and green onions and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Top noodles with crushed peanuts, remaining green onion, bean sprouts, cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.