Legend has it that Pad Thai noodles were brought to the fore of Thai cooking by Prime Minister Luang Phibunsongkhram of Thailand in the 1930’s. One of the main reasons for promoting this dish was to encourage people to eat less rice. 81 years on, Pad Thai has become the symbol of Thai cuisine, with its availability stretching from road side hawkers in Thailand to five-star restaurants world-wide.
For me, Pad Thai noodles are a staple order in every Thai restaurant that I visit. With each bite you can taste the sweetness of the tamarind mixed with palm sugar, the kick of the bird’s eye chilli and the salty flavor of the peanuts. It is, gastronomically, a perfectly balanced dish. Like most of my other recipes, it has taken me several experiments to come up with a recipe to tantalize my palette. The key, I figured, was in making my own tamarind sauce and of course, never following any recipe stringently.
The first step is making the tamarind sauce
- Tamarind Paste
- Palm or brown sugar
- Fish sauce
- Put the tamarind paste in water and bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes
- When the liquid starts to brown, take the tamarind seeds out and leave to cool.
- Once cooled, add the sugar and fish sauce and give it a good stir
- 1/2 pkt egg or rice noodles
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1/4 kg chicken, chopped
- 1 cup uncooked shrimps
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup tamarind sauce
- Pinch of red chilli powder
- Bird’s eye chilli (if you can stomach chillis)
- Spring onions
- Bean sprouts
- Peanuts, crushed slightly
- Boil the noodles in water for about 10 minutes. (Note: After disposing off the hot water, bathe the noodles in cold water. This prevents them from sticking together.)
- In a wok, warm some oil, add garlic and shallots till lightly brown
- Add the chicken and shrimps and cook for about 3-4 minutes till tender
- Break the eggs in the wok and cook like scrambled eggs with the chicken and shrimps.
- Add the noodles and stir, making sure not to break the noodles.
- Pour in the tamarind sauce, chilli powder, salt, bean sprouts, spring onions and peanuts. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes. If you are daring enough to spice up the noodles, add a few chopped bird’s eye chilli.
- Plate up and garnish with more peanuts, coriander and lemons. Make sure the peanuts are not completely crushed, you don’t want lose the crunchy texture.
In under 15 minutes, you will be on your way to mastering Thai cuisine. It is a simple, yet delectable noodle dish. Your first bite will be sweet but the lasting flavor will be a kick of chilli. All the flavors synthesized in one easy meal. Pad Thai noodles is one of the national dishes of Thailand and pretty soon it will become the National dish of my kitchen.