How to make this classic Thai street food noodles.
Pad Thai is probably the most famous Thai street food. Whenever I’m in Thailand, I don’t actually like to order Pad Thai all that much – not the street stall versions anyway. The street versions are always lacking in something. In an actual restaurant however,
But I actually do like Pad Thai, it has such a unique flavour profile and unlike any other Asian noodles. In an actual restaurant, I would order a plate of Pad Thai even though it costs double the price of the street side version. There is always a definite difference in taste, and it’s not just because the restaurant versions use huge pieces of prawns!
This version is authentic, super flavourful and easy. The hard part is in gathering essential ingredients, which may not be daily staples if you’re not a Thai, or Southeast Asian household. The three ingredients required for the sauce are tamarind juice, palm sugar, and fish sauce. All three are essential for the familiar Pad Thai taste.
Tamarind (asam jawa)
Tamarind is a fruit that provide a mellow sourness that I truly enjoy. Unlike the harsh sourness of lemon or lime juice, it has a sweetness to it. It is a staple in not just Thai cooking, but in the Malay kitchen as well. We love it for dishes like Asam Pedas. It is also a common ingredient in Indian cooking.
Tamarind is typically sold in blocks, with seeds intact. Only the juice is used in cooking. To prepare the tamarind juice, add the tamarind pulp with seeds in a bowl, and soak it in a couple tablespoons of warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes, before working it with your hands to extract the juice from the pulp. Discard the seeds, and use just the juice.
These days you can easily find tamarind paste concentrate, sold in jars. If you have options in glass jars, always purchase it over those in plastic containers. Tamarind is acidic, so it can eat away at plastic containers.
Palm Sugar (Gula Melaka)
Palm sugar is a sweetening agent extracted from palm trees. It is common in Southeast Asian households. It is also known as coconut sugar.
It’s usually sold in blocks, and you can simply shave off what you need with a knife. These days, you can also easily find granulated sugar or syrup versions of this. I used the syrup version in this recipe.
I would not recommend replacing this with regular white sugar, the taste is simply not the same. Brown sugar would be a better alternative. If you can find palm sugar, I highly recommend it!
The final seasoning would be fish sauce, which adds saltiness to the dish. Again, I think this is not replaceable with any other salting ingredients as it just would not taste the same.
If you are allergic, then replace this with light soy sauce rather than salt. Light soy sauce would have the layer of umami that the fish sauce would also add to the noodles.
- 300grams Rice Noodles
- Pad Thai Sauce (use this recipe as a base, but taste and adjust as you go because Tamarind will have varying levels of sourness)
- Juice of 1 tbsp Tamarind, soaked in hot water
- 3 tbsps Palm Sugar Syrup
- 2 tbsps Fish Sauce
- 2 tbsps chopped Dried Shrimps
- Fish Cake
- Koo Chye/Garlic Chives
- Leafy greens (optional)
- Thai Bird’s Eye Chilis (optional)
- 1 Onion
- 2 cloves Chopped Garlic
- 2 Eggs
- Garnish with crushed peanuts and chili powder. Lime if you have.
- Premix the Pad Thai sauce first. Watch the video above, it has even more detailed steps on how to prepare the sauce, including pulping the tamarind for the juice.
- Heat some oil in a pan, and add in the dried shrimps, onions, garlic and chilis (if you’re using). Let the dried shrimps flavour the oil.
- Then add the tofu, shrimps/prawns and fish cakes. Once the shrimps turn orange (you don’t have to cook it through at this point) go ahead and toss in the rice noodles.
- Scramble in the eggs with the noodles and add the Pad Thai sauce. Stir it all together.
- Finally add in veggies.
- As a finishing touch, garnish with crushed peanuts and Thai chili powder.