We like Pad Thai. And we think that it would be difficult to find someone who doesn't. Something that Thai food does very well is the brilliant combination of tangy, sweet, and savory (sometimes spicy too, though not in this particular dish). Pad Thai is an easy win - you can get it at any Thai restaurant, and you can find a Thai restaurant in just about any city these days. We ate at one in a small town in Colorado and found it was good, reliable, Thai food - with the addition of elk to the meat options.
We were inspired by a number of recipes that we found online, staring with Mark Bittman's, but in the end we drew on quite a few recipes to come up with our own version. The first thing we will say is - it was really, really good. The second thing is - it wasn't exactly what we expected. It was a little different from the standard Thai restaurant dish. It was maybe a little less sweet, and a little more tangy/savory. We liked it a lot, and it's easy to make so definitely worth trying at home. Once you have the general idea you can play around with the proportions of the ingredients that provide those three key tastes: savory (fish sauce), tangy (tamarind paste), and sweet (sugar).
Pad Thai (serves 2)
- 1/3 lb extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1.5 tbsp fish sauce
- Peanut oil or sesame oil, for cooking
- 4 oz rice noodles
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, sliced into rounds
- An egg
- An egg
- 1/2 lb bean sprouts
- 1 lime
- 1/4 cup crushed peanuts
About an hour before you are ready to start cooking, chop the tofu and put it in a bowl or plastic bag with the soy sauce to marinate. You can let it marinate for up to a day.
Next, heat the tamarind paste, fish sauce, and sugar in a small sauce pan, and cook together until the sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes). Set aside.
Heat a splash of oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat and, when it is hot, add the tofu. Cook until browned, stirring frequently to get an even brown on all sides. Set the tofu aside.
To cook the noodles, heat a large pot of water until very hot but not quite boiling. Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about five minutes.
Add a little more oil to the skillet if needed and cook the garlic and green onion until just tender. Put the noodles and two thirds of the bean sprouts into the skillet and cook until the noodles have browned slightly. Push the noodles aside and add the egg in the cleared space. Mix quickly until the egg is just about cooked. Add the tofu and the sauce, mix well, and cook until heated through.
Squeeze some fresh lime juice on top of the noodles, then top with the crushed peanuts and remaining bean sprouts.