Earlier this week, I had a hankering for Pad Thai. It’s one of those dishes I’ll occasionally order out, but had never bothered to try making myself. My method for attempting new dishes usually consists of reading at least a half dozen recipes, noting the ingredient and method similarities, and then adapting to personal taste and what is in the fridge. For example: pad thai typically contains firm tofu (which I love), but I had a smidgen of ground pork that had to be cooked. So that went in. I also had a bunch of mint and cilantro from some other dinners we’d eaten earlier in the week, so that got added. Finally, I am a firm believer in pre-seasoning proteins (in this case, shrimp and pork), so that step was added as well.
One ingredient I didn’t substitute was the tamarind (some recipes call for lime juice, but I don’t think it’s an adequate substitute). I’ve never worked with tamarind before, and the only tamarind the local Asian market had was the whole pods. I used the instructions here to turn it into a pulp. It was a fairly messy process, but the flavor was definitely worth it.
Adapted from Saveur | Serves 4
- 8 oz. dried flat rice stick noodles
- 3 tbsp. tamarind pulp
- 3 tbsp. palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 2.5 tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce), divided
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. Thai chili garlic sauce
- 2 tsp soy sauce, divided
- 2 tsp sugar, divided
- White pepper
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 oz. ground pork
- 2 tbsp. dried shrimp, soaked and chopped if large
- 6 stalks Chinese chives or 4 scallions, green part only,cut into 2″ pieces
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
- 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
- 1 lime, quartered
- 1/4 c mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
- At least 1 hour before cooking, marinate shrimp with 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Marinate ground pork with 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
- Dissolve tamarind pulp in 1 cup hot water in a small bowl, then strain through a sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on pulp with the back of a spoon to push most of it through. Discard seeds. Stir sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and chili garlic sauce into tamarind liquid and set sauce aside.
- Soak noodles in a large bowl of hot water until pliable, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Cook shrimp until pink but not completely cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
- Add remaining 3 tbsp oil to hot skillet. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry until soft, about 10 seconds. Add ground pork and saute until mostly cooked, about 1 minute. Move ingredients over to the one side of the pot and add the lightly beaten eggs. allowing to set slightly and then stirring to scramble. When eggs are about halfway cooked, add dried shrimp, chives, half the bean sprouts, half the peanuts, the noodles, the sliced omelette, and the reserved sauce and stir-fry, tossing constantly, until noodles absorb most of the sauce and sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes. Garnish each serving with the remaining bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, and peanuts and serve with limes and sriracha.